Originally published on cmicglobal.com
Contractors whose operational processes have stayed static for years may be just one step away from changing their practices for the better. Some of the most common actions involved with managing construction projects can improve drastically with the addition of an up-to-date construction management software tool, replacing the legacy systems that have built up.
That accumulation of non-specialized tools, such as Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, is a common problem afflicting contractors. It is so persistent because when a company has used offline spreadsheets and email to track everything from accounting data to project updates from the field, this doesn’t seem to be a problem at all – it’s just the way things are done.
However, for the too-large percentage of contractors still using legacy technology to coordinate their efforts, the status quo is imposing limitations, and leaders who pursue modernized construction management software can change their practices for the better. By removing dozens of repetitive and time-consuming actions from an average workday and creating data resources they can be confident in, these contractors can harness the power of web-based technology to bring their operations into the present day.
“For the too-large percentage of contractors still using legacy technology to coordinate their efforts, the status quo is imposing limitations.”
How Does Construction Management Software Change Project Management Practices?
The first thing users may notice about implementing a purpose-built project management tool is how many little day-to-day activities are now quicker, easier and more efficient. From the job site to the back office, every team of employees can work with the same piece of software, designed from the ground up to suit construction industry needs. This comes with advantages and improvements affecting countless processes, such as:
Total Project Visibility
Construction projects are complicated organizational matters, even more so when a contractor has multiple job sites operating at once. Legacy methods of organizing data on these projects, with stakeholders mailing spreadsheets, diagrams and updates back and forth, are short on real-time data and contain numerous opportunities for human error to compromise visibility. At best, employees have an out-of-date impression of ongoing at work. At worst, key details are wrong. A unified platform, where everything is updated in a centrally visible fashion, lets employees assign tasks and mark them complete in real time, and opens all relevant data up to user review.
Fast & Accurate Forecasting
Making a forecast about the future direction and requirements of a given project is essential for budgeting and planning purposes. When businesses don’t have a centralized way to access and work with real-time data, forecasts and projections will always have weaknesses. A purpose-built construction management software solution, drawing its data from a single, constantly updated source, enables confident decision-making based on optimized forecasts.
“When businesses don’t have a centralized way to access and work with real-time data, forecasts and projections will always have weaknesses.”
Effortless Drawing Management
Accessing the latest versions of key project documents can be a constant source of strain on productivity for contractors without construction management software. Architects, engineers and all other stakeholders both in the office and in the field need to know the plans they are accessing are current and accurate. A centralized system with built-in drawing management smooths this process and keeps projects on track.
Bulletproof Document Control
Every document related to a project should be organized in a single location easily searched and accessed by all approved stakeholders. Having a centralized platform to serve this purpose can wipe away hours of wasted time over the course of a project that would have otherwise been spent searching through paper archives or emailing files to people who need them. Progress on a project can stall out, or data can be recorded incorrectly, if a key document goes missing – construction management software with embedded document control capabilities drastically reduces the likelihood of these problems emerging.
“Every document related to a project should be organized in a single location easily searched and accessed by all approved stakeholders.”
Simplified & Scalable Workflows
In some cases, making tech implementations and upgrades can feel like an imposition. Adding a large quantity of new systems can leave users feeling overwhelmed, as they have to open all of these separate tools and move data between platforms. Centralized construction management solutions don’t create these issues because users can move smoothly between different functions within the same web-based system. Changing data in one part of the system makes updates in others automatically, creating a unified experience rather than a fragmented and complex one.
Agile Change Management
Dealing with a change order is a common occurrence throughout the course of a construction project. Improving the speed and efficiency with which teams adapt to these changes can therefore have a measurable positive impact on cost management and productivity. A centralized, web-based construction management system allows teams to make updates that all stakeholders can view as they occur, ensuring changes are implemented smoothly and keeping projects from slowing down or derailing.
What Are the Key Components of Construction Management Software?
Purchasing a comprehensive solution for construction management is one way to ensure that both implementation and the use of the software go smoothly. Today’s top offerings are truly comprehensive, with features reaching every department of a contractor and integrating smoothly across teams.
Decision-makers at construction firms may be surprised at just how many functions can be united under a single technological umbrella. This heavily integrated approach allows everyone to collaborate through the system and stay on the same page, no matter how complex a job becomes – or how many jobs are active simultaneously. The following are the modules that go into a comprehensive construction management software suite:
Financials & Accounting
Faced with complex finances and a need to stay constantly aware of every aspect of each project’s budget, contractors require high-quality accounting solutions. Using spreadsheets and other legacy systems as financial tools can harm companies in multiple ways, from weakening budget accountability to preventing departments from sharing budget updates in real time.
Automated functions affecting both accounts payable and accounts receivable can take some of the difficulty and a lot of the manual operations out of finance. In AP terms, personnel can manage invoices and historical data, deliver financial statements and drill down into any transaction with a detailed audit. On the AR side, employees can capture billing data automatically, perform analytics and more. With less time invested in manual data entry, there’s more time for advanced reporting and forecasting.
