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What’s in a Name? A Lot! Let’s Ditch “CMMS” and Come Up with Something Better

Modified on

August 12, 2022

Last week we were asked to respond to several new requests for a CMMS, or Computerized Maintenance and Management System. No big surprise – we get these requests all the time and our industry has referred to it as a CMMS for eons. But that got me thinking – does that name actually describe what we do? In 2020?

That Was Then, This Is Now

I came to this industry a little over five years ago and didn’t know a lick about facilities or maintenance at the time, but I’ve been fortunate to have been trained and educated by some of the great visionaries and pioneers of the industry (thank you!). One thing I still don’t understand, though, is why we keep using the term “CMMS” to describe the modern technology and software that underpins our industry. It’s an acronym that dates from the 1980s (literally; you can look it up) and using the same descriptor for more than three decades seems to do a disservice to the tremendous evolution and improvements we’ve seen since then.

What if you’d issued an RFP for a “car” in the 1980s? You might have gotten a Ford Pinto, when today you’d be expecting a Tesla. Or a “phone” – would you want a wall-mounted rotary or an iPhone 12? How about a “record player”? C’mon, folks, our industry has come a long way and we should be proud and take credit for what we’ve achieved. Part of that means not using the same category name for something that was created when Pop Rocks and Walkman roamed the earth.

Why “CMMS” is Outdated

Let’s take a closer look at “CMMS” to understand why the term should go the way of the Pet Rock:

“Computerized” – well, duh. Does that mean anything these days? My coffee maker is computerized. Where else in the world is this word still called out?

“Maintenance” – accurate, but also very narrow. Customers don’t buy these systems only for maintenance anymore – they’re used for compliance, accounting, payments, repair, asset management, and capital planning, as well as services procurement, KPI measurement, and various forms of predictive analytics. They allow sophisticated proactive planning, not just reactive maintenance. They’re broad, holistic systems that are as useful to enterprises as any modern ERP system.

“Management” – again, accurate but not nearly as complete as it should be. Today’s systems enable the identification and procurement of service providers, workflow management and measurement, efficient payment flows, and deep data analytics. It’s like a mishmash of Ariba (procurement), a touch of ServiceNow (workflow), e-payments (pick your vendor), and Google (modern analytics). Why not make people aware of that breadth and depth?

“System” – the word implies some type of hardware/software combination, and it takes you back to when ALF was still roaming NBC in prime time. The terms of art today are “platform” or “marketplace,” and they’re built on highly distributed mobile technologies and the cloud. No one would call Uber or Amazon a “system,” and yet the technologies we use have many similarities to those services. Today’s facilities management solutions are data-driven, dynamic, and far more powerful and flexible than the CMMS of old. They also deliver way more benefits to the customers and service providers who use them.

As an industry, we should embrace this change with a more appropriate description that plants a stake in the ground. Why lug around an outdated and misleading acronym any longer?

Moving Forward Together

So, here’s where I could use your help. I’m pretty good at describing the problem but I’ve yet to come up with a better acronym or category name – but I bet our community and our industry can. What’s your suggestion for a new term, a more modern name for our category that better reflects what we do? Let’s collaborate on some ideas and maybe, just maybe, we can come up with something that reflects the functionality we provide and the credit we all deserve.

Share your suggestions with us on LinkedIn. I’ll do some more thinking on this as well and revisit the topic in a month or so to let you know what we’ve all come up with. Until then, hail the CMMS! But also… let’s kill the CMMS.

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