So you’re looking to implement a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) — congratulations! You’re about to change your business for the better. But getting started can be intimidating. Building a CMMS request for proposal requires evaluation of your organization’s needs, goals, budget and more. That’s why we’ve put together this CMMS RFP to help you get the ball rolling and get on your way to finding the perfect CMMS software for your organization.
What Is an RFP?
An RFP (or request for proposal) is one of a group of planning documents known as RFx that help you forecast the budget, goals and other expectations for a project or expenditure. An RFP is the middle of a three-part funnel, so before we dive into the RFP, let’s go into a brief summary of each of them.
Request for Information
And RFI is the preliminary step for any big project, including obtaining CMMS software. As the name suggests, its main function is to gather information. You can do this by creating some high-level questions to ask of your organization and the vendors you will eventually shortlist. These guiding questions will help you determine which features are important to you, what your goals are for your CMMS, what you should expect from vendors and what might be a dealbreaker in the process. Here are a few example questions that might be helpful:
The RFI is typically an informal document that can be as simple as sending an email or filling out a contact form on product websites. You haven’t committed to anything yet; you’re just gathering information. This interactive requirements template can help make the requirements and information gathering step much easier.
Request for Proposal
Once you’ve got an idea for what you need from a CMMS and what vendors can offer you, you’re ready to get serious about considering options. This step involves creating a shortlist from the vendors who you requested information from in the previous step and narrowing down your options. You can compare different CMMS platforms based on their performance for the features you identified as crucial in the RFI step to help you generate a shortlist.
When you have a shortlist of between four and seven platforms that you think would be a good match, you’re ready to send off your proposal! We’ll come back to the specifics for creating a CMMS software RFP in the next section, but some basics include:
- Be specific about your needs
- Include your general budget but be open-minded to tweaks
- Set a deadline for request responses
- Use an RFP management tool
Once you’ve submitted your RFP, you can wait for responses to roll in. When they have, you’ll be ready to look them over and complete the final step of the RFx process if it wasn’t included in the request responses.
Request for Quote
Some vendors will include a quote in their response to your RFP, but it’s not a guarantee. An RFQ is a request for quote. Most software systems are priced on an incredibly individualized basis based on users’ unique needs. In order to get a price quote, they need to understand what modules you’ll be using, the size of your user-base, etc.
An RFQ comes after the RFP when you’re ready to get serious with a few of the original shortlist and find out their pricing and any other questions that the RFP didn’t answer. You aren’t obligated to choose a vendor you’ve submitted an RFQ to, so don’t hesitate to ask for specifics from your entire shortlist if you want to be extra thorough.
How to Create a CMMS RFP
Now that you know the generals of the RFx group, let’s get specific about making a CMMS RFP. We’ll define the step-by-step process, give you some resources and make sure you’re ready to find the perfect CMMS for your company.
Define Your CMMS Requirements
Like I mentioned above, you have to know what you need from a CMMS in order to start searching for one. “Requirements” refers to the capabilities, price, customer support, deployment environments and other qualities the software must provide in order to meet your needs. These can be very broad (e.g., “has work order management capabilities”) to very niche (e.g., “has modules that are customized specifically for government-funded facilities”).
Defining your requirements involves selecting the various CMMS requirements that you think are most crucial to your organization. For example, an apartment complex will have different needs when it comes to a CMMS than a nuclear power plant, but both can benefit significantly from having one.
This CMMS requirements checklist should help you get an understanding of what options you have when it comes to CMMS features, and this interactive CMMS requirements template will help you narrow down which are most important to you. You can also use this requirements planning tool to assist you in the process of generating a CMMS RFP.
This may not seem like a big deal, but pinpointing your specific requirements is a crucial step to ensure you choose the right CMMS for you. Many organizations get going with just a proposal sample, but that often isn’t enough to give you an accurate idea of whether a platform will be a good match for your needs.
Generate a CMMS RFP Document
After you’ve created a requirements list you’re confident in, you’re ready to create an official CMMS software RFP. The purpose of an RFP is to reach out to vendors in order to get a personalized proposal from them outlining how they will meet your criteria for a CMMS. Reviews and research are an important part of any big purchase decision, but nothing online will tell you exactly what the vendor plans to offer you.
It’s important to make the RFP look professional — vendors are less likely to take you seriously as a client if you seem like you don’t take them seriously. Plus it’s just good manners! An RFP planning tool can help with that aspect.
Create Vendor Shortlist
Now it’s time to create a CMMS vendor shortlist. You shouldn’t have any trouble with this step if you use your requirements to compare vendors with this CMMS comparison report. Note the platforms that perform best for the requirements you’ll use most frequently, or who meet the highest number of your key requirements. A shortlist generally contains three to seven vendors — too many vendors is just as bad as too few, so try to stick to a manageable number.
