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Adding Vendors to Your FM Software? Read This First.

January 26, 2024

Does the thought of giving your vendors access to your facilities management software make you nervous? You’re not wrong to be cautious about it.

Think of the damage someone could do with knowledge of your building systems, especially if it’s an at-risk facility. Just the idea that somebody from outside your organization has all of that information and you don’t have control of it is scary.

Or what if an outside vendor accidentally (or even on purpose) messes up your facilities data? Maybe they delete something or screw up the way your data is organized? You can’t just assume a vendor will be as good a steward of your data as you are. It’s not their data, after all.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are also great benefits to allowing vendor access – better communication, greater transparency, improved accuracy, and more.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Only you can decide. So to help you determine if granting vendor access is right for you, we convened a panel of facilities directors to share their experiences.

Matthew Kautzky, Director of Real Estate and Property Management, Goodwill of North Central Wisconsin
Craig Kurk, Director of Maintenance, Blessing Health System
Matt Simpson, Corporate Director of Facilities and Safety, New Vista

Despite some initial misgivings, all three chose to allow vendor access to their FM software (AkitaBox) and discovered that it was actually a good thing for their operations.

What follows is a summary of a recent webinar where Matthew, Craig, and Matt S. came together to discuss the pros and cons, ins and outs of vendor access. You can watch or listen to the entire webinar here:

Plus, at the end of this article, you’ll find a quick decision guide for choosing whether or not to enable vendor access.

Overcoming the Initial Discomfort of Adding Vendors

The thought of allowing vendor access is somewhat nerve-wracking. Someone might accidentally delete something and remove the valuable information you’ve worked so hard to collect.

The key is to start small with a few trusted vendors that won’t abuse the system. Give them very tight parameters around what they can and cannot do in the software to reduce the potential for any mishaps. Work together to establish good collaboration processes within the software. Evaluate how things go and adjust accordingly.

A Variety of Advantages & Use Cases for Vendor Access

Craig’s vendors use AkitaBox to map all the assets in their entire system, add new assets, and set up asset relationships. His internal team didn’t have the time to collect and input all that information.

By allowing vendors to do that work, Craig’s team now has a far more complete data set to work from – and they don’t have to babysit the vendors when they’re onsite.

Matt S. gives access to specialty vendors like his HVAC contractor and fire extinguisher service. They use it for completing work orders and inspections. Vendors can log into AkitaBox to find information such as the exact location, model, and serial number of an asset from wherever they are – there’s no need to make a special trip onsite to get that information. In fact, his vendors can begin troubleshooting issues and grab any parts they might need before they even get to the site. Because his organization’s locations are spread out over a rural area, having AkitaBox access can mean the difference between something getting fixed today vs. tomorrow or next week.

Matthew views vendor access as an opportunity to expand the vendors’ ability to work – and, as a result, provide a better level of customer service to his end users. His vendors now have transparency into the wealth of asset data in AkitaBox. Whether it’s model number, installation date, SKU, serial number, or hose type, vendors have all the information they need to complete work orders quickly and completely. It has greatly reduced the amount of random trips his vendors have to make to various locations to determine what part they need to fix an issue.

Due to the wide variety of vendors he works with combined with the huge geographic area he’s responsible for, Matthew relies on AkitaBox as a central place for everyone to work from. It keeps everyone and everything organized, enabling easier communication, better dispatching, and closer monitoring.

When I show my vendors what AkitaBox is capable of, they’re blown away by the level of intentionality that my organization has. We’ve taken the time to know our assets and how to manage them and we’re inviting them along on that process.

Matthew Kautzky

Another way Matthew uses vendor access in AkitaBox is for RFPs. When bidding out for HVAC preventive maintenance, he granted access to three different vendors for a specific period of time. They weren’t allowed to edit anything, but they were able to see the entire HVAC system. Plus, Matthew or one of his team members didn’t have to spend onsite time walking the vendors around to collect the data they needed for bidding.

The robustness of the resulting bids impressed him. There weren’t the standard hiccups that happen when a vendor realizes they didn’t account for something in their bid because they didn’t have a complete understanding of the system.

Tips for Training Your Vendors

  • Get vendors excited about your software on the front end by showing it to them in the RFP process
  • Conduct an initial onboarding training to teach vendors the key functions they’ll need to know
  • Hold weekly check-ins for the first two or three months of software use to go over questions or hurdles

It’s never taken more than a couple of minutes to get somebody to where they’re comfortable in AkitaBox. It’s been very intuitive and it hasn’t taken a lot to get people to adapt to it.

