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By Duane Craig
September 19, 2016
Legacy software solutions typically only excel at doing one or a few things, and they don't integrate with other legacy software. In fact, for construction, the problem of legacy software is now considered one of the leading reasons why the industry has adopted technology at a much slower pace than other industries. And construction business owners are the first to complain about the problem.
When JB knowledge surveyed over 30,000 construction industry professionals in 2015, the results showed that builders have a low opinion of how technology providers integrate their offerings. The number of software programs that integrate barely changed from 2014, and since the survey was first run in 2012, the builders who said all their applications fully integrate has never gone above 5%. Builders made comments like:
”Is this a trick question? They all claim to, but don’t effectively.”
”Some integrate, but it is through a CSV excel import and export that still requires a lot of formatting in order to import properly.”
”Software providers are always ‘working’ on it.”
The ways respondents manage to transfer data among applications are heavily manual or dependent on spreadsheets and CSV files. Almost 50% of respondents said they use manual processes for transferring data between applications, and 45% said they use spreadsheets. In other instances, 30% said they use CSV files. But, only a quarter of respondents said they used custom-built integration. Custom integration is not a process that's readily available to small construction companies simply because of cost and complexity.
Manual processes and relying on spreadsheets, or CSV files, opens the integration process up to errors, and takes a lot longer than using software that integrates through other means like Application Program Interfaces (APIs).
Some of these errors include:
Roadblocks to efficiency including data entry overlaps, repetition, and inconsistencies
Data entry from the field is absent
Training and support must be handled across multiple solutions
Constant upgrades and sporadic compatibility issues arise
Data is sequestered in silos
Complicated and time-consuming backup and maintenance are required
So if the legacy software solutions are not keeping up with construction’s needs, what then is an option for a construction company that wants to improve its processes by leveraging technology? Today, the clear answer involves using cloud-based solutions that offer a platform on which to run whatever applications the company needs to use.
The solution begins with Platform as a Service (PaaS). PaaS is a type of cloud service that includes the applications and all the hardware and development tools needed to make the applications work together. You no longer have to install software on your own computer. For a construction company, using PaaS allows you to integrate various functions easily and seamlessly. You can no doubt see the power of having your accounting function sharing information with project management, bidding, estimating, and other business or project functions.
The secret behind the scenes that makes the integration possible is called Application Program Interfaces (APIs). These APIs bridge the gaps between software solutions. They have the built-in standards, protocols, and processing routines so that one software solution can access another. You are already familiar with it; for example, when you make an online purchase at Amazon, it connects to PayPal to make the payment and later to the shipper to track the order. But you accomplish all of these within Amazon alone.
The magic of PaaS and APIs comes through for construction companies in many ways. Not only does it assist with back office functions, but also benefits clients, field staff, and management. Solutions already exist that will allow you to connect your:
Cost code tracking
Business intelligence software
Customer relationship management
Custom applications you already own
Migrating to a PaaS doesn’t mean starting over and abandoning your current investments in technology. As you leave the legacy solutions behind with all of their inherent problems, you move from working for the technology to having the technology work for you.
In the past when you wanted to improve your business functions by adopting new technology, legacy software often required you to abandon what you had already invested in. Today, when you use PaaS supported by APIs, you will future-proof your company by making it easy to adopt new solutions as they become available. By using PaaS to leverage your legacy software investments, while also accessing the best new applications, you arrive at a point where you have the best of both worlds.
Today, with PaaS and APIs you can choose which legacies you leave behind and which to hang on to. The most compelling thing is, as you do that you will enable your business to reach new heights in efficiency, while making things simpler. So, if your legacy doesn't sit well with you, leave it behind.
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