Construction in Real Time

Contractors are thriving with cloud-based software. Those that haven’t made the move should be paying attention.
By Jeremy Larsen
September 22, 2019

Managing construction projects is a complex process. Remote jobsites, scores of workers to keep efficiently engaged (and paid), continual flows of materials and equipment, a bevy of subcontractors to collaborate with and stay on top of, and ever-changing plans and documents to manage—and that’s just in the field or the jobsite trailer.

In the back office, contractors have to manage the flow of construction data to pull together continual reports for executive and project owners, analyze construction data to find new avenues of efficiency and productivity, ensure bills are paid and that the company is getting paid for the work it has done, manage documentation and process vital employee data for payroll, time off, wages, union dues and much more.

Ask any number of project managers and they will share how they’re consistently behind—swamped in their day to day duties and buried in a mountain of paperwork. Their body of work is judged by four words: “on time” and “on budget.” Yet, the construction industry still largely operates with outdated technologies and manual processes that make it next to impossible to get the complete data needed to coach projects along as they’re occurring in real time. In turn, these inefficient processes make it harder to foresee long-term project health and guarantee on-time, on budget delivery. Often contractors face an 11th-hour rush to catch up, correct mistakes and close projects out, which means more up-front costs and less profit.

Thankfully that dynamic is changing as more and more contractors move their operations to the cloud to take advantage of real-time data and workflows that eliminate the traditional construction management roadblocks.

Construction’s Shift to the Cloud

It wasn’t that long ago that the word “cloud” was considered a negative term among contractors. Concerns ranged from data security to costs to deployment. Today, most companies realize that enterprise-class, cloud-based software can and does provide high levels of security, accessibility, significantly increased productivity and meaningful cost savings. By the time an early-2018 survey by Software Connect on construction technology trends was rolled out, 87% of contractors noted they were now open to reviewing cloud/hosted software for their construction management needs.

Cloud-based construction software is helping contractors manage work in real time. Whereas previously it could take days, weeks or even longer to collect and analyze construction data from multiple sources and locations, cloud-based software expands access to project information and applications beyond the back office to the field and to everyone on the project team. This allows for instant visibility into project health and provides collaborative tools for project teams to make more informed decisions in real time, mitigating project delays and reducing errors.

Deploying cloud software can also reduce capital expense and IT strain, eliminating the need to buy and regularly update server hardware and application software. With cloud computing, software updates can be rolled out automatically, so end users simply log in and start using new functionality right away. Dodge Data & Analytics and Viewpoint partnered for a 2019 industry report, "Improving Performance with Project Data" that points to the enhanced data management capabilities that cloud-based software is providing. “A growing number [of contractors] are using commercial cloud service providers (37%) and software providers (25%)” to hosting their construction data. While 80% of contractors are already using smart devices and mobile apps to collect data from the field. For contractors that have an integrated, cloud-based software solution, collecting, updating, sharing and analyzing data easier and faster than ever.

Eight Reasons Contractors Should be Moving to the Cloud Right Now

Businesses across all global market sectors have digitized their operations and embraced operating in cloud environments. Though the construction industry has been slower to adopt, many leading contractors have already moved to the cloud or are in the middle of their own technology transformations. Those that have yet to make the move may soon feel the competitive heat as both project owners and government entities alike are beginning to add requirements in bids and contracts for contractors to utilize modern software and collaborative platforms. The cloud simply makes sense.

  1. Access Data Anywhere, Any Time. With cloud-based construction software, users are no longer tied to a physical workstation in the office when they need to access or enter data. A laptop, tablet and even smartphones are being used right in the field to get to and update information—in real time.
  2. Achieve Instant Information Sharing and Collaboration. Modern software doesn’t just allow users to access information anywhere, any time, it provides a true platform for collaboration. Utilizing the speed of the internet and integrated, automated workflows, contractors can ensure the most updated information is consistently delivered to their entire project teams.
  3. Dramatically Reduce Workloads. Contractors upgrading to integrated cloud solutions are now able to take advantage of other modern technologies like intuitive mobile apps, instant data population and automated workflows and that dramatically reduce the time and effort needed to collect and process construction data, saving thousands of labor hours.
  4. Improve Productivity. The ability to work in real time, along with the significantly boosted processing power of cloud-based software has contractors realizing significant boosts in project productivity—work gets done quicker, bills get paid quicker and companies are free to focus on improving processes and winning even more work.
  5. Easily Resolve Conflicts, Mitigate Risks. When there’s a conflict on the jobsite or with a subcontractor or vendor, having real-time access to documented data can nip them in the bud and avoid costly delays. Operating in real time also gives project managers the ability to spot mistakes as they’re occurring or even before. With rework accounting for between 10% and 25% of contractors project costs, mitigating these risks can be a boon for profit margins.
  6. Enjoy Technology Flexibility. With subscription services, cloud-based software makes it easy to add or remove users as needed. And with software updates and new features rolled out directly to end users, contractors no longer need worry about extensive in-house IT workloads. Depending on software vendors, contractors can also or easily bundle integrated products and functionality together as they need them, taking advantage of feature packages and pricing that fits their company’s needs.
  7. Scale for the Future. The cloud is essential for taking advantage of new and emerging construction innovations that on-premise software may not have ability to adapt to or will require painful updates every time new functionality is added. Data analytic and business intelligence solutions, drones, robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies all require the cloud to be effective. If they can’t easily communicate or share data with older on-premise software solutions, contractors may not be able to realize the full potential of these advancements.
  8. Don’t Get Left Behind. Contractors that have not moved to the cloud are already facing competitive disadvantages. As demand for contractors to operate with real-time data and technologies increases, those without this ability could find it even harder to win work.

Where to Start?

While there are still a great many contractors that continue to rely on manual processes or outdated software solutions, the construction market is still flooded with software options that provide only limited benefits—even cloud-based providers. So, what should contractors look for to maximize their technology investments? There are six things to consider with software vendors.

  1. Look for vendors that offer a completely integrated platform, where different features like job-cost accounting, payroll, human resources, project and document management and more all share a single set of data;
  2. Look for vendors with an experienced track record of growth and reinvestment in their own technologies;
  3. Look for vendors that are adopting future technologies today and scaling their own offerings to be able to pass these emerging technologies on to their clients;
  4. Look for vendors that partner with their clients, working with them day-in-day out to ensure they’re consistently getting the most out of their software; and involving them directly in product development and enhancements;
  5. Look for vendors that give their clients options – from selecting the technologies relevant to their business, to flexible subscription and licensing models, to abilities to provide customization and more; and
  6. Look for vendors that have been entrenched in construction technology for years—those that have built a foundation of trust with their clients and have a long-term plan for the future.

When contractors can both modernize their operations and scale for the future, it not only allows them to work smarter and realize more profitability today, it allows them to level-set their capital technology assets for years to come.

by Jeremy Larsen
Viewpoint is a leading global provider of integrated software solutions for the construction industry. 

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