CMMS vs. Asset Management: A Guide to Bridging the Gap

Maintenance operation teamWhat Is Operational Excellence?

Step one is to understand what operational excellence means:

  • All efforts throughout the organization are in alignment. 
  • The goals of the organization have been effectively conveyed.
  • All assets, resources, and efforts are focused on attaining the organization’s goals.
  • The corporate culture is singularly committed to the mission/vision statement.
  • The culture includes effective leadership, stewardship, and followership. 
  • The organization seeks to instill a sense of pride and ownership in everyone.
  • The organization performs regular benchmarking to align the product with the marketplace.
  • The focus is continuous improvement in a calculated matter to be competitively positioned.
  • The organization seeks profitability and promotes social/environmental responsibility.

Understand Your Current State

The sales and marketing teams think big. They realize that software when implemented correctly can achieve great results. Therefore the sales brochure might make these promises:

  • Decrease in yearly maintenance costs after installing CMMS software
  • Increase in availability by 1-6%
  • Reduction in safety risks by 10-30%
  • Reduce reactive maintenance by 10-50%

But if you only plan to create work order tickets and report actuals, then the above goals may be too optimistic.

Did CMMS implementation deliver operational excellence? Probably not. Did capturing work order costs deliver better reliability/availability? Probably not. Did the workforce achieve improved productivity and job safety? Were you able to automate weekly scheduling or extract a bad actor list? Probably not. I suspect many organizations invested heavily in the technology but are still in a reactive mode. So, what is missing?

Without a strong background in asset management and advanced processes, there is a good chance that you will only end up with an expensive work order ticket system. More work will come in than you can complete, and you will lose control of the backlog. You may be able to track completed work by month but not be able to identify bad actors.

CMMS Utilization Hurdles

Oftentimes there are man-made issues associated with CMMS utilization. The top ten are:

  1. Strategic roles missing - No core team, asset manager, reliability team, or business analyst. 
  2. Limited knowledge in asset management - A lack of industry best practices, they don’t know what they don’t know.
  3. Poor vision - No strategic asset management plan, CMMS utilization plan, long-range plan, or benchmarking.
  4. Lack of analytical reporting - Stakeholders assumed the CMMS would have what they needed.
  5. Poor data quality (foundational and transactional) - No data quality plan or formal error checking, unclear update roles/procedures, setup of the preventive maintenance library was not defendable, and difficulty finding parts in the warehouse due to non-standard descriptions.
  6. Lack of product training and asset management concepts.
  7. High click count - Too hard to use, no mobile solution.
  8. Organization nonalignment - CMMS project team never received input from senior management as to what they thought was essential (i.e., data and reports), or the project team didn’t involve the reliability engineers during implementation.
  9. CMMS was never configured to support failure mode capture - The language of reliability-centered maintenance.
  10. Overall culture - Goals are not aligned, and workers have a general mistrust of the management’s purpose for the CMMS (i.e., performing people tracking as opposed to asset management). Also, workers see the software as a tool to measure their performance and feel threatened. 

Once the issues are known, then combine them into one document and prioritize. It’s easy to become defeated and wonder how one person can make a difference. But this is how all projects get started. My advice is to take a stand by creating a data quality plan and presenting this to leadership, to describe a path forward. The goal is to identify the shortest path to value. 

Chicken and the Egg: Which Comes First?

Naturally, this is a complex problem with many interactions. And how do you know what the endgame for asset management should look like until you see what the ideal design should look like? And how do you know if you are underutilizing the CMMS? The answer is to perform aggressive benchmarking. The first action is to talk with your peers and listen carefully. But also pursue your own research, such as reading books, magazines, internet articles, and attending conferences. However, the venues cannot just be technology conferences. Instead, the events should be heavy on reliability and asset management concepts. 

Here’s a Little-Known Fact

There are essentially two worlds within asset management, and they are the CMMS practitioners and the maintenance/reliability professionals. Unfortunately, they don’t normally mingle, either at the office or by attending the same conferences. My suggestion is to figure out a way to start communicating with each other and develop a common language. If the reliability engineer would speak with the CMMS team, the reliability engineer might find a way to capture data that adds value or to design a failure analytic which shows bad actors. And together, when they encounter a new idea, they would compare it to the corporate or department objectives and see if it adds value (not every idea does).

Convert Ideas into an Action Plan

One idea might be to set up the CMMS to support reliability engineering. And once you realize that the CMMS can actually be used to make data-based decisions, then you are off to the races. As an example, chronic failure analysis would be a worthy endeavor. The key is to design analytical reports that leverage failure data to manage by exception. This is an advanced process that requires a failure analysis, accurate failure data on the work order, clear update roles, and a reliable action team to perform the analysis. 

But Will the Moment of Realization Happen?

This is a huge unknown. Every site is different and benchmarking may be foreign as a process, i.e., no one may be allowed to attend conferences. Sometimes people are working in silos with their heads down and no desire to improve. But if a spark can be generated, then an action plan can be created. Some organizations go so far as to create a long-range plan because they have so many initiatives.

