What is facility management software? For many businesses, it’s a cornerstone of their operational management approach–specifically when it comes to workplace management.

Computer-aided facility management (CAFM) software provides a useful tool for multi-employee organizations with complex space management needs. From assigning seats, to planning a move or assisting in the collection and analysis of real estate utilization data, a facility management software system makes many aspects of facilities management (FM) easier.

Selecting the best integrated workplace management software (IWMS) for your needs is the key to getting the most from this useful tool. If you’ve never used a digital IWMS or CAFM system before, or are unsatisfied with your current program, this guide will help you make an ideal selection when the time comes.

Evaluate Your Current Facility Management Needs

Before you start shopping for FM software, take stock of your facility management needs. Getting the most out of computer aided facilities management software starts by first understanding how you’re going to apply it and to what degree. Some great questions to ask include:

How many employees do you have?

  • What kind of building are you in?
  • Do you share the space with other organizations or is your group the sole occupier of your current premises?
  • How is your decision-making process, including project management, asset management, and maintenance management?

From move management, to space allocation and real estate forecasting, to workspace management, your IWMS should make your management efforts run more efficiently and smoothly. Also, think about what facility management tasks could be more effective within your organization as a whole. Examples include:

  • Are you having trouble convincing management that certain changes are needed because you can’t capture the right data?
  • Are employees getting into conflicts over who can use what space when?
  • Does the office generally feel cramped and uncomfortable, even though you have plenty of room to work with?
  • Do you have to print out old-school seating charts on paper and mark it with a pen?

This kind of introspection is the first step down the road toward unlocking maximum facility management benefits from software that meets your business’ day-to-day operational needs.

Identify Your Top 3 Most Critical Facility Management Tasks

After you’ve made a big-picture assessment of what you need from a CAFM software program, get more specific so you can zero in on the features that matter most. Specifically, think of the top three most important facility management tasks you need to take care of on a regular basis.

What would have the biggest positive impact on your office within the next month if you implemented a new IWMS program? For example, if you’re staring down the barrel of a big office move and are already starting to sense a non-digitized organization plan going off the rails, this could well be your most important issue. Likewise, if employees are reporting a lack of satisfaction over their ability to collaborate in the office and it’s having a noticeable impact on productivity, it’s time to get help today. A well-run facility management program can be a key factor in facilitating productivity for individual employees on a day-to-day basis in the workplace

The purpose of this exercise is to identify the features in facility management software that are most important and applicable to you. Few IWMS/CAFM programs have it all and, if they do, chances are they’re stuffed with features you aren’t going to use. But that may not always be the case. Every office is different, every organization is different and every facility management team is justified in taking a customized approach. That’s why it’s so important to take a personalized inventory of what
your specific needs are.

Consider Difficulty of Implementation

There are several reasons to avoid bloated software with features you don’t need. Chief among them is the fact that these programs are more complex than necessary for you, which means onboarding and implementation will be more cumbersome and time-consuming.  The team members in your office probably already have a lot of work on their plates and plenty of skills they’d like to learn in order to perform their jobs better. Having to learn how to wrangle a too-complex IWMS/CAFM system likely isn’t on the priority list.

If your staff doesn’t learn to use the software, it means implementation and adoption will be far less successful than it would be if the program was intuitive and easy-to-use. Your goal should be to make implementation a smooth and easy process that requires minimal training to your employees. Often, the best facility management software requires less input from the IT department and offers a cloud-based facilities management program at the root of business operations to ensure you’re equipped to not only evolve with the times, but thrive in an agile, unpredictable environment.

Finally, consider your options when it comes to application-based platforms versus web based facilities management software. Depending on the deployment and accessibility options for your software, it may be more or less applicable to your workplace environment. For example, web based software can provide accessibility from multiple locations for larger companies, whereas application-based software may be suitable for single locations.

