Every year, hundreds of businesses contact Software Advice to find the best facilities management software to fit their needs. These interactions with prospective buyers provide us with considerable insight into the broader computer-aided facilities management software (CAFM) market and the trends that surface there.
We recently analyzed a random sample of these interactions to better understand the factors that influence the purchase decisions of these buyers.
These findings can help guide the decisions of other facilities management buyers in the market for such a solution.
- Educational building managers primarily use a facilities management system (37 percent) while managers of office and health care buildings often have no formal system (28 and 35 percent, respectively).
- The highest percentage of buyers in our sample (35 percent) say that keeping accurate records is the biggest challenge they face with their current method.
- The primary challenge for buyers currently using a property management system is a lack of specific facilities management features (22 percent).
Facilities management is a necessity for many industries, each of which has its own particular needs when it comes to using facility management software to oversee certain buildings.
For example, a maintenance manager for an office building might need a system with space management functions to effectively plan where to put employee desks.
A facilities manager for a school, meanwhile, might benefit from mobile access so they can use the system while walking the halls.
Given this wide variation in usage, Software Advice sought to determine what managers in different industries seek in new facilities management solutions, the current methods they use and the biggest challenges they face. This report outlines our key findings.
Many Buyers Don’t Have System for Managing Facilities
When asked what methods they currently use for facilities management, the largest percentage of buyers (28 percent) say they have no formal system in place. Coming in second, 23 percent say they use pen and paper.
Another 12 percent use a spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel, while 11 percent use some type of specialized software: either a dedicated facilities management system or a property management (PM) system (PMS).
A PMS is a broader category of software used for many types of properties, such as apartments or retail spaces.
Still, others in our sample say they use a database management system, such as Microsoft Access (2 percent), or AutoCAD, a popular computer-aided design system (1 percent).
Prospective Buyers’ Current Methods
The top three facility types managed by buyers in our sample are offices, educational and health care (more on this in the next section). Nearly half of buyers who manage these facilities say they have trouble with work order efficiency using pen and paper.
This challenge is most often reflected in the length of time it takes to create and submit work order tasks.
Many modern maintenance/facilities management systems allow managers to enter work requests through the system itself, or by email, text message or via an online form (which may be internal or customer-facing).
This range of electronic options can help site managers complete work more quickly, as they don’t have to travel to and from service sites and the office to manually enter and print work requests.
Educational Managers Most Likely to Use CAFM
Each industry has different needs and methods for managing certain buildings. To gauge the impact of building type on software selection, we looked at the most common methods used for the top three facilities among buyers in our sample: office, educational and health care buildings.
We see again that most buyers from each facility type either have no formal system in place, or use a manual method, such as spreadsheets or pen and paper.
By Facility Type: Prospective Buyers’ Current Methods
One possible explanation for this is that school administrators and governing boards, especially in levels K-12, have been known to succumb to the “bandwagon effect.”As one example, thousands of U.S. school districts have provided iPads to their students over the last few years, and more districts continue to follow suit: Apple recently reported the company holds 85 percent of the U.S. educational tablet market.
In other words, many schools may be using software (at least in part) because so many other educational institutions are already using it. Facilities management software vendor SchoolDude, for example, says that 35 percent of U.S. school districts use its product.
Though facilities management is a relatively small market, 35 percent is a disproportionately high share for a single solution. (In comparison, even multibillion-dollar software giant SAP only claims about one-quarter of the enterprise resource planning software market, according to Gartner.)
Health care organizations, meanwhile, (e.g., hospitals and clinics) must adhere to state-specific regulations in order to operate. As such, managers in these organizations typically use a separate software system from other departments, according to Rona Palmer, Web marketer for eMaint, a vendor of maintenance and facilities management software.
For example, while such organizations may have software for billing and admissions, maintenance is often not included in these systems, Palmer explains.
She adds that many eMaint health care clients seek best-of-breed systems (stand-alone applications that are the best of their type) over integrated suites (systems that include several related applications, such as Microsoft Office).
“We’re often a departmental solution, because the needs of the facilities manager [are] not being met by the other systems,” Palmer says.
In a 2014 study of senior health care IT executives, 45 percent say their primary business issue is changing payment models and complying with new federal requirements; just 1 percent say non-infrastructure needs, such as facility upgrades, are most important.
In other words, IT professionals in health care organizations may overlook non-clinical software needs due to more pressing regulatory concerns.
However, 25 percent of respondents from the same survey also say their key business objective is to “sustain financial viability.” One way health care organizations can save money is by reducing energy consumption.
Facilities management systems that include strong reporting or sustainability functions can help identify equipment or building areas that use the most energy.
Establishing schedules for lighting and computers, recalibrating HVAC systems or upgrading windows and insulation can potentially save millions of dollars in energy spending each year.
