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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981
September 03, 2013

The Cloud: Your New Management Partner

Written by  Michael Fabian

Sometimes it seems like the pace and demands of life increase by the day. We work longer hours, shoulder heavier burdens, multitask, and try to get more done in less time with fewer resources. While these challenges apply to almost all market sectors, in our current economic environment the facility services industry has been hit exceptionally hard. Building owners and managers are demanding more from service providers, and they are able to bargain effectively because of the amount of competition in the industry and the willingness of some to sacrifice profits to get work.

The successful cleaning contractor has to look for unique and unconventional ways to gain efficiency and remain competitive without sacrificing quality and service delivery. The low hanging fruit—process improvement, more efficient equipment, and better training—have already been tried. Where else can you turn? The solution may lie in cloud-based Custodial Maintenance Management Software (CMMS).

Versions of CMMS have been around for decades in a variety of formats. This technology has steadily progressed from simple programs that were installed to a single PC to mobile applications that allowed greater freedom to today’s robust server-based systems. The progress has been fast and furious.

CMMS systems have become almost a requirement in the BSC industry and allow managers to more effectively monitor and document delivery of service. Typical capabilities include workloading and staffing estimation, process documentation and standardization, bidding capabilities, quality assurance monitoring, inventory management, capital equipment tracking, work ordering, personnel management, and more. The options and capabilities that are available today are extensive and making a decision on the right solution for your business can be a daunting task.

The latest development within the CMMS arena is cloud-based service. The cloud has taken the delivery of software and transitioned it from a program that is installed to a computer to a service that is available via the Internet from any computer or device with web access. Rather than installing and maintaining software on a PC, users can sign up for a cloud-based service and use the Internet to interact with the software, which runs on hardware located hundreds or thousands of miles away.

The cloud is the next step in the evolution of software delivery. This advancement has been driven heavily by increased reliance on mobile devices. Smart phones and tablets lack the capability to run enterprise-level management applications. They are designed, rather, to provide convenient interaction with web-based services and content. Another factor in the evolution of cloud computing has been the ever-increasing speed and reliability of Internet connections. As data transfer speeds and cellular data network coverage has improved, the idea of delivering software over the Internet has become a viable option.

As you look to implement a CMMS solution or upgrade your existing system, there are a number of factors that you should consider, such as the system features, convenience, value, service, and security. Cloud-based systems can provide distinct advantages over conventional software in each of these categories.

System Features

The feature set of a CMMS package is the most critical part of system. The software must perform the functions that are required for your management success. Cloud-based systems are able to offer the same level of sophistication and features of PC or server-based systems with the advantage of universal availability. It is true that user-installed software can be placed on a web server and accessed by employees in the field as well, but this is often a challenge for small and mid-sized contractors who lack the IT infrastructure to support and maintain servers.

Cloud-based systems also offer the advantage of scalability. The software is hosted on enterprise-class equipment, so you enjoy the benefits of better performance, reliability, and speed. Since the computing resources are shared among many users, the cloud is able to allocate more processing to users as needed. Think of it like purchasing a vacation timeshare. You want to have a vacation home, but you don’t need it 52 weeks a year, so it doesn’t make sense to purchase the entire home. By pooling your funds with other owners, you can have access to the home only when you need it.

Convenience

The process of installing software to a server or PC is daunting for most. Cloud based CMMS can offer instant access. In most cases, once you are registered with the provider, you can log on and get started using your program. Your implementation timeline can be improved significantly by eliminating the need to coordinate installations and configuration with IT resources.

Mobility is another convenience that cannot be ignored. By nature, cloud-based services are designed for access anywhere an internet connection exists. Most services support access on PCs and laptops as well as smart phones and tablets. An additional option, depending on the vendor, might be mobile apps that allow data to be collected and viewed offline on a mobile device.

This portable link to data enables supervisors to manage critical business data, perform inspections, track inventory, and other important task while onsite without having to worry about setting up workstations at new accounts.

Value

Cloud-based CMMS is typically offered on a subscription basis for a monthly fee. This fee may be per user or for a maximum number of users. This is a big differentiating point from traditional software, which requires a one-time, up-front investment with additional costs being assessed for upgrades or support. There are also some behind-the-scenes factors to consider when justifying the cost for a CMMS subscription. Maintaining software on your own equipment is an ongoing expense. There are costs for the equipment, operating system licensing, power consumption, network costs, IT support costs, server maintenance, backup costs and more. These hidden costs pile up over the lifetime of the software. Factor into the equation the time spent troubleshooting server issues and dealing with outages, and the fixed monthly cost of a hosted CMMS application makes a lot of sense. For the typical contract cleaner, budgeting for and managing a predictable, fixed cost is simpler and offers less risk than the possibility of a system failure or equipment malfunction that might cost thousands to correct.

Additionally, cloud-based systems typically include upgrades and enhancements to the system at no cost. This keeps you up-to-date at all times, and best of all the upgrades are done automatically.

Service

Technical support and training are crucial to your success with a CMMS system. Make sure that the vendor you choose provides access to support that meets your needs. This can include live telephone-based support, email, and online assistance. Also beware of the cost of these services, as they may not be included in your purchase cost. Cloud-based systems typically include support service and even training, either as part of the monthly cost or as an add-on to your subscription. They also have the advantage of being able to easily access your account and troubleshoot any issue you may experience, since it is hosted through the vendor.

Managers and employees alike need critical business systems to be available in order to do their job properly, and customers don’t care that your server went down—they just want their building cleaned. Moving to a more reliable, professionally managed CMMS can provide higher availability and better overall support.

Security

One of the biggest benefits of cloud-based CMMS is peace of mind. The provider is able to offer enterprise-level backup capabilities to insure that your critical business data is protected. Secure login and data encryption may also be used to further protect your proprietary information. These layers of security offer you peace of mind and the assurance that the time and effort that you put in to implementing a CMMS system will not be lost to a catastrophic failure or natural disaster.

You should also look for an application that allows you to configure security settings in order to limit the access of users to certain accounts and system features, further protecting the integrity of the system. This also makes training of CMMS users simpler because they will only have access to the specific tools that they need to perform their jobs.

As technology continues to progress, it will become increasingly important for service providers to integrate CMMS technology into their day-to-day operations. Your customers are going to continue to demand high-level service and real-time information about their facilities, and CMMS provides the tools to deliver. With the ever-increasing competition for contract cleaning, you should take a hard look at the benefits and advantages that cloud-based services can provide for your company. The reliability, mobility, and capability of cloud-based CMMS, along with the cost savings versus conventional software can provide you with a competitive edge and position you to continue to grow your market share.

Mike has nine years of management experience in the industry as well as a wide range of technology skills including programming, application design, and database management. Mike’s main focus is assisting clients and distributors with implementation, training, and troubleshooting of CompuClean®, Spartan’s proprietary custodial maintenance management software and helping them optimize operational performance using CompuClean.

Last modified on April 06, 2016

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