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A well managed organization can adapt to most CAFM systems
Peter Prischl, CEO of Reality Consult
AUTHOR: Yasen Dimitrov

As I have seen, big organizations can survive without Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) systems and the effects of using such a system is to reduce cost and improve efficiency of running their property. So can we say that these big organizations will reduce good amount of costs if they buy a CAFM system?

- The main purpose of any business activity is never to save cost. The core purpose of any business activity is to produce a service or a product which is useful for the customer, and with Facility Management it is just the same. Therefore it is also the same with CAFM – for computer support in Facility Management. That doesn’t mean however that a CAFM system cannot also help to contain costs. I won’t give savings in exact numbers because you cannot compare big organizations, small organizations etc. In the last 15 years I have been involved in more than one hundred cases, and if you look at it as a percent of return, typical returns have been more than 15% - between 15 and 30%. But I repeat, a CAFM system should never be bought on cost savings alone.

If you monitor a building with a CAFM system you will easily be able to extend the useful life by another let’s say 10 years. And the extra 10 years could mean a good amount of money because of good maintenance and good care of the building. You can do it because you have the system that keeps all the data ready for you to take action whenever it is needed somewhere in the building. And these are in my opinion the much more important benefits from information technology use in Facility Management.

Can a good CAFM system fit any organization?

- It depends on the degree of maturity and competence of the organization. In other words, a more competent FM department would have an easier time adapting to any type of good CAFM system while a not so well organized FM department may need more customizing and may have problems with most CAFM products.

So the main factor is not the software but once again the organization and the better the organization, the easier it will adjust to any CAFM system. On the other hand a good CAFM system is flexible enough to accommodate most well run organizations. There is a clear correlation: The better the organization, the easier it is to have a good match with CAFM software. If you secretly hope that good software will save a badly organized FM department, in nine out of ten cases you will be disappointed. You must have a good organization first and then a good CAFM system can unfold and deliver its benefits and effects.

You said that in your opinion from the big number of CAFM systems on the market there are about ten internationally standardized and about three globally standardized CAFM systems. So when it is better to have internationally standardized system and when a more local one?

- Again it depends all on your business, on its nature, its goals and objectives and its strategies. If your business is purely local, which doesn’t mean it needs to be small, but if it is purely local and only active in Bulgaria with no intention of going abroad then a local system may be quite sufficient. However it becomes trickier if there is competition from abroad – when your company has international competition in its own home market. Then there is the question “Are you better off with an international system?” where you can be a good counterpart against or in competition with the help of your CAFM software.

Do more international CAFM systems tend to cost more than local ones?

At face value – yes, because when you buy a standard software system you have a very clear cost structure - you pay the license, you pay the annual maintenance contract and you pay something for customizing. When a project is well prepared you can get fixed prices for these components – licenses, maintenance and implementation services, so all the costs are on the table.

With the so called cheaper CAFM systems the costs are not on the table at all – you pay some money for the basic license, some money for reprogramming it, then some additional money for adding extra functions, some more money for changing things etc. And in the end the price difference between a standardized and cheap system is not very big. For example Microsoft sells a very cheap CAFM system based on its Microsoft Visio software. It costs 1000-2000 Euro, but if you look at all the implementation costs, because it has so few functions already built in, it will typically cost you more than if you buy a really global standardized CAFM system.

Does a facility manager need to have good IT education when working with a CAFM system?

- No, a facility manager should be data educated and he or she should know about the value of data and spend time on thinking which information and in which form is needed for the business. The needed IT knowledge behind that is not more than the knowledge of a good and proficient Microsoft Office user. The important thing is the data, because your CAFM provider cannot tell you much about what data is important for you. You as the facility manager have to do that, so spend your time on thinking about data and not thinking about the CAFM software.

Peter Prischl, born 1953 in Austria, studied international business administration in Vienna. He then worked in international management positions in management consulting, heating systems, building management and building automation in Austria, Sweden and Germany.
Since 1996 he is the managing director of Reality Consult GmbH, an international management consultancy for Real Estate and Facility Management with 20 consultants and offices in Frankfurt and Vienna. Reality Consult works for more than 150 clients in Germany, Austria and Central and Eastern Europe, with core competencies in Strategy, Organization, Controlling and IT.
He is the supervisory board chairperson of Mödling Wohnen GmbH, the real estate company of that town.
He is a member of IFMA and its FM Consultants Council. He is a member of GEFMA and of its committees “Guidelines” and “Real Estate Asset Management”. He is a member of gif German Society for Real Estate Research and deputy chair of its Facility Management committee. He is active in the Facility Management Austria Association and the Austrian Association of Real Estate Managers. He is a lecturer in Real Estate and Facility Management at the IREBS International Real Estate Business School of the University of Regensburg, the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein, Tyrol, and at the Donau-Universität Krems, Austria. He has lectured and chaired at many congresses and seminars in Europe and the United States.

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