SMBs Seek Software to Maintain Better Records
Among buyers in our sample, nearly 40 percent manage just one to four buildings, while just over one-fifth manage 10 to 24. Overall, three-quarters of buyers manage between one and 24 buildings.
Prospective Buyer Size by Number of Buildings
Knowing how many buildings organizations need to manage helps shed light on the types of systems and capabilities buyers seek. For example, a facilities manager with a cluster of buildings in a small office park may not need to use a mobile device to manage work orders.
However, for a manager with dozens of buildings spread across a large college campus, mobile compatibility could save time by providing access to the system wherever they go.
“We see lots of bad purchases by groups buying large systems because they think they need all the features, but it’s a very expensive, inappropriate purchase,” Ensoft Consulting’s Macejewski says.
While facilities management systems can be priced in different ways, most are based on the number of users, the total square footage of facilities or the number of buildings. Buyers should thus find out which business size(s) a system is best suited for when making a decision.
Next, we asked respondents to select their top reason for evaluating new software. The greatest percentage (35 percent) cite challenges with keeping records for services performed.
Top Reasons for Evaluating New Software
Maintaining accurate historical records of work performed on assets can reveal buildings or equipment that require service more often—or that need to be replaced—in order to keep operations running smoothly and efficiently. For example, knowing how often a heating or air conditioning unit should be serviced can help extend the unit’s lifespan.
eMaint’s Palmer says another reason buyers seek software with strong record-keeping functionality is to maintain compliance and accountability.
Most facilities management systems can help companies comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules, as well as other state-specific regulations, by maintaining organized and easily searchable records.
These records also keep individual technicians and managers accountable in their daily operations, as each work order can show who created the request, to whom it was assigned and whether it was completed.
“People want to know that their requests don’t just go into a black hole,” Palmer explains.
Improving maintenance scheduling is another top reason buyers cite for seeking a new system in the above chart (22 percent). This is not surprising, given that a significant portion of buyers use spreadsheets or pen and paper methods.
Such methods can make maintenance scheduling a laborious process that requires managers to have strong memory and organizational skills.
With facilities management software, however, users can define their own “triggers,” which automatically generate a maintenance request based on a specific date or a specific meter reading on a piece of a equipment.
This helps reduce human error, while also eliminating the need for managers to remember upcoming maintenance, safety meetings and inspections.
PM Software Users Need Facilities-Specific Functionality
Next, we looked at buyers’ top pain points with the method they currently use. We see that while record keeping is somewhat of an issue for those using a PMS (cited by 8 percent), it’s a much bigger challenge for users of manual methods (31 percent).
The largest percentage of PMS users, on the other hand, say they are seeking new software because they need a system designed specifically for facilities management (22 percent).
Manual Methods Users: Top Reasons for Evaluating New Software
PMS Users: Top Reasons for Evaluating New Software
The ability to keep records of equipment and other assets is a crucial function for facilities managers. Indeed, Palmer says that having organized maintenance records creates a strong feedback loop so that technicians and managers are aware of what is being fixed or replaced.
Without strong record keeping, a business lacks the historical information to generate reports that can reveal operational trends and aid business decisions, Macejewski adds.
For example, a facilities manager of a hotel might use software to run a report on the inspection and repair costs for a water pump and filter in the outdoor pool.
He might notice that repair costs are much higher towards the end of the summer, so he decides to schedule inspections before and during the summer, and reduce them during the off-season. This allows him to catch any issues that arise from frequent pool use in the summer early, when repairs are less expensive to address.
Going back to the second chart, PMS users cite missing functionality as the second-most common reason for seeking new software (17 percent).
A small portion of these buyers specifically say that space management, the ability to track maintenance agreement documents and the ability to track equipment settings (e.g., the temperature of a water heater), are the functionalities they need most.
Certain property management software features overlap with those of facilities management software, such as maintenance, accounting and real estate portfolio management functionality. Space management, however, is not typically included in most PMS solutions—most PMS users will need to seek a facility management solution to take advantage of this feature.
While there is a wide variety in the types of buildings facility management systems can service, some needs are universal. For example, tracking assets and keeping an efficient schedule of regular maintenance is important whether the buyer manages a school district, an office high-rise or a dental practice facility.
As such, the most important determining factor for facilities management software buyers is likely to be the flexibility of the system.
A solution must be able to handle the number and types of buildings the organization manages, the types of assets within the building, and be able to produce a variety of reports from the maintenance history data collected. The software should also be easy for management and technicians to use, as well as for customers or clients who may need to enter work order or other requests.
Our advisors regularly speak with buyers who contact Software Advice seeking new facilities management software. The data used to create this report was collected by our advisors during those interactions for business purposes rather than for market research. We randomly selected 386 interactions from the U.S. during 2014 to analyze for this report.
These findings exclusively represent those buyers who contacted Software Advice for guidance on software selection, and may not be indicative of the market as a whole. Expert commentary solely represents the views of the individual. Chart values are rounded to the nearest whole number.
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