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Maintenance Software--Plan Ahead to Maximize CMMS Vendor Web Site Visits

Written By: David Berger
Published On: February 21 2004

Maintenance Software—Plan Ahead to Maximize CMMS Vendor Web Site Visits
Featured Author - David Berger - February 21, 2004

Introduction

For those looking for a computer maintenance management system (CMMS) vendor, the Web is often the first place to start. There are a number of web site features one should examine in order to maximize web site visits.

The more you feel warm and fuzzy about a company through its web site, the more likely you're going to explore it further. Unfortunately, not all computer maintenance management system (CMMS) vendor web sites are the same. The first potential turn-off is home page response times. If it takes longer than a few seconds to get something on screen, users get anxious. That's why most sites bring up at least a title, framework, and some basic text followed by the progressive filling of empty spaces with buttons, graphics, and further text. The entire process should take only under a minute. Once the entire screen has materialized, users can explore the numerous links. Some sites will show sub-categories as you move the cursor over the main headings.

One interesting feature that has become quite popular on CMMS web sites is a ticker-tape window that provides eye-catching news, such as a recent strategic alliance, record earnings for the quarter or a new customer. By double-clicking, you can get more details on any of these items. Some web sites have click-boxes that provide full audio or video clips from a user conference or speech from a key executive. At the bottom of the opening screen, almost all web sites provide contact information and a link to the web master's email address. Here's what else to look for.

Site map

Many sites provide a roadmap or index that shows the web site hierarchy. It's a sophisticated version of a table of contents, which is accessible from any screen on the web site. By clicking the headings and subheadings on the map, you're catapulted to that particular section of text.

About the company
The section describing information about the company will often present history, philosophy, policies, values, strategy, a general description etc.. If the CMMS vendor is a multinational, then multiple locations are provided, including contact information. In some cases, each country operates its own linked site. Any resellers or distributors should also be listed. Public companies often provide their annual reports.

Products and services

CMMS vendors use different approaches to present their products and services on the Internet. Some use screen shots to illustrate different features and functions, while others use text only. Many vendors offer users the option to download an electronic brochure or video clip that provides greater detail. Larger CMMS vendors offer specific information for a given vertical market, such as utilities, oil and gas or mining.

Help desk
The electronic help desk gives users the ability to inquire about specific problems, without queuing on the telephone. Usually a response is received within twenty-four hours.

Software updates
Every software company should provide information about known bugs in each version of its software. Some CMMS vendors reduce their distribution costs by encouraging users to download developed fixes, while others prefer handling the process themselves.

Discussion database
Discussion databases are handy and allows users and CMMS vendors to share tips about getting the most out of a CMMS application and traps that should be avoided. Tips and traps can be general or product-specific. Some vendors supplement this section with an "ask the experts" service that uses external expertise.

Vendor demo
For a company that's shopping around for a new CMMS, the Internet is a logical starting point. Many of the vendors provide download capability for demo software. Some may have a simulated interactive demo built right into the web site, while others prefer to have an electronic order form and ship a demo CD by mail or courier.

Maintenance knowledge base
One of the potentially more useful sections deals with providing information about general maintenance management practices. For example, information about reliability-centered maintenance, how can predictive maintenance save money and what are the advantages and disadvantages of centralized warehousing? In some cases, CMMS vendors produce "white papers," which are pronouncements about new technology that's being considered or new techniques for getting the most out of your CMMS.

User forums
This is similar to a help desk, except that it's primarily interaction between users. Some CMMS vendors have helped establish a separate site for their user group. Users typically talk about the best use of software, suggestions on what external software tools may be useful to supplement the CMMS, as well as workarounds, in terms of known software shortcomings. CMMS vendors can also monitor the web site for market research. For example, it can determine what improvements should be made to the software and the services provided by the company?

Current events
Keeping users informed is one key function of the internet site. This means news of upcoming software versions, the company, new customers, better ways to use the software, events like training sessions or conferences and people making news.

Success stories
One of the most powerful selling tools for any software vendor is publishing an unbiased, unsolicited testimonial from a pleased customer. This carries a lot of weight for potential buyers, especially if it's presented in a format that's clearly not biased, such as a user forum. If there are short quotes like excerpts used in movie ads, then let the buyer beware. Following a testimonial or implementation description, you want to find customers willing to include their name, address and phone number published on the web site. This creates high credibility.

Strategic relationships
Strategic alliances and partners include software vendors that have built an interface to the CMMS software, or that are jointly marketing products. Examples include vendors of condition-monitoring equipment, radio frequency (RF) data-collection devices, and document management software. Usually, the CMMS vendor provides basic information about the partners and their products, as well as a "hot link" to its web site.

Employees
Be wary of a CMMS vendor that doesn't value its employees enough to devote space to them on the web site. The vendor should be proud to provide a thumbnail sketch of each key manager in the company, including contact information, a general description of the company's philosophy, and track record regarding employment.

Service bureau
Some companies are developing a means by which users can access a CMMS application and database involving the use of a browser on the Internet or via an intranet. This means user workstations don't require the CMMS software to run on their hard drive or local network server. However, Internet users complain of slow response times, especially experienced during peak periods.

About the author


David Berger is with Western Management Consultants and is the founding president of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada.

For more information
call (416) 362-6863 ext. 237;
email: david@wmc.on.ca or visit http://www.wmc.on.ca.

Reprinted with permission from Plant Engineering and Maintenance magazine.

 
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