Keep Your IT Department at Arm’s Length During a CMMS Implementation: Here’s Why

posted by WMC

No matter how little you think you know about choosing and integrating a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), the most important thing to know is this: do not let your information technology department run the show.

Picture2A CMMS is really about asset management, not information technology. Such software systems help maintenance teams keep an electronic record of all assets they are responsible for maintaining, creating a regular maintenance schedule to help extend the life of the assets, and generating a historical record of the work that’s been performed.

Yet, in most companies, systems projects like CMMS’ end up being led by the IT department. IT has selected software before, knows how to manage software vendors, and, importantly, holds the keys to integrating any new tool into the organization’s technical environment. However, being IT professionals, they are not experienced in asset management. They treat your data and tools as any other data or tools, without your business focus. I can’t stress enough to keep IT at arm’s length during the decision making process. A CMMS is really about asset management, not information technology. Such software systems help maintenance teams keep an electronic record of all assets they are responsible for maintaining, creating a regular maintenance schedule to help extend the life of the assets, and generating a historical record of the work that’s been performed.

When IT Professionals Lead the Show

Information technology personnel, whether project managers, application support managers or simply technical personnel assigned to the asset-management portfolio, have specialized filters that assist them in doing their jobs. These filters do not include a focus on asset management.

The work of an IT project manager is based on the key elements of a methodology such as the one recommended by the Project Management Institute. These methods are strong in a number of key areas including:

  • Scope management
  • Time management
  • Cost management
  • Human resources management
  • Communications management
  • Risk management

While these are all critical aspects of any technology implementation, the IT project manager’s experience will be grounded not in asset management, but in a variety of IT software and infrastructure projects (i.e. replacing accounting systems, deploying Microsoft Outlook across the company, replacing the failing server, etc…). As such, despite their best intentions, they will tend heavily towards seeing your CMMS as a generic application with a generic set of data. They will drive decisions towards those tools that work best within the technical environment. Ensuring that the tool actually supports your asset management needs will be their secondary priority, leaving you with most of that responsibility yourself.

The application support manager’s work is generally grounded in IT functional methodologies such as Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).  Again, these methods are strong in many key areas including:

  • Capacity management
  • Availability management
  • IT service continuity management
  • Security management
  • Application management
  • Event management

Once your CMMS application is introduced into the organization, skills in these key areas will be critical for ensuring the smooth operation of the solution. Think of their job as the asset management arm of the IT world. While this sounds conducive to your needs, the metrics required to ensure ongoing operations of an information system, the personnel involved in that work and the management oversight and reporting required, are all quite different to that in your world. Thus, they have a tendency to simply consider asset management functionality from the perspective of systems asset management.

Often, asset management leaders simply lean on the technical specialist assigned to their functional area, whether that tech is from IT or is the power user (administrator) you lean on to ensure the tool works. While these personnel understand the details of the current application and the specific steps to move information from a specific system on to a spreadsheet they control and onto a report you depend on, they are often underequipped to lead your CMMS project:

  • They have never participated in, let alone led, a software selection
  • Their only interaction with the vendor, if any, is with their technical support personnel, not with executives who generally lead the vendor side of the process
  • It seems that in many cases, these personnel are exceptional data processors but are uncomfortable and sometimes unable to think conceptually about a potential future solution using a new tool based on a completely different underlying model for the asset management function
  • These administrators are often the only ones who do that specific work. Backfilling them will be extremely difficult, especially when their tasks are poorly defined or ad hoc

The Road to Ruin

Here’s the common path forward when allowing non-asset management personnel to lead your CMMS project:

  • The first 75% of the project moves along nicely with deliverables created, often by IT or technical personnel, to meet project timelines
  • Asset management personnel, responsible for the quality of the solution, sign design documents and make decisions that they are told are in their best interest but that they do not really understand
  • Because of this lack of understanding, initial communication efforts go quiet as the asset management leads begin to feel uncertain about what to communicate
  • Once testing begins, the asset management personnel responsible for assuring the solution see a wide gap between how they do their work today, what they were expecting from the new system, and what is placed before them by IT and the vendor
  • At this point, the figures are atrocious. According to The Standish Group Report:
    • 1% of projects will be cancelled before they are ever completed
    • 7% of projects will cost 189% of their original estimates
  • The asset management leads are left with, at best, a tool that they have to force their staff to adopt or, at worst, no solution, significant committed spend and a need to start over

On the Other Hand . . .

