One of the biggest pain points for a construction firm of any size is integrating the various single point software systems required to be successful. From accounting to payroll to the different kinds of budgeting and enterprise resource planning systems, construction firms must cobble together a host of applications to run the myriad of operational facets necessary for doing business.
It's crucial that each of these programs work as a single cohesive system to effectively track the entire construction process, from the initial planning stages through completion and even to post-project invoicing. Unfortunately, all too often, due to the siloed nature and inability of many of these programs to fully integrate, it leads to missed work and blown budgets, which ultimately creates dissatisfied customers and can ruin a construction firm's carefully constructed brand.
Disadvantages of ERP
One of the ways that computer engineers have tried to overcome the organizational obstacles associated with these siloed programs is by creating enterprise resource planning systems. With roots in the manufacturing sector, ERP solutions utilize a suite of integrated, modular applications that rely on a single database management system to complete the motley assortment of needs for a company, including project planning, marketing and sales, inventory management, customer services, and invoicing.
Unfortunately, to gain the full benefits of the system and implement an ERP across an entire organization, a construction company must make a major commitment of time, money, and manpower - and even then it might not be enough to truly boost the company into the stratosphere of success. From migrating information to a new database to training employees on how to properly utilize the complex programs, implementation could take months or even years. In addition, since ERP software is typically inflexible, it means construction firms will most likely need to re-engineer processes to fit the system, rather than having a platform that already matches the company's pre-existing workflows.
Furthermore, these considerations fail to account for the total expense of the system. As noted in excITingIP.com, from the purchase price to the downtime associated with implementation, the final cost can easily accumulate into the millions, even for a relatively small construction firm. This doesn't even include the additional fees associated with maintenance and upgrades, which are both necessary every few years.
This has led to ERP systems with little to no customization, a high cost and a considerable implementation time, all with no guarantee that this significant investment will actually benefit the company in the long run. Nonetheless, construction firms unwilling or unable to make this leap may find themselves losing that crucial competitive edge and falling behind their industry peers.
The main reason why ERP systems fail construction companies is because the overwhelming majority of software companies do not have the ability or resources to create a true one-size-fits-all system. This is why APIs have been so crucial to creating the next generation of software solutions.
What's an API?
Thankfully, software engineers have created a system for linking together the disparate applications used in daily business operations so that companies can still use their favorite features with the guarantee that everything is working as a single, holistic unit. This system is called an application program interface. An API utilizes a digital set of tools, protocols and routines for enabling the plethora of single point systems currently in use to all operate seamlessly as a single, connected process.
Speaking with ComputerWorld, Josh Walker, an analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc., he explained that creating a digital platform with no APIs "is basically like building a house with no doors. The API for all computing purposes is how you open the blinds and the doors and exchange information."
Nobody wants to live or work in a building with no doors - indeed it's nearly impossible to do so. Similarly, this has led to APIs becoming a de facto necessity in any construction software platform.
A Single Software Platform
Procore, the complete cloud-based construction platform, offers open APIs that allow the software to seamlessly integrate and exchange data with any other technologies used at a particular firm. With an intuitive ability to connect the software to any of the accounting, estimating, or time-tracking software, CRM systems, BIM solutions, payroll, data warehousing systems and even custom applications and features, Procore ensures no important data gets lost in transmittal and ends up falling through the cracks left in between the assortment of programs used to run a construction company.
By utilizing open APIs, construction firms can create an integrated software ecosystem that stores all the data required for running the company while simultaneously providing all users with real-time access to the crucial information they need to get the job done on time and under budget.