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Cloud-Based Facilities Management Software: Empowering Facility Managers

PHOTO CREDIT: OfficeSpace Software
If you ask most modern HR and accounting departments whether they do their jobs using spreadsheets, printouts and post-it notes, they would probably laugh. Dedicated software, often cloud-based, is now a standard-issue tool for these departments to work efficiently and most would not be able to function without it. Why then, are so many facility management teams still using outdated tools like CAD printouts and spreadsheets to keep track of what is often a company’s most valuable assets: people and space?

The answer could lie in the first software solutions that came along to help facility managers plan and allocate office space. These legacy IWMS (integrated workplace management systems) or other CAFM (computer aided facilities management) applications are large, cumbersome packages, often closely associated with CAD. While certainly a step up from a paper and pencil approach, these are not easy systems to use and can be expensive both in up-front costs and ongoing maintenance.

Installation and deployment of legacy enterprise facilities software is difficult and time-consuming with many projects taking months if not years to complete due to complex customizations or workarounds for the software to play nicely with an organization’s existing applications. The complicated nature of these legacy enterprise software packages means while the cost is large, often only a small fraction of features are actually used, while full training can be lengthy requiring heavy investment by companies. The lengthy training required can lead to reliance on a single individual who is specialized in using the tool, creating bottlenecks in productivity – and what happens if that person leaves the organization?

Things have come a long way in the world of facilities management software. With the general trend towards cloud-based applications, or SaaS (Software as a Service), FM teams now have access to tools that are easy to use and much easier on the company bank account.

One beneficial aspect of SaaS is the setup process, which can take IT teams just hours or days instead of months. The burden for the IT team in general is massively reduced: there is one code base so you are always on the latest version, and the software is maintained and supported by the specialists who built it. A major SaaS advantage is that the organization can determine value rapidly. Does the software positively impact your facilities team? You’ll know in weeks, rather than years.

While SaaS facility management tools usually start with CAD files, once these are loaded into the software facility managers can use a standard web browser to navigate their floor plans, track resources and share accurate information with the entire organization (such as who sits where and company wayfinding maps), execute move orders by dragging-and-dropping, and run reports easily to track square footage costs, assignments and usage, all without requiring CAD skills. The software takes away the grunt work, so you can focus on the real facility management decisions.

Good SaaS facilities management software should be easy enough to use that full training takes a couple of hours via a videoconference and screen sharing session.  Most modern web-based facility management software operates just like web applications employees are already used to, using familiar methods like dragging and dropping, for example when an employee is moved from one desk to another.

The most successful SaaS applications, not just in facilities management but also in the wider business software world, are those that identify a few key problems and solve them incredibly well, focusing on the user experience, rather than trying to lump everything into one large and complicated package. SaaS products can be a flexible and dynamic tool that evolves and grows with your organization’s size and needs, and scalable pricing models can enable smaller organizations to take advantage of the software early, then upgrade when necessary.

Whereas legacy systems often price by square foot (thus billing for space like warehousing and common areas) modern systems tend to be more inclusive in their pricing and may offer pricing based on the number of employees. The ability to cancel the service if desired, without being locked in to a long term contract, is also a very important factor to be considered.

Cloud-based FM software shifts the IT burden of setting up and maintaining an enterprise facility management application from the business to the software provider, enabling facilities teams to benefit, and benefit immediately, from the provider’s latest features without the disruptions and cost traditionally associated with older enterprise software. SaaS is empowering facility managers in ways that legacy software never could, allowing them to do their jobs more efficiently and more accurately than ever before.

Steven Rawlins is marketing manager at OfficeSpace Software, reach him at srawlins@officespacesoftware.com

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