What is IWMS Software?

  • Blog
  • August 18, 2021
  • Duane Harris

Like many impactful questions, the answer to “what is IWMS software?” has a short literal meaning and a longer, more in-depth one. We will cover both answers in this article. First the simple answer: IWMS stands for Integrated Workspace Management Software. Secondly, as Paul Harvey, the famed American radio broadcaster would often reprise: And now…for the rest of the story!

An Elephantine Challenge

Modern facilities, especially healthcare buildings, are not only expensive to build and maintain, they are also devilishly complex! Take your typical modern hospital, it houses far more than just patient treatment and recovery rooms. Infused in a mid-size to large 21st Century hospital in the US, is a wide spectrum of occupancy types for clinical and non-clinical uses. In addition to standard patient treatment/examination uses, these modern facilities also include rooms for: education and conferences, food prep & dining, power generation, data center, chapel, pharmacy & drug labs, security, gift shops, franchised food vendors—and the list goes on.

With so many mutually exclusive occupancy types under the same roof, the challenge is how to meet all these varied needs. From a tools perspective, you need to be able to answer direct questions about: what you have, where its located, and who is using it. On top of these metrics, you also have to keep track of the specific building assets and space requirements utilized by these occupancy types.

The problem can be illustrated by John Godfrey Saxe’s classic 19th Century poem, The Blind Men and the Elephant, derived from a parable originating from the Indian sub-continent. 

In the poem, six blind men each attempted to define an elephant by describing the part of the elephant that each man could feel with his hands. Of course, without sight, each blind analyst was limited to a description of just a piece of the giant beast, but never the whole picture. For example, a wall from the elephant’s broad side, a spear from the tusk, a snake from the trunk, and so on.

And so these men of Indostan, disputed loud and long, each in his own opinion, exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!

– The Blind Man and the Elephant, John Godfrey Saxe

The history of facility management tools is akin to the poem’s blind analysts. For decades, specific tools were devised to manage individual building components and activities, but never the whole “animal.”

First Facility Solution: CMMS Software

With the introduction of computing resources in the mid-Sixties, facility managers finally had the means to computerize the most critical tasks faced by facility managers: tracking and maintaining important building assets. These assets include HVAC systems, power generators, furniture, biomedical equipment, etc. Unfortunately, only the largest manufacturing firms could afford these gargantuan computers. These large enterprises directly hired software developers to write custom Fortran or Cobol-based applications, on 7” x 3” paper cards.

Every time someone wanted to execute one of these early programs, they had to feed the paper cards into the large IBM computer. By 21st Century standards, these early solutions were primitive. Nevertheless, they were effective at automating simple preventative maintenance work order tasks such as: changing a belt/component, adding fluids, or checking the temperature.

By the 1970’s and 1980’s, new UNIX/OpenVMS-based servers, running on DEC hardware, and newer IBM mainframes, were introduced that could be accessed by command line terminals—removing the need for physical cards. These terminals dramatically improved developers’ ability to design and execute applications. Developers used increased development efficiencies to design programs that could handle multiple, related work order tasks, rather than just single tasks. In addition, powerful databases, like RDB or Mumps, were brought online to enable the efficient tracking of large asset inventories.

Over the decades, these asset management software tools became known as computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). These powerful tools helped managers with three key functions:

  • Track building asset inventories and costs
  • Manage preventative maintenance work order schedules and workflows
  • Manage on-demand work order requests and schedules

CMMS programs are often deeply rooted in the enterprise. Specifically, they are integrated with other critical systems like ERP or HR. The integration between CMMS and the enterprise is often so thorough that replacing them requires substantial downtime that affects non-facility systems. For example, VISTA, a 1980’s era CMMS system, is still used in government healthcare organizations, even after multiple attempts to replace it with more modern solutions from IBM and others.

Modern CMMS systems, including VLogicFM Asset and Work Order modules, utilize the latest cloud technologies to track and manage assets and their work orders—from anywhere and at any time.

Filling the Void with CAFM Software

In spite of its success, CMMS tools focus so narrowly on tracking and maintaining building assets that they divorce these same assets from the building spaces that house them. There is no room in a CMMS tool for answering space-related questions.

In response to rising market demand, the space management software vacuum was finally filled in the late 1980’s by a new generation of space management tools called computer aided facility management (CAFM) software. CAFM software is not a replacement for CMMS systems. Rather, CAFM complements
CMMS systems with another solution that focuses on managing the space itself, independent from the assets. Early CAFM solutions were offered as packaged software and sold with a perpetual end user license agreement—riding the coattails of the PC revolution.

CAFM software tools finally allowed managers to efficiently answer space-related questions, such as:

  • How much space do I have?
  • Who, or what department or service line, is using the space?
  • What is the space being used for?
  • What is the occupancy cost for that space?

VLogic released an early CAFM solution called iDrawings, which pioneered the use of CAFM solutions on an Internet-hosted solution. Like other CAFM software, iDrawings gave both operations and facility managers the tools required to determine exactly what space they have and how best to utilize it. Furthermore, iDrawings deployed its CAFM solution on the Internet, allowing facility managers to access space management tools anytime from anywhere.

Today, VLogicFM contains a number of CAFM-based, space
management tools:

Unfinished Business

You would expect that if you deployed both CMMS and CAFM solutions, you would finally “see the whole elephant” and satisfy all of your facility-related tools needs. And, you would be right…to a certain extent.

Each solution performs its stated purposes with aplomb. CAFM solutions manage spaces and space utilization issues, while CMMS solutions manage the assets within the spaces. However, there remains a glaring problem: the two systems are still separate, unintegrated tools. Lack of integration spawns the following issues:

  • Inefficiency due to redundant credentials/access controls
  • Loss of productivity due to lack of output integration between the systems
    • That is, if a critical asset fails, the CMMS system is alerted, but the CAFM system is not. CAFM users are unaware that the space’s function may be compromised.
  •  Increased administrative, support, and training costs due to two systems rather than one

The market needs one solution, not two. In short, the one solution needs to provide both CMMS and CAFM functions under one roof. Fortunately, the market rose to the challenge and released a number of integrated facility management solutions, including a ramped-up version of iDrawings and a couple of its competitors. Gartner coined a label for this new breed of super solutions: integrated workspace management software, or IWMS software.

IWMS Software to the Rescue

As its name suggests, IWMS software is a turnkey solution that integrates all the features and functions of both CMMS and CAFM software in one software package. IWMS achieves this by creating a platform upon which multiple functional modules are deployed to address each of the functional needs that were previously deployed separately in CMMS and CAFM tools. IWMS software makes it possible to not only perform the tasks you could do before with CMMS/CAFM, but also improve efficiencies by sharing access control, common network/software resources, AND combining the rich data harvest from across the platform, for improved reporting and context.

The following table provides a high-level overview of the menu of features an IWMS software platform now makes possible, including new, integrated features:





Final Takeaway

IWMS is a true synergy of its two parts. The result is more valuable than the simple combination of CMMS and CAFM functions:  1 + 1 = 3

Stay tuned for the next blog article that details the “Top Benefits of IWMS Software.” A link will be provided upon the blog article’s completion at the end of the month.