Getting buy-in for your next big maintenance project: How to convince your boss (and their boss) to invest in better maintenance

February 20, 2020

| 8 min read

How to convince your boss (and their boss) that you need a CMMS

Meet Justin…

Justin is an equipment and purchasing manager at an industrial dredging company. His equipment isn’t reliable. His team is nowhere near as efficient as they should be. Maintaining his machines costs way too much.

But Justin knows how to fix all this: Create better processes and get the tools for his team to implement them.

He pitches the solution, but he’s shut down. There’s no money for it. Justin and his team are left to make do with their old, dysfunctional systems.

This story has a happy ending but it’s proof of a common problem: Maintenance often loses the battle for budget.

But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.

A battle plan

This article prepares you to sell your vision of a new and improved maintenance operation to your boss, their boss, and anyone else with keys to the vault.

We’re focusing specifically on getting the go-ahead for a CMMS as new technology often brings the highest ROI, but comes with the biggest price tag and change to company culture.

Need more information on buying a CMMS? Check out our CMMS Buyer’s Guide

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Five benefits of a CMMS that business leaders care about

You need to talk the language of business leaders to get their attention. There are five areas that decision-makers are most likely to care about. A CMMS can factor into each one.

5 benefits of a CMMS that business leaders care about: growth, costs, people, information, security

1. What decision-makers care about: Growth

The status quo doesn’t excite business leaders. In fact, 89% of industrial manufacturing CEOs say company growth is at the top of their to-do list, according to a survey by Rockwell Automation.

Growth means more money for the company, but it also means getting a bigger piece of the pie than competitors. This is a surefire formula for long-term success.

How a CMMS helps with that

Two words: Efficiency and reliability.

Producing more and wasting less is the surest path to growth. One of the most helpful features of a CMMS is its ability to help you plan and optimize preventive and condition-based maintenance, and other sophisticated strategies. This leads to healthier machines that produce more with higher quality. It also reduces downtime, overstocking, and wasted resources.

2. What decision-makers care about: Costs

“The first question you’ll probably be asked is, ‘How much money will it save and where?” says Stuart Fergusson, Fiix’s Director of Product Management, about pitching a CMMS.

With spending always on the minds of business leaders, it’s clear that any big investment in technology will have to create cost-savings somewhere else in the business.

How a CMMS helps with that

We’ve looked at the costs and ROI of CMMS software, but if you’re looking for some quick numbers (courtesy of ReliabilityWeb), here are a few that’ll make your boss sit up and take notice:

  • A 5%-15% reduction in overall maintenance costs from better workflow management
  • Cost savings of up to 20% from optimized inventory and purchasing
  • A reduction of 20% in downtime costs from improved productivity and resource allocation

Joe Netherland, parts manager at Liberty Oilfield Services, has seen these cost-cutting benefits in person. Before getting a CMMS, Joe’s team would miss massive amounts of inventory, resulting in huge, unnecessary costs. A CMMS allowed Joe to solve this problem by documenting every part they used.

“Now, these quarterly inventories are non-events,” says Joe. “Our CFO told us that the dollar figure is now so small that it’s nothing to worry about.”

3. What decision-makers care about: People

Finding and holding onto the right people is something that worries a lot of business leaders. More than 75% of CEOs worry about hiring employees with the right skills, according to a study.

That number is no surprise considering what it costs to hire a replacement, not to mention the toll employee turnover takes on company culture, efficiency, and innovation.

How a CMMS helps with that

“The biggest challenge for the maintenance industry is the lack of skilled labor on the horizon,” says Stuart. “Without those skills, equipment is not going to be as reliable as manufacturers need them to be.”

Unfortunately, CMMS software doesn’t solve this crisis. But it can help reduce the impact of turnover now and in the future. A CMMS stores all knowledge and information on assets, parts, workflows, and more in one place. New maintenance personnel can get onboarded quicker and skip the steep learning curve. CMMS integrations also allow maintenance data to be shared with other departments they aren’t left in the lurch if turnover strikes your team.

4. What decision-makers care about: Information

Data is incredibly valuable. It helps your company optimize every decision while foreseeing problems and preparing for them before they become company-killers. In short, business leaders want more data, they want it quicker, and they want to be able to turn it into a winning strategy.

How a CMMS helps with that

A CMMS helps your maintenance team collect more information and ensure its accurate, organized, and useful.

Maintenance software takes all the information you already collect and makes it easier to log and find, especially because technicians can carry asset histories, work orders, audit logs, and more in their pocket with mobile CMMS apps. CMMS integrations also mean your software can connect to asset sensors and other data collectors, like PLCs and SCADA systems. It’s a no-hassle way to get accurate data on asset condition and performance.

Combine this with automated reporting and you’ve added a super-powered analytics tool to your company. With enough data and the right processes, that information can be used to predict failure, optimize parts purchasing, cut costs, improve equipment performance, and more.

5. What decision-makers care about: Security

We’ve all heard the stories of major companies being hacked. It’s a nightmare no business leader wants to live through. In fact, 20% of CEOs in this survey ranked cybersecurity as one of their top five concerns. Any project that comes with the added bonus of better security is going to be welcomed with open arms.

