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Customizable Maintenance Software vs. Canned Maintenance Software

Written by  Rick Clonan

Are you still relying on paper, Excel, email, Access, or other unorganized homegrown systems to keep track of your work histories and equipment?  If you have been thinking about making the jump into maintenance software from what you are currently using, you may be wondering about the impact on your team when making the switch.

If you are in this situation, you would be one of many that are trying to figure out what exactly they are up for.  I can tell you that depending on the kind of software you choose, you may end up having to drastically change the way you run your department.

The reason is because some CMMS and EAS providers don't offer customization, but only offer a "canned" system.  Basically, you have no choice but to adapt your management style to the software instead of the other way around.  A good question to ask yourself when you are evaluating software is, "Do I have to change the way I do things if I decide to use this system?"  If the answer is yes, you might as well turn and walk the other way.

You will come to find that these canned maintenance software systems are cheaper, but if they don't have the ability to adapt to the way you like to do things how much of a deal are you really getting?  Even homegrown systems can be customized (albeit painstakingly sometimes) so why would you want to lock into a system that will never change with your needs or with changes in technology? Start off on the right foot by looking into customizable maintenance software.

Some key elements to look for to determine customization are:

1. Drop downs that can can be titled for you.  There is nothing worse that a drop down that says "building" when it should say "hangar".

2. User level preferences. When an advanced user with admin rights logs in, they should immediately see what they want to see. They should not have to hunt around to get to advanced level pages.  The same goes for basic requesters.  They should go right to a request- work- order page and have limited access.

3. Custom work flow. This is a big one.  If you want all work orders to be approved by a manager before they are dispatched and then closed by a manager only, then the software should be able to accommodate that work flow.  There are thousands of variations here, so the ability for the software to have custom fields is a must.  

Remember, without customization you could experience the "Tail Wagging the Dog" effect. 

dog

There can also be hidden costs involved with purchasing some systems. This is true for both canned and custom software. One should look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  A canned system requires your organization to re-learn a work flow.  A customized system that charges for changes becomes a money pit as the changes stack up. In either case, if the system is not easy to use then training will be required.  If there is on-site training involved, then costs go up.

Here are some hidden costs to look for in both canned and customized software:

1. Work flow should be customized. If not, it means that teams will not only need to learn the software, but they will also need to learn a new work flow. This adds internal costs.

2. How much do custom requests cost? With customized software, look for how much changes to the software will cost after initial adoption.  It is not unusual for teams to really know what they want only after months or even years of using a product.  By then, change requests can be expensive.

3. Look for an unlimited support plan.  Some companies abandon clients after the initial adoption phase and then charge for support.

After you have considered some of the main elements and costs, compare the pros and cons of the two different approaches to software delivery. 

customizedcustomized2

If you think that your research has left you in a conundrum, you may be correct.  However, Que Centre, a leader in the small to medium sized business category of maintenance software has developed software that overcomes the problem of having to choose either a canned product that is inflexible or a custom product that is expensive. Que Centre’s novel approach combines the core portion of its software that is “canned”, thus facilitating economy, with a portion of the software that is fully customizable, thus facilitating flexibility.  Customers get the power of custom software without the price. 

pros and cons of customized software

In a real life example, I have a customer that has a fairly straight forward work flow for work orders.  The work orders come in as requested, get approved, and then are dispatched.  The problem that this client had, was that he wanted certain work orders to be associated with a capital project.  Our solution was to create a custom drop down for his requesters that allowed them to associate their work requests to the capital project. Because our software is designed for these custom fields, the change took about 5 minutes and did not cost the client anything.  New work flows, cost roll-ups, approvals, and reports are a cinch.  Here is a link to some screen shots

So if you have been wondering what the impact of a new maintenance software system will have on your operation, with Que Centre, you can rest assured that it will be minimal - along with minimal cost.

To learn more on how Que Centre can adapt to your operation, please give us a call at 888-697-2811 to request a consultation or view some of our other topics.

 

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Topics: ROI of CMMS, Benefits of CMMS