This is the seventh post in our blog series, 9 Reasons EAM Implementations Fail (And How to Fix Them). We started the series last year to address the most common reasons that CMMS and EAM software implementations fail to deliver ROI. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to round it out with four more posts about the top EAM pitfalls, starting with configuration.

When you buy a new suit, you get it tailored to fit. Even when you buy off the rack, you still have the suit altered so that the sleeves are the right length and the trousers are hemmed the way you like. The same concept applies to implementing an EAM software system. No matter how simple or sophisticated the system is, you must configure it to be comfortable and efficient for your business and your users.

Don’t Put Up with Hard-to-Use EAM Software

You know the frustration of a software system that’s hard to use. It wastes time and energy. It works against the processes you’ve designed. It discourages users and makes it harder to get everyone on board.

Yet, when faced with an EAM software system that has a cumbersome or confusing setup, many organizations simply accept the system design as an inconvenience. They live with the software’s perceived flaws. By doing so, they make the EAM implementation process more difficult and sabotage the EAM software’s long-term performance.

To make your EAM software implementation successful, you must configure the software so that it supports as closely as possible the way you do business. No EAM software will have the exact setup you need right out of the box. That’s not a design flaw; it’s an opportunity. You can optimize the system by customizing your user profiles, dashboards, data conventions, screens, menus, form fields, and other settings.

Note: Configurability will vary depending on the software system you are using. The industry’s leading EAM solutions have a great deal of flexibility, but a lightweight CMMS may not. Keep this in mind when you’re choosing a CMMS or EAM system and thinking about configuration.

Step 1: Modeling Your CMMS or EAM System Configuration

Start by “modeling” the configuration—i.e., determining the information and functionality that each user group needs at each stage in the workflow. This is like taking measurements for your suit. The requirements should grow naturally from your business processes and roles and responsibilities. For example, what is required before a work request is approved? What information do maintenance technicians need access to, and what information is beyond the scope of their work and should be restricted? What closing codes must technicians enter when they complete the work order?

You can determine your configuration requirements much more easily if you know what your business processes look like. Thus, you should optimize and document your maintenance processes before configuring the software. This also helps to prevent the software’s idiosyncrasies from influencing how you operate. The software doesn’t know what workflow is best for your business—you do. Design the software to support your practices. Don’t modify your practices to accommodate the software.

Step 2: Configuring Your CMMS or EAM Software

Configuration activities can be divided into two categories: usability and security. First, you want the EAM software to be easy to deploy and easy to use. This means configuring your system to match the way your personnel will be using it. It also means slimming down the interface by hiding menus and fields that you won’t use.

Second, you want to protect sensitive areas of the system from unauthorized access. This means defining user groups and security settings so that users see only the data they need to do their jobs. In a previous post, we talked about defining your asset management roles and responsibilities. This is where those roles and responsibilities come into play.

Everything we’re talking about here falls into the realm of configuration—i.e., customizing the software using its built-in flexibility. You may need special authorization to access the configuration settings, but you should not have to modify the software’s code to make any of these changes. That kind of “customization”—i.e., tampering with the software’s code to make it do something it is not natively designed to do—is risky. It can negatively impact the system in unforeseen ways and lead to system errors. Additionally, software tech support may decide not to support the system if it has been modified. Always try to manage data with process and configuration first, leaving customization as the last resort.

Step 3: Developing Your Master Data and Codes

Another task that is related to configuration is content development. Static system content, such as failure codes and equipment master records, plays a major role in usability and ROI. You should pre-populate your EAM system with this content to speed up work order creation and data entry, standardize data conventions, and make it easy for users to find and manage data.

Master data development is a big topic. To learn more, check out our previous posts about laying a solid data foundation and using EAM coding sets to enhance maintenance reporting.

The Value of Configuration

Don’t put up with an EAM system that’s hard to use. That would be like wearing a suit that doesn’t fit. Why would you spend $500 on a suit and not pay $50 on alterations so that it’s comfortable and looks good?

It’s the same with EAM configuration. The software probably won’t be a perfect fit for your operation right out of the box. Taking the time to configure it is a small investment that will make the system work much better for your business needs. You’ll be rewarded with better buy-in, happier users, and greater ROI.

Come back next week to learn how you can use KPIs to drive performance improvement. That will be in our next post, EAM Pitfall #7: Not Measuring Performance.

Tracy Smith

Tracy S. Smith has been helping organizations solve their asset management challenges for 20 years. He is the president of SwainSmith, Inc., an EAM solutions company. He also offers complimentary 30-minute EAM consultations. No sales pitch or a pesky follow-up call. Just straight answers to your questions—and an objective, experienced assessment of your issues and goals.

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