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By Katie Rapp
March 29, 2017
For decades, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have dominated the construction industry. These blended systems disrupted the industry in the 1990’s by bringing areas such as planning, purchasing, inventory, project management, and finance all under one umbrella––offering the first form of an “all-in-one” solution. This concept of being the “jack of all trades” was the core component of this business model and it’s the component that’s kept these companies stuck in the past.
Today, for many of these ERP systems, financial services have been the primary focus of their business and as such, have become well-known in the industry for their robust accounting capabilities. But, with such a strong focus here, they’ve inevitably neglected the other services they offer. This means minimal product updates, little investment in innovation and development, fewer staffing resources, and less focus on you, the user.
These accounting-focused systems are not designed with project teams in mind. They are not tailored to the needs of the users with their boots on the ground. They are not focused on simplifying the daily project complexities experienced by industry professionals. Project management solutions built from accounting solutions are not built for people in the field. Get accounting out of your jobsite trailer!
For most contractors, falling burden to these accounting-driven operations systems has been almost unavoidable. It was the best of what the industry could offer at the time and something was better than nothing. But, times have changed and now you’re stuck using these antiquated solutions that your team has grown comfortable with and the inefficiencies are deeply baked in with standard company processes.
So, how do you determine if your needs have taken a back seat? How do you know if your project management solution was built by an accounting system? You look for signs that show that the needs of your field team are not understood by your software vendor.
Here are six signs that your project management system doesn’t “get you”...
If you bought your project management system, your accounting system, and your scheduling system from the same company, you are at a disadvantage. One system can not be the best of the best in all of these services. ERP systems have tried to reinvent the wheel by developing multiple tools to solve all of the industry’s problems, rather than just sticking to what they do best. With their hands now in several pots, they find themselves no longer great at one thing, but average at many things.
In an industry where time is money, the last thing you want to do is waste your hours trying to navigate a cumbersome tool that’s supposed to be enabling your efficiency. ERP systems are notorious for being cumbersome and outdated. In fact, these systems are so antiquated that the industry has nicknamed them “on-premise dinosaurs.” As a contractor, it’s difficult to remain competitive in today’s demanding market when you’re operating out of a Prehistoric solution. It’s no secret that these solutions are frustrating and your project teams aren’t the only ones who know it.
Seek out solutions that prioritize ease of use. Look at software reviews from customers that highlight the ease of use and intuitive design. During your discovery process, include those who will be working daily with the tool. They will ensure that your new solution speaks to the needs and daily challenges of project teams and is something everyone would want to use.
Because ERP systems are large companies with several business priorities, they have to outsource their customer support services. The majority of them have their support based outside of the United States. That means you’re talking to someone who’s hundreds of thousands of miles away from the product researchers, the developers, and from you. And ironically, they’ve probably never even stepped foot on a jobsite. What does this say about your ERP system’s prioritization of your needs? How can their support teams ever begin to understand your daily challenges when they are so disconnected from the solution themselves?
Your project management system’s ability to enable and support your project team is crucial to your business’ success. Don’t let them “half-ass” it. Define what exceptional support looks like to you and go find it! Stop settling for solutions that don’t have your best interests in mind.
The key to orchestrating a successful construction project is making sure everyone is involved and can easily communicate with other team members. Without collaboration, building comes to a halt. A solution that nickle and dimes you for collaborating, is not a tool that’s designed to help you succeed. Restricting the number of users that can join a project or limiting the number of project documents you can upload, confines your team to work at only a fraction of their potential.
Mobile is the future of construction. The ability to access all of your project information from the palm of your hand, no matter where you are, is revolutionizing how we build. Construction companies around the nation are shaving months off of their project deadlines by working with mobile-friendly software applications. In order to keep up in today’s competitive construction market, you need a solution that recognizes the value of mobilizing your work. Untether field teams from the office and give them instant access to information from anywhere, at any time.
At the end of the day, the one thing all construction companies have in common is their desire to make a profit and grow their business. The software solution you entrust your business with can play a significant role in achieving your path to success or keeping you stagnant. One way to determine if your software vendor prioritizes growth is to look at how much they are growing. How often do they release product updates or new features? How has their company size changed over the years? If you’re going to go through all of the trouble to research, purchase, and implement a new solution, then you want to be in it for the long haul. You don’t want to find yourself shopping for a new solution every few years. If the solution isn’t designed to scale with you, it’s not the right investment.
The tables are turning and accounting is being scooted out of the construction project management driver’s seat. Operations teams are beginning to rightfully lead the charge and shift the expectations of products provided by the industry’s leading software solutions.
By equipping yourself with the right questions and resources, you can become the expert for your company when it comes to taking on the construction software world. With hundreds of solutions out there trying to prove they are the perfect fit for you, it’s important that you come to the table with your own expectations and a clear understanding of what problems need to be solved.
Take control of the field with a project management solution that’s developed by teams who prioritize and focus on the needs of field teams. Accounting can’t, shouldn’t, and no longer has to be, your project management system.
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