It’s a catchy title, but How Can I Find the Best Building Management Software for My Specific Needs, Including Tailored Tools to Assist in Asset Management feels more accurate. And if space weren’t an issue, you could even add something in there about finding the best software for facility and maintenance managers who need planning, scheduling, and tracking features. Plus, you could squeeze in “with a Mobile Maintenance App.”
That title is now insanely long, and there’s a solid counter argument that the short version is just as good. Because when we talk about “the best” building management software, it has to mean the one that solves your specific maintenance and facility management challenges, which tend to include issues related to planning, scheduling, and tracking work orders. And to even be in the running to be the best, a solution needs an app that works seamlessly with its desktop version.
So, how do you find the best solution?
Remember, when it comes to building management software, going with, “one size fits all” means you’re not getting the right project management tools
Just like with those one-size-fits-all T-shirts, you get a better overall fit by looking for something with a more specific size. Are you a smaller department with more basic project planning software needs? Or are you running a large department with a lot of moving parts, meaning you need more management tools?
If you end up with something that’s too big, you’re paying for features you never use. But, if you try to cram yourself into something that’s too small, you’re never going to be able to cover all your needs.
Start by deciding on the right features for building management software
A lot of times these software platforms go by “software solution,” which makes a lot of sense because they’re supposed to solve your problems. So, that means if you want to find the best software solution for you, you start by looking at your current problems. It’s the same as when you go to the doctor; you can only get the right medicine by first looking at your symptoms.
Ask yourself the following questions, and then use your answers to build your list of must-haves and nice-to-have building management software features.
Where are you wasting time and money trying to manage your facility?
Every department is a bit different, but within the building and facility management industry, there tend to be a core group of recurring problems.
It might be the case that you’re falling behind on preventive maintenance because of a lack of planning or scheduling. There could also be problems getting work done according to SOPs because when techs get work orders, they’re never exactly sure what to do.
In other cases, tracking inventory might be the main problem, leading you to waste time and money because you’re always waiting for parts or having things rush delivered.
What do you wish you could do in terms of project planning and management?
Once you know what’s going wrong, try to think of how everything would work in a perfect world. If the main source of frustration is preventive maintenance, you know you’d want a schedule that’s updated in real time, easily accessible for everyone, with automated tracking so you always know not only what the team has coming up but also what they’ve managed to close out.
For inventory, in a perfect world, you’d have full visibility on current levels, including not only what you have but where you have it, plus built-in automated tracking, so that as the team uses inventory, the stock levels adjust. Then, when you hit your par levels, it would also be great to get notifications.
Who else do you wish was on the platform with you?
Here’s something a lot of people forget. You’re maybe not looking for a solution just for you. Instead, you might need something that’s going to work for a lot of people, across a lot of different teams.
So which people and which teams is something you need to consider. Some of the answers are obvious. You know that you want to be on the platform. And you know you need your maintenance team there, too.
But what about everyone else in the facility? You’re likely going to land on some combination of yes and no. Yes, there is a list of other people you want to have access to the software. For example, if inventory needs to go through someone at the purchasing department, you need them to be able to access the system. Or, if HR uses your numbers to work out overtime for the maintenance techs, you need them on the system, too. And you want to make it easy for everyone in the facility to be able to reach out with work or any other types of requests. To do your job better, you need to be more accessible. The faster people can reach you with accurate information when something’s gone wrong, the sooner you can put a plan into action to fix it.
At the same time, you don’t need everyone in your software solution. In fact, the last thing you want is everyone having uncontrolled access to your data.
Think of your department like it’s a restaurant. Some people are there to cook while others only stop in to eat. You need efficient ways to take orders and get people their food, but the last thing you want is everyone to come into the kitchen.
Consider the most common features for facility and asset management.
Once you have a sense of what you need, you can start to look at some of the more common features, including:
- Open request portal
- Work order management
- Preventive maintenance scheduling
- Asset tracking
- Inventory control
- Real-time notifications
- Data capture and a single source of truth
Not every platform has every feature, and some implement them better than others.
And keep this in mind about free facility management software
When something is free, you get what you pay for.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of great free software out there. Thanks to the long tradition of open-source software development, there are plenty of coders dedicating their time and talent to different projects.
But do you want to invest time and money into what is basically someone’s passion project?
Or does it make a lot more sense to go with a commercial product that comes with an implementation team, proper and professional documentation, customer support, and ongoing development and upgrades?
Think about more than just the software solution
In the old days, you used to buy software off the shelf, install it yourself off some floppy disks in a box, and then run it locally off your own hardware.
But modern building management software is a subscription service where you’ve got an ongoing, and hopefully long-term, relationship with the provider. In terms of hardware, all you need is desktops and mobile devices with Internet access. The provider has their own sets of servers for delivering the software and keeping your data safe, secure, and accessible.
Which means you need to look at more than just the software. When choosing the best solution, you also have to look at how much the provider can invest in your success. Do they have a robust set of options for implementation? And once you’re up and running, how much support can they deliver? Also, how quickly can they deliver it?
Finding the best building management software is all about finding the one that’s best for you. So, the best place to start is by looking at your current facility and maintenance challenges and then how they’d be different in a perfect world. From there, you can start to explore some of the more common building management software features and decide which are the ones you want, including an open request portal, work order management, preventive maintenance scheduling, and inventory control. When comparing providers, keep in mind that it’s not just about the features. Because modern software solutions are subscription based, you’re starting an ongoing relationship with any future provider, which means you also need to think about how much help they can deliver, from implementation to ongoing technical support.