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By Missy England
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Construction project management software offers construction professionals greater control over their projects’ success. Project management software increases project efficiency and accountability by streamlining communication and centralizing documentation in order to minimize risk and delays— ultimately boosting profits.
Choosing a construction software solution is an important decision. Not only is it a significant investment in terms of cost, time, and resources, the solution you choose will have an enormous impact on the daily activities of your construction teams. Therefore, it’s vital to conduct the proper research and enter the process with the right information and questions in hand to help you select the best software for your business.
This manual will help you build a framework for evaluating technology solutions with essential questions to keep in mind to help you pick the best solution to t your business objectives and company goals.
This guide is designed for owners, general contractors, construction managers, project managers, architects, engineers, and subcontractors looking to improve their project management processes.
Before you begin researching potential software solutions, you need to analyze the current processes you have in place to help you pinpoint areas that can be improved with project management software.
Use the following tips to help you identify your current pain points and needs:
List your current pain points and needs and prioritize them in order of importance. Then decide which solutions are a “must” versus a “nice to have.” You won’t find a solution to your problem if you can’t define the exact problem, or problems, you need to solve. This allows you to align your pain points with the correct software solution. For example, if your RFIs are constantly falling behind schedule, you know you need software with a dedicated RFI tool with responsibility assignment capability and automatic reminder notifications.
Using applications that can be applied to anything, such as using general project management software to manage your construction projects, is like using a penny to tighten a screw when you really need a screwdriver. While the penny will get the job done, it won’t perform at the speed or efficiency of the tool designed for the job. This is the difference between industry- specific construction project management software and generic project management software.
Just because you don’t currently need every feature the software offers, doesn’t mean you won’t utilize it or require it in the near future. When making the list of your company’s needs, make sure to consider what the future may entail so that you don’t end up with underpowered software that only solves half of your problems by year two or three.
Make sure that as many end users as possible lay their eyes on your potential solution—not just the software purchaser. This allows potential users to get a feel for the software and understand whether or not it will be the most helpful. Getting your team involved early will also give them a say in the selection process, making them more likely to use the product you select. Make sure these are solution demonstrations, not product demonstrations. Product demonstrations show ashy features and functions of the software that may have little to no relevance to your needs. You want a solution demonstration that clearly illustrates how the solution is superior in solving your unique business needs.
There are countless software platforms on the market offering a different solution to your problem. In order to locate which one is best for you, utilize the following functionality aspects to assess whether or not the software is right for you.
The purpose of seeking this solution is to make your life easier. Don’t equate more features with more use. Make sure the platform you select not only solves your problems, but is easy to use. It can be a robust solution, but needs to be intuitive and easy to learn to ensure your team will utilize it.
One of the biggest decisions in selecting project management software is choosing the type of solution—client server or cloud- based. Below is a breakdown of each offering.
Verdict: A construction project can only move as rapidly as the decision-making process of its team members. Limited accessibility to project data drastically inhibits the communication and collaboration required for timely decision-making and judgment calls. Team-based projects require seamless project collaboration, accurate data, and around-the-clock accessibility to that data for all project team members. For these reasons, and the ones listed above, cloud-based solutions win the battle against on-premise servers.
Cloud-computing vendors have a unique opportunity to partner with elite data center providers that o er a secure and trusted backbone for their software. The beauty of having data security in the cloud is the ability to leverage the infrastructure of very large corporations primarily focused on securing customers’ data and authenticating access.
Physical security measures for cloud-based systems are much higher than on-site server rooms. The servers are backed up on multiple servers, in various physical locations, with the same high-level security measures in place. Special sources of power and backup generators provide additional disaster security and stability.
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It is important to ensure that you, the client, own your own data and can obtain a copy of your data at any time. You’ll also want an agreement for appropriate assistance in migrating away from the vendor should you ever decide to leave. Many software companies control their clients’ data, so it’s important to investigate before making a decision.
The cost involved in buying and using construction project management software varies based on the type of licensing model. Depending on how your software is deployed and the internal skill set required for supporting the software, there can be vast differences in the cost to acquire various capabilities. It is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each licensing model. Each model is broken down below.SEAT LICENSES: Price is based on the number of individual users who have access to the software. When evaluating a seat license contract for construction software, it’s important to determine how many employees and contractors will login concurrently.
NAMED ACCOUNTS: Companies that purchase named accounts must provide the actual names of those users, which are in turn linked to software login credentials. Companies purchasing named accounts may need to buy hundreds of user licenses, regardless of the frequency of the software usage by those licensees. In this scenario, it requires time, money, and effort to manage and adjust the named user licenses as companies grow and every time employees leave or join.
UNLIMITED USERS: Other solutions o er unlimited users for a fixed monthly or annual rate. By paying an annual fee, clients are free to authorize an unlimited number of users for concurrent login privileges. This model is ideal for giving all team members access to the software, and in turn, increasing and improving project collaboration and communication.
Verdict: In order to increase efficiency and productivity, anyone and everyone that plays a role in project development can greatly benefit from access to the software. Based on the cost implications of this scenario, unlimited users for a fixed monthly or annual rate offers the best scenario for expansion and collaboration.
Superior project management platforms are more than just point solutions because they offer integration opportunities with solutions beyond project management tools, including: accounting, estimating, budgeting, and scheduling. Look for platforms with the flexibility to integrate with industry-leading technologies.
Because construction takes place on the job site and not in the office, it’s vital that your software candidate has powerful, fully functioning, native mobile applications to maximize project efficiency to the fullest extent. With mobile applications, professionals can retrieve real time project data around the clock from any location with their mobile device. Teams no longer have to rely on outdated and slow virtual private networks (VPNs) to manage and collaborate on construction projects. Team members now have the power to review, edit, and share up-to-date project information with others in a matter of seconds.
Since many job sites are situated in remote locations with no Internet connection, many project management tasks need to be achievable offline. Best in class software offers online accessibility to project data and synchronizes all changes made online once back online.
Most SaaS companies have originated in the United States and few have a strong user base outside the US. But, if you are a global company, and have non-English speaking employees from a different geography, your software needs capabilities for internationalization and localization. Look for solutions that offer a multilingual interface.
If you require customizations, there may need to be some give and take by both parties. Most solutions offer customizations for workflows, templates, integrations, and reporting that come at an additional price. Make sure you determine your customization requirements before purchasing software to avoid unanticipated costs.
Want more? Click here to download the full eBook, "The Construction Software Buyer's Guide."
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