In the construction industry, the number of software options seems to be multiplying each day. While option overload can lead to “analysis paralysis,” where it is difficult to sort through the clutter to find the right solution, the wide variety of software is actually a blessing.
The extremely varied nature of jobs requiring attention on one specific construction project makes the industry a perfect fit for many niche point solutions, each solving a specific pain point in a way that’s unique to the construction industry.
Here are some non-negotiable software options that each firm, no matter the size, should look into using in the office or onsite. There are options for every step of a project, from proposal submission to final closeout.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
In a recent construction technology study conducted by JBKnowledge, Inc., an overwhelming 69 percent of surveyed construction professionals reported they do not use CRM software. This number is very high, considering that winning new bids in construction is where the majority of new business comes from.
“Not using a cloud-based CRM is risky in construction,” says Jennifer Heitler from Cosential, a CRM built specifically for the AEC industry. “We’ve heard horror stories about two proposals getting submitted for the same bid from different offices, or multiple business developers going after the same job.” These costly mistakes are generally due to the lack of transparency when CRM is done using spreadsheets, or via email. Errors like this are not only bad for the company’s reputation, but also represent wasted time and money that could be spent chasing and closing new business. “When firms gain greater visibility into their opportunity pipeline, relationships and past project performance, they can make more strategic adjustments to their business development efforts, project staffing and personnel resources.”
Given the low adoption rates of CRM software in construction, this is an area that is expected to see huge growth in the next few years. It’s an obvious early choice for companies looking to start using more software because the benefit can be seen early on and a single new bid being won will easily cover the cost of the software.
The hiring needs experienced by general contractors are extremely project based. If a new bid is won, then the company will either need to reallocate existing employees or hire additional staff in order to cover the new project’s needs. In the case of smaller contractors that hire a lot of their own trades, this need is even greater. “If ever there was a job that needed the help of technology to make things easier, it’s hiring,” says Mitch Solway of ClearFit, a company that helps contractors and other businesses automate the process of job posting distribution and then instantly identifying which candidates are right for the job.
Using software to help automate the hiring process allows contractors to get job postings up quickly, distribute them across all prominent job boards in the click of a button and manage submissions through systems that automatically flag highly qualified applicants. These kinds of software help make the hiring process less painful, and are often available at costs similar to traditional job boards.
Additionally, a variety of sites such as Hard Hat Hub are designed specifically for recruiting in the AEC industry where applicants and companies can come together to fill open roles.
Document and Drawing Management
The term paperless is quickly gaining popularity in construction as more companies seek to cut the expense of printed plans, improve mobile access to project information and collaborate better across their teams. Typically, the topic of paper onsite is split into two categories: blueprints and everything else. Luckily, both of these challenges have simple solutions rooted in the cloud.
For standard document management, there are many solutions that allow for secure access and have proven success onsite. Recently, Balfour Beatty rolled out Egnyte, an enterprise document management solution, on an $800 million Dallas Fort Worth Airport renovation project. How did the team like it? One superintendent’s response when asked about his iPad and cloud-based document management says it all: “You’ll have to pry it from my cold dead hands. I don’t know how anything got built for the last 20 years.”
While standard document-management solutions can be used for managing drawings as well, there are also more tailored solutions such as PlanGrid, an application for accessing drawings and managing RFIs on the iPad.
Because the punch process doesn’t start until a project nears completion, it is sometimes overlooked as an opportunity for huge costs savings and increased efficiency. The end of a project can be the make or break point, so it’s critical to streamline the company’s punch list management process. Typically, punch lists are compiled using Excel spreadsheets, and communication between the project team and subcontractors is done via a series of scattered emails and phone calls. Similar to the issues described above in relation to CRM, this manual process leads to duplicated efforts, disorganized information clusters and overall inefficiency.
Using software designed specifically for building and managing punch lists can help the team record issues faster, store punch lists in a more organized way, access updates in real time and facilitate communication with subcontractors.
A multi-pronged technology approach, where a variety of solutions are used across one company, is sometimes criticized due to the fear that too many solutions will lead to confusion or problems with buy-in. However, if the solutions selected are being used by different departments and to fulfill tasks that have little to no overlap, then the result is improved buy-in due to the simplicity of each individual solution.
For a deeper dive into selecting the right construction software, read the free eBook “Selecting the Right Construction Software: The 5 Big Questions You Should Be Asking.”