This is the time to search the internet for other people’s experiences with a vendor. Read reviews from a variety of websites, watch demos on the vendor websites and get a feel for how the vendors on your shortlist treat customers and how people like the product. This step might help you narrow down your shortlist further, or at least prepare you for what to expect from the product.
Submit Your CMMS RFP to a Vendor Shortlist
Now you’ve got the beginning of your equation: vendor shortlist + CMMS RFP document. Submitting the RFP puts the ball in the vendors’ court — they’ll create a proposal based on what you asked for, and then you can evaluate the proposals to make your final choice. Typically an RFQ takes place either concurrently with the RFP or after you receive the proposals if you need pricing clarification.
You can submit your RFP through email, through a vendor contact page or through an RFP management tool, but the first is the most common. Make sure to include further contact information so vendors can send back their proposal. For best results, we suggest including the following information in your CMMS RFP:
- Some general information about your company such as industry, the number of people who will likely use the software, budget, etc.
- A response deadline date
- Some challenges you’re hoping CMMS will help your organization overcome
- Your key feature requirements
Make sure not to leave any holes in your technical requirements (for example, what kind of security regulations do you need to adhere to?) or customer support needs in order to get an accurate proposal.
Review and Select
And now the final step of the equation: vendor shortlist + CMMS RFP = your perfect CMMS solution! This is the phase where you get to feel like the prettiest princess at the ball choosing from her many suitors.
RFP management tools like our RequirementsHub offer a big advantage over email for this step: instead of risking responses being sent to a spam folder or being buried under your other emails, responses are neatly organized in a single place. You can evaluate all the responses from the various vendors and streamline your selection process. If vendors didn’t include a price quote, now is the time to submit an RFQ to ensure you have an accurate understanding of the costs associated with the software.
It’s considered good etiquette to inform eliminated vendors that you aren’t a good match, which has the added benefit of reducing the amount of communication in your inbox. When you’ve made a decision (or at least narrowed it to two or three products), it’s time to follow up. A follow-up consists of requesting in-depth demos, free trials, proof-of-concept demonstrations or other ways to experience their software.
The big kahuna of these test-runs is a live demo day. You can have your team of end users take the software for a test drive performing tasks they’ll have to do once the software is implemented, so this is a great resource for troubleshooting and getting kinks worked out before you’ve committed. This gives you firsthand knowledge of any gaps in the system and a feel for the user-friendliness of the product.
Once you’ve made your final decision, you can finalize your contract and move on to the implementation step.
There are plenty of big hazards that can derail your project, but it’s often the small hiccups that slip by unnoticed and cause problems. Here are a few common pitfalls to avoid during the CMMS software RFP process:
Depending on the RFP Alone
While the RFP step is incredibly helpful, the research beforehand and the follow-up are equally vital. If you send an RFP to every CMMS vendor that sounds good, you’ll end up drowning in proposals. If you don’t follow up thoroughly, you could end up with a system you don’t like or can’t use effectively.
Being Too General
Just because you might not think a detail is important doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include it. Vendors can’t adequately cater to your needs if they don’t have an incredibly specific understanding of what those needs are. It’s much better to include too many details about your goals for the CMMS than too few.
Whether it’s timeline, budget or capabilities, you need to have realistic expectations for your software. A free CMMS won’t give you the same functionality as one that costs 500 dollars a month: it just can’t. At the same time, if you only need basic CMMS functions, it doesn’t make financial sense to stretch your budget to buy a product with all the bells and whistles.
Additionally, implementation takes time — think months, not weeks. Find out a general time frame from your vendor up front and then stretch it a bit and you should have an accurate estimate for how long it will be before your CMMS is up and running.
Wants vs. Needs
We’ve all done it in our daily lives — do you need that new purse or 72” TV? Or do you want it? Software is the same game. Just because a system can offer extensive EAM capabilities or real-time business intelligence features doesn’t mean you’ll use them. More features cost more money, so it’s important not to over-buy. This often leads to overly cumbersome systems that don’t get used.
Choosing a CMMS is a project that takes dedication and attention to detail. Using an RFP management tool can save you time, money and headache in the long run, so it’s worth your consideration.
This project will run most smoothly if you start out with input from all stakeholders — input from upper management, managers and end users should help you come up with important questions at the RFI stage, generate accurate requirements and set accurate expectations. You should have end users take part in any demos or trials as they will be the ones who have to use the software, so their input is priceless during that step.
Do you have any specific challenges facing you in your CMMS RFP process? Let us know in the comments!