Human Capital & Payroll Management
The construction industry combines the human resources needs facing all companies with specific regulatory requirements around potential risks on the job site. Having a human capital management system that can seamlessly manage every employee through their entire tenure can be a significant asset for a contractor’s efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The ideal system will have self-service features so employees can input vital information themselves, saving more time and effort.
One of the primary advantages of implementing a construction management software suite that has both finance and HCM modules comes from integrating these two complementary functions. Setting a budget becomes easier when payroll data, down to daily time sheets, is shared between the two systems. Furthermore, when regulators require employee records, employees will know where to find up-to-date, accurate versions, with no extended searching.
Equipment & Inventory Management
Keeping detailed real-time records of every asset belonging to a contractor is an important capability from multiple perspectives, including workflow efficiency, maintenance and cost management. This is another aspect of operations improved by a comprehensive construction management software suite. As with HCM, asset management can be integrated with finance and budgeting features, enabling the automatic and instantaneous sharing of accurate figures between departments.
Every action related to keeping and maintaining assets, from initial procurement to maintenance, compliance reporting and reorder projection can be centralized through asset management systems. A comprehensive module will encompass both fixed assets and every piece of equipment, allowing personnel in the office and in the field to call up real-time inventory information on demand.
“Every action related to keeping and maintaining assets – initial procurement to maintenance, compliance reporting and reorder projection – can be centralized through asset management systems.”
Project Management & Collaboration
Guiding a project through its various stages, with all stakeholders communicating seamlessly, is a major productivity-booster. Companies that can achieve this level of real-time connectivity through their construction management systems are well equipped to stay on track, dealing with any changes in conditions as they happen, rather than learning about them after the fact. Data from personnel on the job site and subcontractors coexists with documents and communications from the in-office team, creating a comprehensive record of the project in progress.
A high-quality collaboration tool not only integrates capabilities such as drawing and document management, it allows users to enter information into the record through multiple means, potentially including standard emails. Instead of just existing as individual emails, those communications become part of the official record. With such an organized system in place every step from bid management to project closeout can become more efficient and cost-effective.
Project controls such as change management, subcontractor relationship management, bid and procurement management and cost, revenue and budget management should all be part of the unified software suite powering a contractor. When these functions are integrated as part of a company-wide technology deployment, everyday tasks become more efficient, with changes reflected across teams in real-time to help with accurate decision-making.
The general benefits of digitized project controls are the same – greater automation leads to less room for human error and greater efficiency when searching for individual records or drilling down into data. Rather than purchasing software modules individually for any or all of these functions, leaders should find suites that incorporate all of them.
Enterprise Content Management
Every piece of digital content created or received by a contractor should be stored in a central location, easy for approved personnel to search through and easily accessible when an employee, partner organization or regulatory body makes a request. Ideal enterprise content management tools are easy to use, allowing stakeholders to move content into the platform in a frictionless manner.
It’s common for contractors and their partner organizations to use many applications to create and edit digital documents. Through integration with industry-standard solutions such as Kofax, DocuSign, PlanGrid, BlueBeam, AutoDesk, Textura and more, an ECM tool can prevent the data environment from becoming disorganized.
“Contractors can benefit from pulling back and taking an enterprise-level view of present and future data, with every full project accounted for.”
Making accurate judgments about the likely future of a contractor’s business is an essential part of staying effective year after year. With an easily accessible and visually compelling view of resource allocations, including budgeting, equipment and human capital, an Enterprise Planning module can be a value-adding part of a construction management software suite.
Contractors can benefit from pulling back and taking this enterprise-level view of present and future data, with every full project accounted for. Opportunity management, financial forecasting and scheduling capabilities integrated into the same software suite gives office personnel an easy way to make intelligent, informed decisions that will shape the company’s future.
What Else Sets Great Construction Management Software Apart?
While there are several software solutions on the market for construction industry companies, a few important capabilities can separate the truly value-adding deployments from the merely adequate tools. The following are key features to look for:
Seamless Mobile Access
The true promise of real-time access to data and the ability to seamlessly share content between the office and the job site comes into focus when team members can use construction management software from their mobile devices. When communications, document access and more features are available on tablets and smartphones, connections between team members grow closer.
Fast & Predictable Deployment
Implementing a new software tool can be a difficult process for companies that don’t deal with customer-friendly providers focused on convenience. Top software partners for the construction industry will focus on support and service, while constantly rolling out new and improved capabilities.
Foundation for Growth
A truly effective construction management software tool will grow along with an organization, no matter how many projects are active at a time. Using a web-based solution that can store as many documents as necessary and manage communications between any number of stakeholders, subcontractors and clients is a way to make sure effectiveness gains stick.
Your firm needs a platform such as CMiC, one that will support all departments’ efforts to become more intentional and data-driven, and that will grow with the business as it ramps back up. To learn more about the CMiC platform and its suite of construction-focused modules, visit our resource center.