Categorized | Debate

Debate: Is CAFM Still The Strongest Acronym To Describe An Integrated FM Solution?

As an independent resource for the IWMS community I try to read as much as I can about developments in our industry. Occasionally you come across some interesting opinions of other professionals such as a publication on the website of FSI FM Solutions from the United Kingdom.

In the article Tony Leppard, MD of FMx Ltd, the author of CAFM Explorer, claims that CAFM is still the strongest acronym to describe an integrated FM solution.

The introduction of the article seems to be very interesting for a debate here on

As CAFM (computer aided facilities management) systems have become more established, numerous acronyms have sprung up for systems that only cater for helpdesk and ppm (planned preventative maintenance) applications.  There are claims these systems are more attuned to CMMS (computerised maintenance management system) or IWMS (integrated workplace management system) working.

Indeed, in the USA and Canada, the word is that many are claiming CAFM is becoming an outdated technology and that most large organisations are deferring to IWMS instead.  This could be misleading or just plain jockeying for market position.  Or sour grapes.

The definition of IWMS goes as follows: ‘An enterprise platform that supports the planning, design, management, utilisation and disposal of an organisation’s location-based assets.  IWMS systems assist organisations in optimising the use of workplace resources, including the management of a company’s real estate portfolio, infrastructure and facilities assets’.  Is this not what CAFM does?

UK software house FMx Ltd owns the trademark for CAFM and is keen to shed some light on the situation.  Tony Leppard, MD of FMx Ltd, the author of CAFM Explorer, and seasoned player in the FM business for 25 years, claims that CAFM is still the strongest acronym to describe an integrated FM solution.

‘The flow of information between FM applications makes for a far more productive solution that isolated applications like helpdesk,’ he says.  ‘For example, a reactive issue is almost always associated with assets, location, people, contractors, trades people, costs, rooms, and so on.  So where do you draw the line?

Debating Thesis

So what do you think? Is CAFM still the strongest acrononym to to describe an integrated FM solution? Or is IWMS equally qualified to fit that purpose. I would love to hear your opinion about to what extend you think this statement of Tony Leppard is valid.

15 Responses to “Debate: Is CAFM Still The Strongest Acronym To Describe An Integrated FM Solution?”

  1. Marty Chobot says:

    I think this debate is driven by the fact that the functional disciplines in facilities and real estate departments have been siloed. As a result, each discipline has had a category of software (and acronyms) develop around it – space and occupancy management (CAFM and some vendor specific variations on that term), maintenance (CMMS, EAM), project management (currently IPD), portfolio management and lease administration (sometimes called REPM).

    Various software vendors have started from different “centers of gravity” (some from space, some from real estate, some from projects) but all have expanded their offerings over time and moved toward a platform/functional module approach.

    Is IWMS the right term? Maybe, maybe not. Is there a real market trend toward rationalizing the software platforms to support RE and FM organizations? Absolutely.

    That trend is driven by the increasing centralization of RE/FM organizations and the growing realization of the value of collaboration within RE/FM departments, the value of better integration with other enterprise systems and, last but not least, the value of improving relationships between RE/FM and their internal customers, the business management and their supply chain.

    My position? Let’s pick a name, whatever it is, move on and focus on solving customer problems!

  2. Steven Hanks says:


    I think Andy Fuhrman (CEO of OSCRE America’s) made a wonderful statement about IWMS in his Thought Leader Interview:

    Having been there pretty much from the start of Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) movement, it’s my opinion a few individuals felt they could create a new marketing strategy over their competitors by developing a new term for their products. For those of you who remember, after CAFM came Computer Integrated Facility Management (CIFM) then came Integrated Workplace Management Systems.

    Back in the early days of CAFM we were integrating these applications that contained modules for Space Planning & Forecasting, Move Management, Maintenance Management, Cable/IT Management, Equipment Asset Management and some modules by folks like Nick Springate for Electrical and HVAC. Even today there’s a range of capabilities different FM/CRE applications provide. They still need to be integrated with HR for New Hires & Terminations, Security or IT for Contractors, Finance, ERP and a host of other applications, just like CAFM applications were.

    It’s all marketing semantics. IWMS is simply CAFM done correctly. I’m sure someone’s going to come with a new term in the next year or two that makes it sound like their product has enhanced capabilities, like Corporate Real Estate Enterprise Planning System (CREEPS), with catchy slogans such as ‘I’ve got the CREEPS….how about you?’

    So I agree with Andy’s statement that a new term will come to our industry in the next two years leaving IWMS hardliners with feelings of nostalgia about the days of IWMS.

    (About that time we might have to change the name of our website ;-))

    Yours Sincerely,

    Steven Hanks

  3. Marty Chobot says:

    Hmm… CREEPS… I think you guys are on to something there!

  4. Jos Knops says:

    Marty, Steven,

    Probably there will be a new term within next years, with the potential to confuse the market even more…

    Definitely IWMS is better known in the US. A search at the IFMA site shows about 112 CAFM-results and 89 IWMS-results.

    In Europe this is slightly different: BIFM(UK) shows 60 CAFM-results and just 1 IWMS. The German GEFMA even 0 IWMS and 86 CAFM-results. So far the statistics.

    In my personal market experience CAFM is still strong associated with CAD: not only from naming but many ‘traditional’ CAFM solutions are founded on CAD graphics and CAD visualization engines. Solutions evolved from rather technical oriented engineering software (CAE) to proces supporting and real value adding management support software. Nothing wrong when giving this a different name.

