The Journey of Selecting APM solutions
- Mar 26, 2021 3:14 am GMT
The Journey of Selecting APM solutions
As more technology providers enter this space, we have launched into a phase that many have described as the MVP Purgatory. This era will ultimately determine the Asset Performance Management (APM) solution that returns the most on value and not just investment.
When deciding to implement an APM solution, organizations need to know how to evaluate both the overall business opportunity and weigh them against the costs associated with the new tool holistically to understand its true value.
The journey should always start by having a clear set of objectives identified from the get-go. This way, your organization will integrate the solution more readily into its operation and establish a culture that revolves around the success of the operations via the new software, as opposed to counting on the software to solve abstract problems. Too often does software get purchased only to be used minimally, did you know that on average 65% - 80% of features are rarely to ever used?1[i]
Benefits of Digitalization
As we’ve all by now heard and know, digitalization is meant to facilitate how organizations do business, there’s no surprise there. This may seem initially as a change of management or a change in operations. Truth is, it’s an adaptation of processes to new realities. But the success of digitalization lies within the preparation before, during, and after implementation. This inevitability should not be considered daunting; this new reality can be as smooth as your team would like it to be and your technology provider should be a guide or a shepherd throughout the process. The purpose of digitalization is to make your (and the next generations) life easier, so when choosing a technology provider, vet the process that they take to truly understand your operations and objectives before recommending a solution.
When considering an upgrade or new install of an APM solution, your technology provider should help you by asking some questions such as:
- How do you currently access your data?
- Who are the stakeholders that utilize the information from your current systems?
- What current challenge or obstacle is a high priority for you and your stakeholders?
- What are some of the bottlenecks that your organization experiences on a day to day?
- How can you have better insight into your operations and equipment?
With these questions, you can determine status quo and begin diagnosing what elements of the tools would address the particular problem you’re trying to solve and help you achieve the desired new reality. With most complex data management solutions, organizations can expect:
- Actionable intelligence that enables data-informed decision-making
- Visualization and insight into equipment, plant, processes, and fleet from multiple access points
- Improved collaboration with tools that facilitate the exchange of information and reports for scalable growth with a new generation of operators and managers
- Reduced risks and maintenance costs as well as improved operations revenue streams
For software, it is not about just the price tag but the total cost of ownership (TCO). There are the upfront costs as well as the ongoing maintenance and operation costs you should consider.
Currently, two main pricing models dominate the market: perpetual licenses or subscription-based licenses. Your preference between the two will depend on your budget and the lifecycle of the software.
Typically, for APM tools, solution providers base pricing on the number of tags monitored, the number of concurrent users, and extra add-ons. In addition, depending on your requirements, redundancy will represent an additional cost. Redundancy is the duplication of critical components or functions of a system with the intention of increasing reliability of the system. In our case here, it would be in the form of a backup redundant server.
Hardware and Hosting
For software to work, it needs to be hosted optimally: either on a physical hardware or in the cloud. Your solution provider should be able to provide minimum and recommended specifications for the hardware or cloud specifications. Make sure to incorporate and include these costs when evaluating the investment.
Communication and Migration
For an APM solution to work, it needs to be able to communicate with your plant equipment and receive real-time data. It does this through a communication protocol that’s part of your existing infrastructure. Depending on the system and your setup, this may represent an additional cost if special drivers or updates are required. For example, if you decide to standardize all systems to OPC servers, you may need to buy additional OPC licenses.
Another point to consider is whether or not there may be additional costs or resources required to migrate existing historical data. As a result, with a legacy historian, ask yourself:
- Who will conduct the transfer of historical data?
- How many years should we migrate?
Your solution provider should be able to assist with this to make the process easy and quick.
Implementation and Engineering
Though APM tools have automated many of the implementation and engineering processes, post-implementation is probably one of the most critical phases of the digital transformation journey. It will still require time and energy to set up your environment, get the stakeholders to use the software properly, and document the results of the outcome. Look for a software provider that will guide you and take care of the implementation process. The reason for this is to ensure that objectives that were identified before implementation are addressed and measured. Some of the questions to ask leading up to implementation are:
- How long will the implementation take?
- What type of training comes with install?
- Are the action items clearly defined by role, party involved, and 3rd parties?
- What does the continued software upkeep look like?
- Will this affect other tasks at hand?
With these answers, you will then be able to calculate your resource costs to add to your APM TCO.
Services and Ongoing Costs
Most software comes with maintenance and support packages (M&S). This will include patches, upgrades, as well as support for questions and concerns. However, not all M&S is the same. Make sure you understand what the M&S packages offered are and ask:
- Will I have a dedicated customer success team?
- What time zones are the customer success team operating in?
- What are the expected response times?
- Which patches, updates, and upgrades are included?
- What happens if I do not have an active M&S?
An APM solution is important, but the service provided by the solution provider is just as important to continue building that future you envision for your organization.
Training and Continued Resources
Your people’s time is valuable and an important aspect of the APM adaptation cycle. This can be in the form of unofficial or required training as well as continued upkeep and maintenance. When evaluating tools, make your sure your team is comfortable with the basic functionalities on both the front end and the backend.. In addition, discuss with your solution provider the training programs available as well as the typical process. Similarly, ask about the required upkeep on your end.
Hope this helps provide some clarity into the process if you're currently consider a solution implementation.
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