Assess User Interface and Features to Facilitate Widespread Adoption

Ease of use isn’t just about the figurative weight of the program. A slimmed-down IWMS that addresses your particular needs is likely to be easier to adopt, but the user interface is important as well. Even seemingly minor concerns like the quality of the design and the intuitiveness of the user controls will influence how happy your staff is to use the platform you choose. An easy user experience is likely to result in
more and
better use of the product. This means that your initial investment in the software will pay off because it’s likely to become a part of the day-to-day operational culture of your organization.

It can also be useful to look for an IWMS/CAFM program that integrates seamlessly with the collaboration and communication tools you already use. Easy, clickable space allocation and employee location features are great facility management benefits that can make user interface effective, but it’s best if these tools don’t have to exist in a vacuum, separate from all the other ways your team communicates.

A system that keeps good records of your facilities management activities can also provide value by automating tasks that once required a lot of time and effort. This “system of record” feature alone can impact adoption and provide value.

Think Ahead to Future Needs

Choosing the top facilities management software for you is like choosing a car or buying a house: you’ll want to think about the ways your use of the platform will change over time. The needs you have today may not be the needs you have six months or a year from now. Thinking ahead can make it easier to find an IWMS/CAFM software program that can change along with you and continue to meet your needs regardless of what happens in the future.

For example, let’s say that move management isn’t in your top three priorities at this point in time, but your company is likely to grow by leaps and bounds over the next five years. Growth means bringing in new employees, which means planning new floorplans and performing close analysis of your real estate utilization. If everything goes according to plan, you’ll probably need to move into a new office to accommodate all those new team members and, at that point, move management would become a helpful feature in the IWMS/CAFM platform you choose.

This is just one example of the many ways in which anticipating your future needs makes it easier to select the right facility management software program. Think beyond what you need now and look for computer aided facility management software that can grow and change with you.

Future-proofing can also be a concern. Outdated technology like Java and Flash may have been the standard in the past, but these languages are becoming obsolete as modern technology relies on other languages to communicate. If you want your IWMS/CAFM to grow with your organization, you’ll need to select a platform that runs on updated technology like HTML5 and relies on cloud-based communication.

Don’t Discount Comfort and Word-of-Mouth

Making a final decision in this arena can be tough, so don’t hesitate to validate your assumptions and rely on other professionals’ words to narrow down your options. Often, the best facility management software is backed by glowing recommendations by users who have found value in the platform.

The decision you make can have a far-reaching impact on your organization, but you don’t need to feel too much pressure. If you use a system that just feels too impersonal and looks like it was designed 20 years ago, that alone may dissuade you from wanting to adopt that particular system. Look and feel of the platform matter, especially when you’re dealing with something that you want your entire workplace to interact with. Knowing that others have successfully adopted and implemented a particular technology can be valuable, as it provides a real-world context for the features you’ve seen in a demo.

The vendor you choose should also be willing to work with you and address your organization’s particular needs. For example, if there’s a feature you really want to see in a few years, it’d be nice if the vendor was eager to hear that feedback. FM software is a big deal and that’s a good thing. It provides a big-impact service for those who need it.

Each year there are also new facility management trends to consider.

Demo and Explore

If possible, be sure to demo or trial as many of your potential software candidates as you can. Not only will this give you a hands-on, real-time understanding and feel for the platform, it’ll clue you in on what to expect if you end up choosing that particular facility management software system.

A guided demo is a great way to get a step-by-step introduction to the platform and will also give you a chance to ask any questions you have, to be answered by a representative during your demo. Likewise, unguided trials give you the freedom to explore the platform for yourself without interruption. Both forays give you ample opportunity to set your expectations and discern what you like or don’t like about the interface or functionality of the platform. They also allow you to mark down specific features of facility management software you may want to look into further in other platforms or measure against your own needs.

Making the Final Decision

Once you’ve taken the time to vet the various facility management software systems against the criteria outlined here, it’s time to make a confident decision that will benefit you, your staff and your business. Check each platform against your criteria, notes, criticisms, reviews and positive checks to see which options make themselves apparent and viable. Also review if outsourcing facility management is a fit for your company. Then, narrow by things like price point, ease of implementation, preference and more. Choose wisely and you’ll see great ROI before you know it!

Read next, the ultimate facility managers checklist.

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.