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February 14, 2024

| 5 min read

Four tips for scaling a CMMS pilot project

Technology is supposed to move your business forward. It should help you hit your KPIs. It should modernize operations. It should put everyone on the same page.

But it often doesn’t do any of that. Instead, many companies get stuck piloting new technology and never realize its full potential.

CMMS pilots are no different. While it is best to start slow when implementing maintenance software (opens in new tab), many organizations find it difficult to scale a CMMS (opens in new tab) and, as a result, never get the return on investment they’re looking for.

As firm believers in how great a CMMS can be (when it’s implemented and used properly), we at Fiix want to help you avoid getting trapped in pilot purgatory. So, let’s explore best practices for scaling a CMMS pilot project, including common reasons for getting stuck and how to get around them.

What is a pilot project?

A pilot project is when a company implements new technology or processes on a small scale before implementing it across the entire organization. They are used to test if a product, service, or idea can deliver the desired results before a larger investment is made. Pilot projects allow organizations to learn from mistakes, keep their impact small, and avoid the same risks during large-scale deployments.

…Most companies get stuck piloting new technology and never realize its full potential. In fact, a Cisco study (opens in new tab) found that just 26% of companies report completely successful IoT initiatives.

For example, a manufacturing business might pilot a CMMS by having one facility implement and use the software for six months. This gives the company enough time to test the software, learn how to maximize its use, and gauge the return on investment. At the end of the pilot period, the organization can decide to implement the CMMS at other sites, move on to other software, or keep testing the current option.

Why do CMMS pilots get stuck?

There are so many ways to say, “I’m stuck,” because it’s something everyone can relate to. It’s not uncommon for a CMMS implementation to get stuck in the pilot phase, and it’s usually for one of four reasons.

1. Apathy cuts the will to expand the project

The initial excitement of implementing a CMMS can fade fast and turn into indifference, or worse, outright negativity. This drags user adoption to lower and lower rates, making the software less effective. As a result, the CMMS transforms from a silver bullet to a ho-hum tool in the eyes of everyone from senior leadership to technicians. The motivation to move the project forward is dead. This problem can also arise when there is no one available or capable of leading the transition out of the pilot phase, such as a qualified and ambitious CMMS champion.

2. No one sees the value

Businesses often have a short attention span, and if a CMMS can’t deliver quick wins, their focus shifts to the next big thing. While small goals can be achieved quickly with maintenance software, it takes longer to see more substantial ROI (opens in new tab). In other scenarios, people outside of maintenance might not realize the benefits that a CMMS is having on the business. A lack of short-term success or perceived value can freeze plans for a full rollout of the CMMS and keep an organization stuck in pilot mode.

Unfortunately, a lot of maintenance teams can get stuck in the pilot phase. But there are ways out of this predicament. Scaling and starting slow, with small increments of change, and then testing these changes to see the positive outcome is the way to go.
Tanya Goncalves

3. A long to-do list and competing priorities get in the way

Let’s face it, everyone has a long to-do list that keeps getting longer. Tasks get pushed down or completely off the list. It’s easy to convince yourself that a full rollout can wait once the hard work of implementing a CMMS is finished. But if you shift the CMMS pilot to the backburner, it rarely leaves that spot. There’s also the matter of competing priorities. New projects, goals, or mandates can create roadblocks that are often insurmountable, regardless of how dedicated you are to graduating from the pilot.

4. Standardization is non-existent

Building a CMMS pilot often involves a lot of time and effort to gather, clean, and upload data to the software. If data and processes are messy and inaccurate, it becomes much more difficult. Imagine then, how these challenges are multiplied when expanding a CMMS. The time, effort, and financial resources it takes to coordinate a full rollout without standardized data and processes can be daunting. The number of resources required often forces organizations to put the transition off for as long as possible, and eventually, the project fades away.

Four ways to scale your CMMS pilot

It’s time to make sure none of the nightmare scenarios above ever happen to your organization. While the strategies below won’t guarantee success or solve every single problem that may come up, they offer a blueprint for bypassing the most common and harmful roadblocks to scaling a CMMS pilot.

1. Make expansion part of your implementation plan

Avoid pilot purgatory by creating a detailed plan for a full rollout. It’s essential to design this strategy as part of your implementation plan and before the CMMS pilot begins. Establish clear goals, timelines, and milestones for a full rollout, as well as the resources you’ll need to reach all three. This way, you won’t have to start from scratch when you want to scale the project. Build a pilot project report on what went right, what didn’t work, and what could be improved for the next time. This allows you to reassess your original expansion plan and make necessary changes.

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2. Measure and communicate any success, large or small

Keep track of the wins your maintenance team has achieved from the CMMS pilot. It’s important to take note of any milestones you reach, no matter how small, and make sure those inside and outside the department know about them. This ensures everyone, from executives to technicians, sees the tangible benefits of a CMMS and how they relate to them. Not only will the project stay at the top of your mind for you and other members of the leadership team, but it will increase your incentive to expand it.

3. Keep all users, present and future, engaged

Taking the leap from a CMMS pilot to full CMMS implementation has more to do with people than technology. Having staff who embrace change increases the likelihood of a successful CMMS expansion. This includes those using the software in the pilot and those who would use it after a full rollout. Ask users for their feedback on the CMMS regularly and incorporate changes that make their lives easier. Educate them on the value of the software, create an exceptional training program, and designate a CMMS champion to address problems or questions.

4. Don’t choose a software vendor, choose a CMMS partner

Scaling a CMMS pilot is no small task, so it’s crucial to work with a CMMS provider who can help guide you through the process. Software providers have been a part of hundreds of similar implementations and will be able to advise you on best practices and obstacles to avoid. They will also help you get clarity on how a CMMS can integrate with your company’s other technology systems. Not only does this make a potentially messy and complicated operation a lot easier, but it highlights the value of a CMMS to the decision-makers outside of the maintenance department.

You know how to walk, now it’s time to run

Your facility has done its homework, implemented a CMMS pilot, and worked hard to perfect its use of the software. There’s nothing else to accomplish but to expand the project. This is easier said than done. However, you can avoid many of the obstacles by having a solid plan in place, tracking the achievements of your pilot project, engaging users, and working closely with your software provider to make the process smoother.

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