With ever evolving technology, the construction industry has long caught up and recognised the need for integrated systems and construction management software to stay competitive and to support their business goals. But how do you replace a legacy system with new software without losing data and without generating chaos? More importantly, how to choose the right software for your contracting business?
Construction management comes with a lot of challenges for contractors because they have to deal with a wide variety of tasks, such as overseeing subcontractors, materials and equipment, job costing and budgets, reporting on progress, inconsistent timelines and much more. Hence the need for advanced software to simplify and manage all kinds of workflows and tasks.
But how can contractors find construction management software that is suitable for their business? Implementation of technology is expensive and choosing the wrong system could lead to major issues in the long run.
Before selecting construction software for your business, you need to understand your business needs, challenges and goals. Mapping out your internal and external processes will help you understand the pain points and bottlenecks in your operations. How connected are your office employees, project teams and field crews? Where do delays typically occur in your processes?
Giving thought to all these questions helps you eliminate issues and assists you in choosing a software that supports your organization in making processes more efficient and effective.
Here are five simple steps to assist you in choosing the right software.
1. Research software features
A construction software might have excellent tools to support an individual’s work, but what features exist that allow you to share and collaborate with your team or various teams within your company and potentially even with outside stakeholders.
The software you choose should be collaboration-friendly in a way that meets your needs. A good way of going about it is to test-drive a construction software’s collaboration features with a small group of colleagues in your team.
Evaluating a software’s features, flexibility and support services are vital aspects to consider in the research phase. Firstly, you should visit the software provider’s website to get an overview of the software capabilities. Before you get in touch with the software provider, you should look at reviews or even better talk to other companies who are using the software already. Consider talking to construction software consultants independent from the software provider company. They have the necessary experience and can help you find a solution that is a good fit with your contracting business.
There are many stand-alone solutions out there that support a specific task, such as job cost accounting, estimating, bid management, equipment management and much more. However, ideally you want to find integrated software that covers all those areas.
2. Calculate and justify the cost
"The biggest mistake you can make with productivity software is to add five minutes of extra work to each member of your team to save you five minutes."- Paul Cothenet, CTO at MadKudo.
The cost and expenditure on a new software or integrated system is almost never justified in the short-term because it takes time to implement, teach team members how to use it and configure it to suit your company.
Leaving short-term cost justification aside, what is more important is whether a new system is going to be justified in the long-run. The main question is whether the software is assisting your company in accomplishing tasks in a more efficient and effective way. Essentially, ask yourself whether the software is saving you time. The last thing you want is to make things more complicated than they already are. In the long-run the software needs to pay for itself and ideally support the processes within your company to improve your bottom-line.
3. Compare different construction software and try alternatives
Researching the best software for your business takes a lot of time. Sales people only tell you how awesome their system is and more often than not the flaws of their technology are not revealed until later on when you are stuck in a contract. Therefore, doing thorough research and comparing different systems and capabilities are very important. Don’t jump the gun in making your decision. Essentially, you need to get a deep understanding of the software and its capabilities. Get the software company to demo the system and prepare lots of questions to ask. Request a trial of the software for 1-3 months so that you and your colleagues can play around with it and to identify any potential issues. Approaching your evaluation phase of the software as described above will reveal the level and quality of support you can expect from the software provider.
It is advisable to spend a considerable amount of time researching what systems are out there and narrow your choice down to three favourite systems. Then find out as much as you can about each. Compare those three systems with pros and cons.
4. Get feedback from your team
Will my team be able to use the software? Does it solve their problems? Will it make their lives easier? Do they understand how to use it? What training is needed?
Obviously you can enforce new software with a top down approach but it doesn’t come without risks. A better way of going about it is the bottom up approach. Engage your team in the research of the best construction management software, after all, they’re the ones using it.
Assuming you can get access to a trial software solution for each team member, the first thing you want to do is organize a training session so that everyone can learn how to use the system. Prepare a set of fictional tasks each team member needs to complete with the trial software solution and last but not least prepare a questionnaire with specific questions to pinpoint whether the software makes their life easier.
5. Prepare your implementation plan
Implementing a new software and making the most of it is a big challenge. It is highly recommended to create a detailed plan and strategy on how the new software will be rolled out across your contracting business and the various teams.
Even if your team is tech-savvy, it might take them quite some time to get used to the new system and how they can integrate it into their daily workflow.
Despite of having a dedicated account manager and ongoing support from the software provider company, you might want to consider assistance from a specialized construction software consulting company.
Most important things to consider for the implementation:
- Configuration of the software
- Data transfer from your previous system
- Integration of other systems that need to talk to your new software
- Training for team members on using the software
Your implementation plan should contain an overview of the system, a detailed description of major tasks involved in the implementation and resources needed to support the implementation. It should also give some consideration to hardware, materials, personnel requirements and resources.
Take your time to find the right construction management software solution for your business. There are tremendous implications if you don’t do thorough research and testing before you enter a contract with the software provider. Choosing the wrong software can not only create tremendous costs, but more importantly it will frustrate your staff. If you follow the five steps outlined in this article you should be able to make an informed decision about the software you’re going to implement.