Construction Technology Trends: Best-of-breed vs. All-in-one Software Solutions

Construction companies no longer have the luxury of doing business as they have for decades. They must find technological solutions to improve their efficiency or productivity or be left behind by the firms that do.
By Sergey Sundukovskiy
September 13, 2018

Despite a traditionally conservative approach to adopting new technologies, the construction industry finds itself forced to innovate in order to overcome the financial drag of labor shortages and increasing competition.

With obstacles come opportunities. It’s been estimated that increasing the construction sector’s productivity growth by only 1.8 percent could net it a $1.6 trillion increase in market value, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report, "Reinventing Construction Through a Productivity Revolution." Construction companies are responding to the challenge. About 81 percent of companies surveyed in Software Connect's "Construction Technology Trends 2018 Report" indicated they planned to spend more on technology in the current year compared to last year.

With opportunity, comes investment. Record numbers of investors are putting their money into construction technology companies, growing the construction software sector to an impressive $7-billion-plus market value.

Best-of-Breed or All-In-One Solutions?

A growing number of technology choices become available for construction companies after an investment. In the ecosystem of construction software, there are two broad categories that end users can focus on when looking for the best fit: best-of-breed applications or all-in-one solutions. In that sense, the construction industry is not unique. Most industries have gone through a similar evolution where all-in-one solutions were the "only game in town," so to speak, to the point where significant market share has been carved out by the companies offering point solutions, in common usage referred as best-of-breed.

All-in-one solutions are meant to offer a seamless experience for users while providing all their technology needs in one package. They can be complicated and expensive suites of software, requiring hardware and operating system upgrades to run properly.

Best-of-breed solutions, more often than not, focus on one or several specific workflows or pain points rather than trying to meet all the needs of the business as a whole. They are often cheaper, more portable applications that can run on a variety of common devices such as smartphones, tablets and traditional PCs or laptops.

Finding the Right Tool

Deciding between a best-of-breed vs. an all-in-one solution involves looking at all stages of the construction project — from project planning, through project execution to project transition. Does it make sense to invest in an all-or-nothing solution with broad, complicated capabilities that may remain underutilized?

Best-of-breed tools allow construction companies to target a specific process or pain point, instead of buying a whole suite of tools. By choosing where a company faces the most pain in the workflow, solutions can be quickly evaluated and deployed.

Best-of-breed applications can often outperform integrated systems when it comes to performing specialized functions — examples include standalone inventory tracking, time card management, task tracking, safety management or daily reporting software. Instead of being tied to one vendor, best-of-breed systems are generally developed and sold by separate firms.

Solving Pain Points with Simpler Tools

A major pain point for many firms is that old-fashioned management tools can’t keep up with the demands of modern projects. They rely on spreadsheets or even more antiquated pen-and-paper techniques.

These old-fashioned tools burn up hours of valuable supervisory time each week as managers try to compile data from individual spreadsheets or notebooks. Meanwhile, trying to collate or transcribe the information manually means it is highly vulnerable to human error or loss.

While all-in-one solutions can allow construction companies to better coordinate their workflow and improve efficiency, their tightly integrated nature can work against them. As project requirements have become more complex, so have the tools required to manage them, drowning users in data and options, which can counterintuitively make it harder to make informed decisions.

Software ease of use is very important to construction companies. The firms surveyed in the "Construction Technology Trends 2018 Report" cited it as the most important factor when purchasing new technology.

Best-of-breed tools tend to focus on streamlining specific work processes. Easy-to-use cloud-based apps are growing in popularity. Designed to be used from mobile devices and smartphones, these best-of-breed tools have the advantage of portability, allowing construction superintendents to perform management functions from the field.

Need for Integration

One of the major drawbacks of the all-in-one solutions is the expense of upgrading the entire IT infrastructure that construction firms employ. These companies often rely on legacy systems, a mix of older hardware and various software packages that they might need to continue using even after an all-in-one is implemented. All-in-one solutions can render legacy systems unstable while best-of-breed software tools can be integrated more easily into existing systems.

While discussing all-in-one and best-of-breed solutions, it is easy to get the feeling that both sets of tools can't coexist. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a large number of construction companies successfully combine all-in-one and best-of-breed solutions into a hub-and-spoke model where an all-in-one application serves as a hub and allows best-of-breed apps to plug-in as spokes. This kind of hybrid approach allows construction companies to get the best of both worlds, where all-in-one solutions present a unified view of the project to the construction "office" and the construction "field" personnel continue to use best-of-breed applications while remaining unencumbered by the complexities of all-in-one solutions.

Summing it Up

Construction companies no longer have the luxury of doing business as they have for decades. They must find technological solutions to improve their efficiency or productivity or be left behind by the firms that do. Each company has to find the technology that best meets its need, whether an all-in-one or a best-of-breed tool or combination of the two.

by Sergey Sundukovskiy

Before Co-Founding Raken, Dr. Sergey Sundukovskiy served in capacities of Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer and Chief Product Officer. Sundukovskiy is a serial entrepreneur co-founding multiple successful Startups focused on Small Business Marketing and eCommerce. Sundukovskiy specializes in the implementation of subscription based high volume SaaS platforms, with strong emphasis on early stage product development, product marketing and customer acquisition. Sundukovskiy has a B.A. in Computer Science from the University of California, San Diego, M.S. in Information Technology from the University of Liverpool, and Ph.D. in Information Technology Management from the School of Business and Technology, Capella University.

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