There Are Several Key Roles

I sometimes call these strategic roles. In a perfect world, there might be reliable leaders everywhere. But this is not always the case. A better bet would be to set up the following positions. At the executive level, you want someone who has a general understanding of asset management to purpose, benefit and improve return on asset (ROA). Beyond that, it helps to have an asset manager with budget authority, so that improvement projects can be initiated.

Asset Manager

Quite often, the organization assigns all things asset-management-related to the IT department since they originally purchased the CMMS. But being that advanced processes require software/data, process/procedure, and roles/responsibilities, these improvement initiatives involve much more than software. The asset manager would be the primary owner of the strategic asset management plan, and long-range plan, and act as a key player in establishing a reliability culture.

Core Team

If you don't have a core team, this is where I would place immediate focus. Managing the CMMS is too much for one person (i.e., CMMS administrator). Plus, it's always better to have cross-department representation. This group would create a utilization plan for CMMS operation and a data quality plan. In addition, they would write CMMS procedures and conduct training. The core team also tracks all issues, software, or process-related tasks.

Business Analyst 

A business analyst should interview all stakeholders and document system requirements, even after going live. The business analyst is the first person to know if there is a lack of buy-in, i.e., a culture problem. This role would conduct periodic surveys, process/data audits, and training. The analyst would also create a functional specification in the case of a new report and request from the user community.


This role separates the best from the rest. If an organization complains continually about the lack of accuracy in the CMMS, this is the role that promotes data accuracy. The gatekeeper would review all incoming work and verify validity and completeness. They would assign primary support craft if missing and enter a rough estimate. This action by itself ensures that the entire backlog will have some kind of craft estimate, which helps with backlog sizing and growth trending. It also enables automatic resource leveling based on backlog ranking to help planners determine what should be planned first.

The gatekeeper would also create user grading sheets to monitor work order accuracy. An incomplete or sloppy entry slows down the entire process, makes the planner's job harder, and could impact the response time. During work order completion, the gatekeeper could also be involved with reviewing failure data for completeness.

Reliability Action Team

This is a group of stakeholders who take action to promote asset integrity, workforce productivity, and job safety. They also would rely heavily on failure data within the CMMS, using failure analytics to drill down on failure modes. In a monthly meeting, they might do the following:

  • Review bad actors and drill down on failure modes.
  • Analyze reactive maintenance, unplanned downtime, and high-cost work.
  • Initiate root cause analysis when required.
  • Assess defect elimination status.
  • Evaluate degrading asset condition.
  • Examine significant work order feedback.

Senior Management Responsibilities

When things don’t go right, it’s easy to say leadership is always the problem. But what can we do as middle-level managers, supervisors, and the working level to assist them? Here are some ideas:

  1. Provide accurate and timely CMMS updates (e.g., work order actuals, status, and failure coding)
  2. Provide valuable work order feedback (e.g., maintainability, design flaws, preventive maintenance frequency, job step clarity, hazard identification, asset condition, ergonomics, and energy inefficiency)
  3. Ensure day-to-day communication with your boss
  4. Submit ideas to CMMS (asset management) issues tracking (e.g., more training is needed, missing reports)
  5. Support Kaizen sessions for operations and maintenance staff, operator-driven reliability training, and operators providing shift turnover using electronic log notes
  6. Have maintenance staff conduct toolbox talks and share job hazards with co-workers
  7. Defect elimination teams identify and fix problems—small and large
  8. Post outage critique sessions
  9. Pursue personal knowledge related to asset management concepts through individual research
  10. Help others communicate better, i.e., ask the reliability engineer if they could have any report from the CMMS to help them make better decisions, what would it be and what would it look like?

As for CMMS utilization and asset management best practices, sometimes it takes a while before senior management (and other stakeholders) fully understand what the system can do and what they want out of the system. Therein someone might request a workshop to discuss analytical reports (e.g., failure analytics), data accuracy, and the inputs necessary to support these outputs. 

Where Can I Receive Training in Asset Management Best Practices?

The following curriculum offers training in advanced processes for asset management. Course details can be provided by sending a request to [email protected].

There are no world-class maintenance organizations, but there can be world-class asset management teams.


Life is short; indecisiveness can delay most any project. Sometimes it’s the people who know best who fail to take a stand. But the fact is, every day you wait on capturing validated failure data, is data that you'll never recover. And because this data was not captured, analytical reports cannot be run to identify bad actors. For some, they might be overwhelmed with so many ideas to consider and not know where to start. A one-day assessment would help decision-makers pull together all initiatives into a prioritized list. And by working on this prioritized list, you will be managing risk and following the shortest path to value. 



John Reeve is a Senior Consultant. With 20,000 followers on LinkedIn, he regularly shares knowledge on many topics in support of asset management. Being the 2nd consultant hired by the company that invented Maximo, he spent the first 10 years consulting in project scheduling and cost management, followed by 15 years on Maximo software. But it was the last part of his career (another 15 years) where he focused on advanced concepts resulting in a U.S. Patent for a maintenance schedule called the "order of fire." John is also a CRL, CMM, and book author.

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