    Yours sincerely,

    Jos Knops, Planon

  5. Steven Hanks says:


    thank you all very much for your participation. And what about Total Infrastructure Management (TIFM) of Archibus? Does that make any sense or is this just an example of marketing semantics. Does it sound like the Archibus product has enhanced capabilities?

    Yours sincerely,

    Steven Hanks

  6. Giridhar says:

    Greetings from India.Very interesting discussions for a while now.I did come across TIMS (Total Infrasructure Management Solution) & GIMS (Global Infrasructure Management Solution) to explain the concepts of IWMS / CAFM / CIFM.



  7. Doug Dixon says:

    Hello All,

    Interesting thread and appropriate topic. Having been in this business for 20 years, it’s interesting to see how many different applications and acronyms can be spun off. All of this adds to the total confusion on the consumer side as to what they need and are purchasing. My own opinion is that CAFM is really a subset and specialized set of functions, usually revolving around occupancy and space. ‘Integrate Workplace Management Software’ could be anything, including CAFM, Infrastructure Management, Asset Management, HR, etc. To make matters even more confusing, many ERP/ERM software companies claim that their software encompasses many of the above as an integrated solution. If it’s an integrated software system that crosses multiple disciplines, like space, occupancy, real estate, network telecom then maybe the IWMS acronym is meaningful. If its it’s just space and occupancy (and maybe Real Estate, if space is tracked) then CAFM seems to work fine. But at the end of the day, because IWMS covers so many different applications it is not a very good descriptor other than a broad category of software applications.

    Doug Dixon

  8. Steve,

    I think Andy Fuhrman’s statement about IWMS being a marketing ploy, but I disagree with his statement that ‘IWMS is CAFM done correctly.’ I had a recent experience implementing a few of the hosted IWMS apps that figure prominently in Gartner’s magic quandrant, and man, they have major issues.

    BTW, I’ve also been around the industry for a while; I was the guy who told Andy about CAFM.


    Joel Pearlman

  9. If you would check European search hits on the acronym FMIS (Facility Management Information System) this would learn that this is also a widely used term on the continent for integrated facility software.

    Anyway, I would like CREEPS for a new global term as well.

  10. Terry Shoeman says:

    Personally CAFM in my opinion has a better chance at surviving because it directly associates to FM (the people that actually DO the work).

    It gives ownership to a group within an organization…who are definitely key stakeholders and who’s daily processes are directly affected.

    IWMS says… “let’s all work together..” but leaves the sponsorship up for grabs.

  11. John Bates says:

    Hi Steve

    I agree with many of the statements which relate to the history of the different systems: helpdesks, CMMS and CAD-based CAFM.

    Do we that a single all encompasing IWMS system is the right or best solution ? as there is likely to be legacy systems and best in class systems being used elsewhere within the business. In truth, integration of various systems is more likely.

    How certain are we that the all the necessary data is actually held within the business ? what about all the Real Estate/fm service providers etc

    Steve – you’re right the solution should pick up on the RE and Projects

    BIM is already reality in design/construction, but is it heading into the FM arena ? and how are we going to deal with it

    • Steven Hanks says:

      Dear John,

      thank you so much for your comment!

      I’ll try to answer your questions accordingly.

      1) Do we think that a single all encompasing IWMS system is the right or best solution?

      Well, this depends on the circumstances. I don’t think that having 1 encompassing IWMS System is ALWAYS the right or best solution, however getting the data in one system does give you a lot of advantages over multiple legacy systems.

      First of all you will reduce IT management costs as only 1 system needs to be maintained. Secondly, when all property related information resides in one system different business processes can tap into that data when necessary. I do agree with you that for some systems (ERP, Procurement, HR) systems you will always need integration as IWMS will never replace ERP systems.

      2) How certain are we that the all the necessary data is actually held within the business ? what about all the Real Estate/fm service providers etc

      Indeed, many service FM and RE Service Providers work with their own systems and have data that isn’t actually in the IWMS system of the customer. As most IWMS solutions discussed on this website can authorize access, my advice would be to remain in control of your own information and processes by forcing the RE / FM service provider to use your system instead of their own.

      3) BIM is already reality in design/construction, but is it heading into the FM arena ? and how are we going to deal with it?

      To me BIM integration will be heading in our arena. It’s just of matter of time when IWMS vendors (some already claim to do this) will integrate BIM in their product offerings. By the way we’ve had a very interesting debate about this topic.

      Yours sincerely,

      Steven Hanks

  12. More evidence that it’s all marketing hooey.. Centerstone was one of the early propoponents of the IWMS acronym. In promoting their software they used IWMS as a way to distinguish their solution from their CAFM (client-server) competitors. Well, I looked at Manhattan software’s website last week and now it seems their calling Centerstone a CAFM system, while their real estate management offering gets the IWMS designation. Further complicating the issue, it looks like the Manhattan IWMS solution includes CenterStone, unless they have a separate offering.. I also saw where Vista recently purchased accruent’s ELM (Enterprise Location Management) system.. didn’t that used to be FIS? When did this client-server CAFM system an ELM? Is their offering SO unique that it deserves yet another acronym?

    Is it an SUV? 4WD? ATV? JEEP? MPV? Crossover? LandRover? The salesperson doesn’t care what you call it as long as you BUY it. Getting you to go to the dealer – now that’s a marketing function..

    Just my $.02