Having asset management professionals lead the selection and implementation of the CMMS will lead to noticeable differences in the process. All of an asset management leader’s work is grounded in asset management. Every decision they make is focused on moving the asset management portfolio forward.

Here are some thoughts to spark your thinking on the two main steps you will face:  selecting the CMMS and integrating it.


Selecting a CMMS tool should be focused on macro-criteria such as the ones developed by WMC’s Information Systems specialists (excerpted from WMC’s Software Vendor Selection Methodology):

  • Functional Fit – Does the solution provide the tools and processes to manage assets in way that supports the needs of your organization? Does it have the right key data structures? Does it generate reports that allow management and strategic asset management decisions to be made?
  • Technical Fit – This is where IT can safely weigh in. How is the solution delivered (via Cloud service requiring little or no IT support or via an installed solution requiring more internal IT support?) Will the solution integrate with your organization’s IT policies, processes and infrastructure?
  • Implementation Fit – How does the vendor propose to ensure a successful implementation? Will they provide an implementation methodology and leader? What part of the implementation will they not manage, requiring you to provide internal support to the project?
  • Vendor Fit – Will the vendor be responsive to your organization’s needs? Are you an insignificant part of their business, which is only acceptable for non-strategic solutions such as text processing? Will they adjust their approach and their tool to meet your needs or do you simply need to do as they say?
  • Cost/Value Fit – How much will this thing cost? As with any asset, TCO should be considered. To the extent that internal IT personnel are required to implement / support the application, these costs should be estimated by IT. Otherwise, you and the vendor should be able to develop a solid estimate.

Each criteria can then be refined to ensure that your needs are address.

Integrating the solution successfully depends on the readiness of your organization, specifically the asset management department. WMC’s Information Systems specialists have defined the following categories for readiness assessment (excerpted from WMC’s Strategic Information System Planning Methodology):

  • User Skillset – What is the level of technical sophistication of the asset management user personnel? Are they comfortable working in a structured manner? These assessments will drive the People Change Management plan.

  • Business Processes – How well-developed are the asset management processes? Are they documented? Will they easily be translated into the software configuration requirements?Picture1
  • Applications/Data – What asset management systems exist today, if any? What ghost systems (generally excel-based tools developed to supplement legacy applications) exist? What applications do you need to share data with other departments, i.e. accounting?
  • Infrastructure – What is the state of the technical infrastructure that your CMMS is to “sit” on? How well are you served by the personnel who are to keep that infrastructure in working order? Is the data secure? Does a business continuity or disaster recovery plan exist?
  • Governance, Strategy and Management – How well does IT strategy tie into the overall organizational strategy? How well is IT managed as a set of services? How are IT decisions made? How is it budgeted for?

IT is a Passenger, NOT a Driver

The asset management group must take the lead in the selection and integration of a CMMS with its operations. Both the IT department and the vendor need to be solid partners with the asset management group. Both can be considered external entities providing services to you as you manage the assets of your organization to achieve overall strategic goals.

As long as asset management is behind the CMMS wheel, your organization will safely arrive at its destination, and IT can come along for the ride.


Eric Pianarosa

August 2015

Eric Pianarosa is a 25+ year management consultant focused on working with management and their teams to create alignment from board strategy down to operational departments and projects.  With a background in Information Technology strategy, selection and implementation, Eric assists his clients to develop a coalition for change, often involving thought leaders from across the organization to develop and position for new ways of doing things. He can be reached at

The opinions represented here do not necessarily represent WMC’s views as a whole.