Exciting new technology is set to impact the CMMS market in the coming year. Drones make everything more accessible. The Industrial Internet of Things makes everything interconnected and available for data analysis. But likely more than anything else, new types of customers, and their expectations for pricing and feature sets, will continue to shape the industry in 2019 and beyond, predicts Hippo CMMS General Manager Daniel Golub.
Early Barriers for SMBs
CMMS software has always been a good investment, but older versions had financial hurdles that made it challenging for small to medium-sized businesses to leverage the initial investments and ongoing costs into long-term savings. The platforms were often simply beyond their financial reach.
In the past, CMMS involved large investments of money and patience. Customers were responsible for purchasing and setting up the required servers and then training existing staff or hiring new IT professionals for deployment. Once everything was up and running, customers were on the hook for maintaining the physical infrastructure, keeping up to date with patches and upgrades, and maintaining firewalls and other security measures. They were known as on-premises systems because they lived at companies' facilities.
Cloud-Computing Lowers Costs
"The development of cloud-based CMMS software, however, removed or greatly lowered costs, and smaller companies started to look seriously at the systems," Golub says. The software provider now maintains the physical hardware, making sure everything is upgraded on schedule and that companies' data is secure. Unlike early, on-premises systems, cloud-based CMMS platforms are generally backed up in several different locations, ensuring customers can always access their CMMS and data. If one piece of hardware fails, another one quickly takes over, guaranteeing continuous service and preventing data loss.
To capture this new market, providers are likely going to offer a wider variety of packages, especially ones at lower price points. "Software providers are already offering packages with a small number of users," Golub says, adding he expects the trend to continue and deepen.
Another trend in pricing is how providers bundle support. Older, on-premises versions of CMMS were sold through licenses, often with restricted support. Cloud-based systems allow for the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, with companies signing up for subscriptions, usually on a recurring, monthly basis.
"This creates a whole new dynamic," says Golub. "Companies no longer have to worry about sunk hardware costs and long licensing deals. If they're unhappy, they can usually walk away pretty easily. Providers know this and are focusing on customer success." Customer success is generally understood to be more proactive than traditional customer service. Instead of waiting for customers to raise an issue, providers look for ways to ensure customers are using the software to its full potential. "We actually monitor our customers' use," he says, "and if we see there's a feature they're not using, we call them up and let them know about it."
New Industries, New Demands
CMMS is the child of the manufacturing industry, where it has always been easy to see the relationship between downtime and the bottom line. But a growing number now recognize the benefits of CMMS software. "It's becoming widely understood across industries that anyone with capital assets saves money with a CMMS," Golub says, adding, "Our customers include everyone from water treatment plants to religious institutions to vodka manufactures."
Even though they are from different industries, they do tend to ask for some of the same features. Many want an open API so the CMMS can easily integrate with their existing systems. For example, they want the CMMS to track work orders and then feed that data to their accounting software for payroll.
User experience has also become an important consideration, with companies hoping for native mobile apps on top of web-based, desktop versions. Overall, companies want something that is just as easy to use for the CEO as it is for the tool-belt-wearing line technician. "The challenge for providers is finding the balance between robustness and ease of use," Golub says, adding, "Really, the goal is to make something robust that's easy to use."
Not all feature requests are the same. "There's overlap, but each industry does have its own needs," he explains. The result: "The software could become more modular, where providers offer versions based on industry," he says. "Companies come in already knowing their specific needs, and providers will meet them by including features from what are usually separate platforms. For example, someone in the hotel industry wants something that not only tracks light bulbs but also occupancy rates," he says.