What Questions Do I Ask IWMS Vendors (at IFMA)?
With IFMA's World Workplace Conference and Expo once again upon us, all attendees have an unparalleled opportunity to learn from some of the top minds in the field of facility management. These are the people that have defined the field through years of experience and "been there/done that". Being the preeminent facility management conference in the world, you have a wide variety of knowledgeable product and service providers offering Integrated Workplace Managment Solutions and Facilities Management Software. If you are looking to add an one of those software suite to your facility, where do you start? It can quickly turn into an overwhelming experience, especially if you are not quite sure what to ask. With that in mind, we have chosen five major questions you can use to help refine your search and arm you with the knowledge you need to find the right solution for your facility.
How Do I Get Started?
First things first, you need to have a firm understanding of what you and your facility need. This will help you to remain focused and make sure you do your research and be informed. Talk to a variety of vendors to see what types of solutions are available, what they can offer, and see if there is a tool that seems to really fit your needs. Also, be cognizant of whether you need a comprehensive suite, or a specific tool to streamline certain processes, such as a Move Management or Service Request system. With the wide variety of Integrated Workplace Management Solutions (also called IWMS ) available, you want to be sure you find the solution that works best for you, not what a salesperson might try to convince you that you need.
One aspect you should also consider before actively searching for an IWMS solution is to make sure your business processes have been fully developed and documented. Without clearly defining your business processes, how can you be sure that the IWMS you select will actually meet your needs? Unfortunately, you cannot.
How Much Does it Cost?
Besides understanding what you are looking for, one of the most underrated aspects to selecting an IWMS solution is cost. Are the fees associated with the solution a recurring fee (e.g. monthly, quarterly, etc.), or is it a one-time fee? With so many vendors attending IFMA, (iOffice is going and will be at booth #1328) you can quickly get an idea of the scope of software your facility can afford, then compare that to what might work best for your facility's needs. Thankfully, with so many available options, some companies may even be willing to work with you in terms of pricing in order to secure your business.
Is the Configuration Flexible?
In an ideal world, an IWMS system should be capable of everything, but it should be flexible to configure. Some solutions might customize their software based on a customer's needs. While customizable is nice, a solution that is configurable is ideal. This typically means that it does not require extensive technical knowledge or IT staff as you might if you planned to customize.
Is the Software Installed or Hosted?
Make sure to ask your vendor if their solution is installed or hosted. If installed, you could have to worry about lost time and potential productivity by needing to manually install future updates. However, in this day of maximizing efficiency and productivity, IWMS vendors are starting to shift more frequently to a SaaS (software as a service) model. The benefits are considerable, including:
- Lower costs due to the hardware and software licenses being less expensive compared to the traditional model.
- Since SaaS solutions reside in cloud environments that are scalable and integrate with other SaaS products, users do not need to purchase any additional software or equipment.
- New releases or upgrades are provided much quicker and with much lower costs due to simply upgrading the hosted environment. There is no need to have a user buy an upgrade package and perform any type of installation since this will be done automatically on the users' behalf.
Ease of Use?
As you talk to each vendor, see if a demonstration is possible. You definitely want to see what their solution has to offer. Then carefully look to see if the software seems intuitive. Do the screen layouts and buttons make sense? How easy is it to use? The success of your IWMS solution will largely depend on your user base. Is it easy to learn? Is there good product documentation or training? What kind of customer support would your potential solution offer? Even the most well-designed software can quickly lose support if your users are unable to learn how to use it. Therefore, we suggest you take this into consideration as you look at the variety of IWMS solutions available.
While finding the right IWMS solution for your facility can be a challenge, keeping these five questions in mind when talking to any of the wide variety of vendors attending the conference will help you to better refine your search, and hopefully give you the knowledge you need to find the best option available for your needs. And if you have any additional questions or concerns, I will be at IFMA's World Workplace (booth #1328) stop by and ask me.