It wasn’t very long ago that construction projects were bid and managed with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Fact is, many companies still do it this way.
Our industry has always waited until a new tech item was proven out by the few companies willing to try new products in hopes of differentiating themselves and finding a competitive advantage. Most companies don’t have the time or the HR (human resource) bandwidth to dive in and sort through the winners and losers, so they wait. This is probably the best practice for most general contractors. For those with a younger staff, this approach may backfire as the current generation will push for faster adaptation.
The good news is that success has been proven and nearly mandated from a competitive standpoint by those who have validated the role of Web-based and mobile-based construction software. There are numerous mobile apps and Web-based bid management and project management modules that can dramatically improve project performance.
The market place is fairly crowed in the planroom or bid management space with numerous offerings that enable document management, contact management, file sharing, messaging, bid collection, and prequalification. There are also numerous companies that specialize in mobile apps for particular features such as RFI (request for information), and punchlist management. Still, other companies offer project management modules for submittals, scheduling, resource allocation, daily reports, change orders, and budgeting. Taking the time to see a demo or actually doing a trial run should quickly address the individual company’s need, as every GC does things slightly different.
Another consideration is how to move data from one product to the next without exposing your company to risk due to dropped or incomplete syncing. This requires finding companies that have an API (application programming interface) that allows for disparate companies to integrate with one another. Unfortunately, this becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, as it may require combining as many as three to five software providers who are competitive with one another. There are a few companies that combine the functionality of numerous modules across the spectrum mentioned above. Deciding among them is best done by evaluating which provider is willing to customize their product to suit your needs as well as weighing the cost of the various individual products and the integration involved against the savings of a more comprehensive end-to-end offering.
Final consideration must be the accounting aspect. Changing accounting systems is probably the most challenging thing to do for a construction company. Most companies genuinely like their accounting product but wish it could tie in with the new project management tools and apps, so for that reason finding a software provider who can integrate with your accounting system will make life a lot easier.
To recap, search for products that offer the best in bid management that also offer field communication features and apps, prequalification modules, and the project management features you need. Ask if they will integrate with your accounting software, and, lastly, ask if they will customize the product to match your current needs without compromising PMI compliance.
You can indeed have the best of all worlds, it just takes a little digging.
DeWayne Adamson is the founder of Pantera Global Technology.