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Advice from SHAPE: What questions should you ask when selecting construction management software?


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No matter what industry you’re in, software is becoming increasingly vital to success, and the construction industry is no exception. With one of the lowest digitisation rates of any sector, the potential for software to improve collaboration and drive efficiencies in construction is significant. Therefore, when it comes to choosing a construction management software vendor, it is critical to make sure that you are getting a product and partnership that will help make your processes simpler, faster, and smarter.

First things first, don’t compromise on time spent up front to define the problem. Identify your pain points, the gaps in your processes, and your key focuses. Then, map out the perfect project management process for you, so you know what you’re looking for and how to brief prospective vendors.

It’s critical to involve software’s end user in the planning processes – they’ll be the ones who’re asking the relevant questions as they’ll be using the software.

George Panacheril, Group Executive of Strategy for SHAPE, Australia’s leading fitout and refurbishment specialist, has created the below list of essential questions to ask prospective software vendors to ensure you choose the right partner for you.  

CORPORATE

Control

Good software doesn’t require you to be over-reliant on the vendor for routine administration. 

  • Can you set up a project yourself?
  • Can you add new users yourself?
  • How does the system handle user access control?

Company directories

A key goal of construction software is to facilitate collaboration. Company directories need to be accurate and easy to manage.

  • Can you add in contact details yourself?
  • What is the quality control like? How well will it prevent duplicates and inaccuracies?

Accounting

Ideally, your project management tools should be integrated with your accounting system.

  • Can the software talk to your accounting system so that information flows seamlessly without duplication or need for double entry?

Reporting and dashboards

Really good software will democratise your data and make it accessible to everyone.

  • Are you restricted to a standard suite of reports or can you build custom reports?
  • If you need to build a custom report, can you build it easily yourself? Or do you need a vendor or specially trained person in the team to build one?

TENDERING

Tendering is an administrative intensive process within a compressed timeframe, so you need to understand how the software helps facilitate this process.

  • Does it handle the heavy lifting of tender administration i.e. does it make administrative tasks more efficient?
  • Does it use smart technology, like optical character recognition, to speed things up?
  • Does it allow you to do electronic take offs/estimating?
  • If you win the job, does information flow through seamlessly from estimating to contract letting? Or does someone have to re-enter the information?

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

  • Does the software allow you to easily update and share drawing and specification revisions so that everyone is working off the latest version?
  • Does the software help you manage project financials (budgets, issuing of sub-contractor purchase orders, variations, progress claims) more efficiently?
  • Does the software help you to manage all of these things faster, simpler, and smarter?
  • Does the software allow you to share relevant RFI information up and down the line?
  • Does it integrate with your scheduling software?
  • Does it allow you to view your schedule in a variety of ways that are useful for different end-users?
  • Does it streamline the updating and sharing of project schedules?
  • Does the software help you manage workflows more effectively?

SITEMANAGEMENT

  • Does it support the recording and logging of all critical information that goes into site diaries?
  • Does it help you manage safety inspections and different safety processes?
  • Does it facilitate quality processes and defect management more efficiently?
  • Ultimately, the site team is going to interact with the software via mobile devices. So, is it available on all mobile platforms e.g. Android, iOS, Windows?
  • Can the mobile application work offline and then sync up again once back online?
  • Is the application optimised to preserve data usage and battery life?

PRICING

When thinking about pricing, you need to consider long-term value, not just cost. Any good software will be evolving, growing, and improving. In this scenario, what you’re paying for isn’t just the existing features, but also all the features that are to come.

When it comes to the pricing model, named user licenses (which provide you with a set number of individual log-ins), and concurrent user licenses (a pool of licenses under one user) can often restrict collaboration by allowing a limited number of staff to access the software at the same time. On the other hand, an unlimited access license will encourage constant collaboration and communication across the whole organisation. This is the one you’ll want to go with. The more people on there, the more effective it is.

PLATFORM

There is no one construction management software that does everything an organisation needs, and the reality is that you are going to have to integrate it with other existing or future software. When making a decision, look for its ability to integrate with other systems that you have.

  • Is it open source?
  • Does it have open API’s that allow you to build integrations?

PRODUCT OR PARTNERSHIP?

Selecting the right construction management software for you is not just about the product features. With the product comes a partnership, too. Good construction software will integrate with every part of your business.Effective implementation requires effort and commitment, and so switching costs are high. To avoid having to jump ship early in the relationship with your software vendor, make sure you do your due diligence on the people as much as the product.  

Cultural fit

  • Can you see yourself with them for the long-term?
  • What do their clients say?
  • What do their people say?

Implementation and ongoing support

  • How will they support implementation?
  • What training resources are available?
  • How large is their customer support team?
  • Do you have to pay for different levels of support?
  • How do they communicate new feature releases?

Research and development capacity and commitment

  • How committed are they to growing and developing their product?
  • How many developers do they employ?
  • What is their research and development budget?
  • What are their release cycles? How often do they release new features?
  • What sort of new features have they released in the last 12-18 months?

If you liked this article, here are a few more you might enjoy: 

The Future of Construction Software

Construction Software Buyer's Guide

Building a Retail Brand with Construction Software

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