Matt Simpson

Vendor Access Best Practices

Matt S.’s advice is to start with vendors you already know and trust. Decide what level of control you’re willing to give them within the software. Then take it a step at a time from there.

Craig and Matthew agree that having a standard naming convention is key. Hammer out your asset naming convention before you open up your software to outside vendors. You’ll avoid confusion around how you and your vendors refer to your assets.

Matthew’s mantra is “crawl, walk, run.” Start small and start with someone you trust. If you’re a multi-site place, start with a single site. Doing it that way has helped him build up his comfort level with vendors in AkitaBox.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Watch the entire webinar for even more insights.

Quick Decision Guide: Should I Give Vendors Access to My FM Software?

If you’re unsure whether allowing vendor access is the right decision for your organization, ask yourself these questions.

Do I have a true partnership with my outside contractors?

Can you trust your outside contractor or vendor to record things properly in your system? Are they even going to actually use your software if you give them access to it?

A vendor who is a true partner is far more likely to respect the importance of using your FM software and be willing to learn to use it.

If you have more of a buyer-seller relationship with a vendor, that vendor may not get on board with your system. In that situation, you could consider assigning someone on your internal team to be responsible for inputting any relevant information into your system on the vendor’s behalf.

Say Joe on your team takes care of calling the vendor and getting them onsite every year. Instead of assigning that work to the contractor, you assign it to Joe in AkitaBox. It’s his job to give them building access and sign off on their work. So Joe also inputs any data into AkitaBox – what assets were worked on, what work was done, on what date, any photos, attaches the invoice, etc.

Would I prefer to have vendor work inside my FM system?

There’s a risk of disconnect when your vendor’s work isn’t tracked within your FM software.

Consider this scenario: You don’t have in-house HVAC techs. So all your HVAC preventive maintenance is outsourced using multiple vendors. These vendors don’t normally use FM software. They have a checklist of things they do for each machine. They work by invoice. But then one day, an HVAC asset stops working.

How do you know the last time someone was onsite to look at it? What were the vendor notes from that visit? Because none of that was recorded in your FM software, you could end up digging through past invoices to find what scant details you can on the maintenance history of that asset.

Am I planning an FCA or asset/data audit soon?

If you already have your facilities data within an FM software like AkitaBox, it usually makes sense for your AEC firm to collect the FCA data within AkitaBox. If you’re hiring a firm to do an FCA or audit, you’re trusting that they’re going to give you good data at the end. So why not give them a better tool to work in?

Oftentimes, where FCA data gets messed up is in the transfer of data from the AEC firm to your system.

In addition, an AEC firm’s access to your software can be temporary. They can come in, do their thing, leave, and you can automatically deactivate their access for greater security.

Keep in mind that if your AEC firm has never used AkitaBox before, there might be added cost to you – the firm has to learn the software, they have to staff accordingly, and they won’t know exactly how long it’s going to take them to complete the FCA with AkitaBox. But consider the benefit of having engineers taking photos and adding asset data directly into your AkitaBox system – as opposed to doing those things using a different tool and then hoping it transfers over correctly into AkitaBox.

Am I planning a renovation and need contractor quotes? Am I looking for bids or RFPs?

Say you’re doing a big HVAC renovation and you need some contractors to look at what you have. It’s a lot faster to just share your facilities data in AkitaBox with them. You’re giving them better information for them to use in determining what needs to be done and how much it’ll cost. Plus, every contractor is working off of the same data.

Part of the problem with construction is if you call four different companies to come look at what you need done, all four companies will look at the problem differently and count things differently. Each individual contractor uses their own estimator to determine the quantities and then bid based on those quantities.

If you have facilities software like AkitaBox, you can remove that variation from the equation when you’re buying new equipment for the building. You can show your contractor that you need to replace 30 of X things, here are pictures of all 30 of them, and here’s information on all 30. Now everyone is shopping off the same list at Home Depot vs. every contractor making their own list and potentially getting things wrong.

Get Help Adding Vendors to AkitaBox

Ready to pull the trigger on allowing vendor access? Still have some lingering questions? Concerned about potential security risks? We can help! Whether it’s showing you how easy it is to set up vendor accounts in AkitaBox, assisting you in training your vendors, or discussing the pros and cons of your unique situation, let’s talk.

Betsy Francoeur

Betsy is AkitaBox's Content Manager. She loves to write blog posts, e-books, whitepapers, emails, and magazine articles about all things facilities management. She also enjoys traveling, running 5ks, and cuddling with her dog.

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