Lines blurring between CMMS and EAM

The software industry is riddled with acronyms: ERP, CRM, SaaS, you get the picture. But what is not always clear for maintenance professionals, is the difference between computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) and enterprise asset management (EAM) software.


The software industry is riddled with acronyms: ERP, CRM, SaaS, you get the picture. But what is not always clear for maintenance professionals, is the difference between computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) and enterprise asset management (EAM) software. Further yet, is one better for your maintenance operations than the other? Certainly there are a variety of opinions, but most experts agree on some common separation:

Age: "CMMS" as a product category has been around a lot longer than EAM, as far back as the days of Big Iron when it basically automated the mainframe maintenance task list. "EAM" appeared on the scene when wide area networks and other technologies emerged to connect computers/software across multiple facilities ("enterprise"), around the town, state, country, etc.

Feature set: In the past, CMMS was focused on operational management—work orders and preventive maintenance—of assets in specific departments; not the enterprise. Opinions vary, but numerous other features such as inventory, basic purchasing, reporting, and other functions could be included. EAM takes a global view on the entire asset inventory of an organization, typically beyond the needs of maintenance.

EAM considers the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the asset, so there are a lot more financial reporting/management functions within the software, such as lease terms and dates, maintenance costs, depreciation, contractor repair costs, repair versus replacement costs, and the calculation of total cost of ownership of assets.

Essentially, EAM and CMMS have the same goals: maintaining, managing and protecting assets. CMMS typically kicks in once the asset is purchased. EAM adds on planning, construction and procurement to the life cycle of the asset.

Today the top CMMS products perform these same functions and more. The lines between the two have blurred.

Scope: Original CMMS products were typically used for individual facilities or smaller operations. This may have been due to the limitations to share information beyond the four walls of the company.But as networks became the norm, the Internet made it possible to turn small-scale CMMS into web-based solutions to manage asset maintenance across the enterprise. Today it's not unreasonable to expect your CMMS to run a tight schedule for maintaining assets. However, it may also be capable of recording information about the lifecycle of those assets in order to drive all kinds of business decisions.

Given the development of the industry and the software systems to support it, it's not necessary to focus on the acronym. Instead, focus on what your organization needs. Then pick the right vendors and match them up against the functionality that matches your requirements.

At the end of the day, find the right product, not the "right" acronym.

Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group, producer of Bigfoot CMMS. Contact Paul at

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