Get a template for aligning business goals with maintenance goals here

How a CMMS helps with that

Cloud-based CMMS software makes securing your maintenance data a cinch. It locks away all your data on secure servers with backups, eliminating the risk of losing both physical and digital records.

Justin, the persevering maintenance pro from our story, works in hurricane territory and knows first-hand how cloud-based CMMS can provide much-needed security.

“If a hurricane hits and wipes out my building,” says Justin, “I’ve lost all my data.”

Storing your data in a cloud-based CMMS is the best way to ensure maintenance is not a weak link when it comes to security.

See 20 of the biggest benefits that a CMMS offers

Read more

Four things decision-makers will hate about your CMMS project (and how to change their mind)

Let’s face facts: It’s not going to be all smooth sailing when pitching a CMMS. Preparing for objections before they’re brought up will help you turn a no into a yes.

There's not enough value

Most business leaders won’t tell you there’s not enough value in a project. Instead, they’ll tell you there isn’t enough money for it. Don’t let this get you down. If the ROI is high enough, the money will be found.

Here are a few tips for showcasing the value of a CMMS:

  • Explain the problem and be specific. For example, show them what a recent breakdown cost the company and how it could have been prevented with software.
  • Magnify the gains. Take the potential benefits and amplify them. If a major failure was prevented once a month, how much more productive could your company be in a year?
  • Show the gap. Prove that your problems can’t be solved with the tools, budget, people, and processes you already have. Where are the gaps that only a CMMS can fill?
It’s going to take too long to see value

A CMMS will bring major gains, but how long will it take to get them? One year? Three years? More? A business leader will want to know.

Before you bring the idea of a CMMS to a decision-maker, it’s a good idea to create a roadmap for the project that includes key milestones. Identify quick wins, long-term goals, KPIs, and benchmarks. Your roadmap doesn’t need to be definitive, but you should have a good idea of what areas will give you the best returns quickly.

Brainstorm some obstacles to seeing quick value and strategies for overcoming them. For example, if moving your data to a CMMS is going to cost you a lot of time, consider how a CMMS provider might be able to take some of that work off your plate.

It’s going to be too disruptive to the organization

In a perfect world, you’d roll out the CMMS, staff would embrace it, and the value would start rolling in. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.

Big tech projects usually run into an obstacle or two (or 10) along the way. These speed bumps can slow down productivity, impede growth, and sour company culture. Nip this problem in the bud by ensuring key stakeholders are on board with the project from the get-go and a CMMS champion is established. This won’t eliminate every hiccup, but it assures business leaders that the culture isn’t broken before the project gets started.

It’s going to fail

The most common source of this objection is a lack of trust in the CMMS provider. They don’t trust the vendor to do what’s needed to achieve long-term success, like assisting change management or evolving to grow with the business.

Build confidence in the project by showing proof of success. For example, find competitors in your industry that use a CMMS and are seeing results. Look for case studies on companies that have improved operations with maintenance software. Business leaders also trust other business leaders. Find reviews or first-hand feedback from people with similar job titles. It never hurts to search through LinkedIn or make a few calls to get this information.

Nine questions to ask yourself when preparing to pitch a CMMS

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What is it going to cost? You might not know the exact number, but come with some estimates and options.

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What problem will it solve? Point to real-life examples of how a CMMS can reduce risk and present quantifiable benefits of solving the problem.

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What are the alternatives? Prepare to tell the decision-maker why they aren’t better.

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How long will it take to see value? Come to the table with a draft of a roadmap.

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Who will be in charge of the project? Determine who’ll be accountable and how it’ll affect their other responsibilities. Get a commitment to the project from key stakeholders.

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How will the project affect other parts of the organization? Look at possible benefits, disruptions, and use cases for business units outside maintenance. Also, consider if the CMMS can be easily connected to the other technology your organization uses.

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What risks are there for the project? There will always be risks with big IT projects. You just need to know what they might be and how to prepare for them.

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How does this project align with your company’s goals? This is your opportunity to show that a CMMS can impact the organization at the highest levels.

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How will you manage change? The key to software success is managing the change that new technology brings. Have a plan for getting everyone on board.

Finalizing your pitch

Remember Justin from the start of this post? He suffered through an Excel-based maintenance program for over a year before pitching a CMMS again. His company was buying expensive new equipment and he seized his chance to show how new software could maximize the ROI on these assets. This time was different: He got the green light to buy a CMMS.

It didn’t take long after adopting the system to start noticing improvements. “[In 90 days], I see a return of astronomical proportions just in terms of a reduction of project downtime,” says Justin.

“…We got an all-around system, meaning that it tracked our costs, it tracked our maintenance, and it was all wrapped up in a nice little bow in a work order. That just made things a lot easier.”

Justin’s experience is proof that being prepared will always give you the best chance of getting the go-ahead on your CMMS project. Business leaders might have other priorities, opinions, and constraints, but having a solid blueprint, buy-in, and realistic benefits will get you one step closer to turning your vision of a better maintenance operation into a reality.

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