MRO Magazine

Why do CMMS implementations fail?

By Peter Phillips   

Machinery and Equipment Maintenance

Most organizations will have begun their new year with a clean slate. They'll have started with a new maintenance budget, have new 2008 goals to achieve and have capital projects to complete during th...

Most organizations will have begun their new year with a clean slate. They’ll have started with a new maintenance budget, have new 2008 goals to achieve and have capital projects to complete during the year.

Many also will have plans to implement a CMMS this year. They’ve budgeted for the software, implementation costs and training.

There are a number of methods used for implementation. Some of the more common are:

• Go it alone, relying on some vendor training


• Co-managing the implementation with the vendor

• Enlisting outside implementation consulting and support

• Managing implementation internally with installation, set-up and training provided by the vendor.

Regardless of the method chosen, there will need to be a plan of activities that will step through the CMMS implementation. What we’ve found over the years with many CMMS installations is that without a complete implementation strategy, things can go off the rails quickly. Valuable resources get wasted and consulting time is not used effectively.

While there usually is a lot of focus placed on selecting software, many purchased systems remain on the shelf or are grossly under-utilized. Many implementation efforts result in simply creating work orders to track equipment history, while the rest of the program is left in the box, so to speak.

A CMMS implementation is not and should not be complicated. It’s actually a very simple process. It can take a few weeks to a few months to implement, depending on what functions you’re going to use in the program.

For example, implementing work orders and preventive maintenance tasks can be accomplished in a few short weeks. Adding your inventory and purchasing into the project can add a few months, depending on the size of your storeroom.

Regardless of the size of your implementation, a well-executed plan can make the difference between meeting your target date to start using the program or struggling to complete the project at all.

Software projects, in general, have a history of cost overruns, misalignment and outright failed implementations. There are many pitfalls that can be avoided if the project is planned well.

Plan, Prepare and Execute

That leads me to the system called Plan, Prepare and Execute (PPE). These three steps are necessary to guarantee a successful CMMS implementation. Each step involves some sub-task that systematically moves you through the implementation process.

A CMMS installation is not complicated but don’t be fooled into thinking that you don’t need to ‘PPE’. Throughout the implementation process there will be goals to achieve and target dates to meet in order to get your CMMS up and running.

Plan: The plan is a well laid out sequence of events — an extensive list of things to be completed. The plan needs to include the people and resources that will be needed. It should have an initial implementation date and an expected completion date. It should have milestone dates along the way for each stage of the implementation, along with assigned responsibilities.

We usually help our clients with the plan. Although a CMMS implementation is not brain surgery, most companies underestimate the time and resources necessary to get the implementation totally completed on time. Believe me, this under-estimation is a huge problem. Many people think the CMMS is just a piece of software — so how difficult could it be?

Prepare: There will be some important preparation tasks to do before the implementation date. Here are a few things to get done.

• Get the software loaded on to the computers. This may take more time than you think. If your company has an IT department, make sure you give it lots of notice to get the program installed.

• Prepare lists of users that will access the program

• Create an equipment list

• Organize your preventive maintenance procedures.

For our clients, we prepare and send out what we call a Launch Kit. It lists the preparatory work to be completed and gives timelines to get it done. Traditionally we allot 45 days for this activity and schedule the initial CMMS implementation date shortly after that.

Getting the Launch Kit completed is compulsory in all of our implementations. Failure to get it completed means delaying the initial implementation and sets the whole project behind schedule.

There are several steps in the implementation and after each step we issue what we call homework. This is a list of work to be done that will move the implementation to the next milestone.

Execute: What we so often find is the homework is not done; there is a failure to ‘execute’. The repercussions of not executing the plan are many. In the past we have arrived on site, only to wait two to three days for the software to be loaded on to the PCs. Equipment lists are not ready and homework is not completed. These undone tasks put everything in reverse.

Why does this happen? The answer is to do with ‘ownership’. Someone must ‘own’ the CMMS implementation project. It must be treated like any other project. It must have a project leader who oversees the project activities and ensures that the project plan is followed.

This person’s job is to ensure that the project homework gets done. The project leader is the contact person for any consultants or trainers you have scheduled during the implementation. In our case, they are our main contact and we expect regular progress updates. We do our best to help keep them on track.

Successful implementations exhibit ownership, discipline to the planned activity schedule and completion of assigned tasks and homework.

We have learned that the Plan, Prepare and Execute system is the key to success. The absence of any one element will cause delays, frustration and an unnecessary drain on the project budget. You may usually think of the letters PPE as meaning personal protective equipment. In fact you may need some of that kind of equipment to protect yourself if your CMMS project doesn’t follow an effective PPE system.

Machinery & Equipment software editor Peter Phillips of Trailwalk Holdings, a CMMS consulting and training company based in Nova Scotia, can be reached at 902-798-3601 or by e-mail at


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