June 11, 2020

| 4 min read

Leading change: How to successfully drive CMMS adoption and everboarding

Leading change ain’t easy. This is especially true regarding getting people to use new technology. Statistics show that almost three-quarters of IT projects fail, and the numbers are even worse in maintenance, where 90% of CMMS failures happen because the software was underutilized or unused. We don’t want you to be a statistic.

That’s why we invited water resource manager and project management professional Devon Aaroe and wastewater treatment operator Gordon Mielke to share their experience with the Fiix community. In this webinar recording, they share their unique perspectives on their organization’s change management journey from paper to digital and beyond.

Watch the full recording to get new ideas, answer questions you are trying to solve, and learn (or re-learn) best practices regarding leading change. You can also download and listen to the audio version of the webinar using the embedded link below.

headshot of Devon Aaroe

Devon Aaroe AScT, PMP

Water Resource Manager

City of Dawson Creek

headshot of Gordon Mielke

Gordon Mielke AScT

Wastewater Treatment Operator

EOCP Level III Sewage Treatment Plant

Brief synopsis

Devon Aaroe, water resource manager for the City of Dawson Creek, first realized the difficulties of leading change when their attempt at implementing a document control software crashed and burned due to lack of buy-in.

Relying on the lessons learned from their first attempt, Devon wanted his team of operators, like Gordon Mielke, to own their Fiix maintenance management system.

As a manager, your job is managing the people, and their job is managing the facility. First, it needs to work for my team, and then I’ll make it work for me.
– Devon Aaroe

To improve the reliability and uptime of their municipal water and wastewater facilities, Devon and Gordon worked together to ensure their CMMS selection and implementation succeeded.

Creating a sense of ownership

Buy-in. It’s a simple and often overused word that can be extremely difficult to achieve and even harder to force. For Devon, this was critical for his CMMS project.

It’s got to be as intuitive as Facebook or Instagram, it just has to work. Don’t give me a thick binder of written instructions on how to use it.
– Devon Aaroe

Devon understood that ease of use would not be enough to create buy-in. He wanted to also involve the people who would use the system in the decision-making process.

So, Devon did the preliminary CMMS research and narrowed down their selection to two front runners. He then provided free demos of Fiix and competitive CMMS software to all of his operators and asked them to play around with both. All operators unanimously chose Fiix.

When I sat through that selection process, it felt awesome. It was really nice to be able to choose. I wanted it to be less than 3-clicks to get anywhere.
– Gordon Mielke

Pro Tip: Create opportunities for users to have input on decisions to create a sense of ownership and excitement for the project. 

Setting realistic expectations

Devon advises framing software implementation as a project. A project has a start and end, with targets and timelines. Projects also have project teams, allocated time, resources, and budget to complete. He cautions that successfully implementing software is not something you can do off the side of your desk.

Devon’s project team included a senior operator who came back from retirement on a 6-month contract to add over 1,400 assets and create over 400 SMs. An admin, a planning manager with project management experience, and his champion, Gordon.

Devon set clear expectations with senior leadership and operators that it was going to be hard. They allocated a one-year timeline and managed the project with regular check-ins.

It will initially cause more problems than it solves, but in the long run, it will save time and money.
– Devon Aaroe

Pro Tip: Implementation can’t happen in a vacuum and will take time and effort. Be honest with yourself and all stakeholders regarding the time and budget required.

The importance of a champion

When faced with change, it’s common to expect a few early adopters, along with a few early detractors. Gordon was one of those early adopters. He’s techy, had previous CMMS experience, and immediately saw the potential of the software.

Gordon would regularly bounce ideas among operators in the lunchroom and assist peers with any questions or struggles. Devon decided to grant Gordon admin access so he could quickly implement changes and build the system to work for the whole team.

He could help me live as an operator, see what I can’t see.
– Devon Aaroe

Devon also points out that a champion may be the person who is constantly coming to you with problems and looks like a detractor. That’s really a sign that they’re engaged, but the system is just not working for them. By trusting them to have more influence in the development, they can become a new champion.

Pro Tip: Identify your champions early and support peer-to-peer influences by giving them heightened responsibility.

Building positive momentum

During the first 90 days, in particular, it’s important to start getting some small wins. Even if it’s as simple as solving login and password issues. Building an attentive feedback loop of small incremental changes to make big changes over time.

Devon provided access to training, but he also held weekly team meetings to ask: what are the things that are working well, what are the things that are not working at all, and what do you need to do your job? Gordon often provided feedback on behalf of his peers that Devon could elevate to Fiix for a solve. Devon would close the loop in their weekly stand-ups by always reporting back on what was done or not done and why.

The back and forth between us and Fiix was huge. In my previous experience, there was no communication between the software developers and the people who were trying to implement the software.
– Gordon Mielke

Pro Tip: Schedule frequent check-ins and build positive momentum with an attentive feedback loop.


When the users take over the software and use it daily, it’s no longer a project. Everboarding is the idea that learning is constant. Not a one-and-done onboarding event but instead a continuous process.

Fiix is a part of our onboarding and training but also a part of our ongoing performance management and one-on-one process.
– Devon Aaroe

For the City of Dawson Creek, veteran users train new users on the program to sharpen their own skills over time. The team also tracks efforts to determine how much of each person’s time is spent on preventative maintenance vs. emergency maintenance.

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