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Construction technology and software adoption is on the rise as hundreds of new entrants are being added to the growing list of available options each year. This includes everything from point solutions for every process, to fully-integrated platforms for everything from project bidding to workforce management.

It’s undeniable, with the increase in construction tech and tech investments, that contractors are being flooded with calls and emails from different technology companies every day. All are trying to address a specific pain point with the latest and greatest solutions. Repetitive sales and marketing emails can definitely be overwhelming, but it’s a good indicator that the construction industry is finally getting the attention it deserves from the tech industry.

Here’s how a typical software sales process goes:

  • A member of the contractor’s team is introduced to a solution and reaches out to the provider to learn more about their unique offering.
  • That team member is then given a brief demonstration of the solution and the value it can bring to them and their company.
  • If the team member likes what they see, a second demonstration is often done with a larger team.
  • The team decides if there’s a business case to adopt the solution and either move forward with implementation, or decides to keep looking at other options.

That’s a very simplified version of the process. There can often be multiple demos involved, sandbox environments and free trial periods. However, it’s when the larger leadership team gets involved that the questions really start rolling in, and rightfully so. Contractors want to make sure they’re getting a good return on their investment and that the roadmap of the software or technology aligns with their organizational goals.

There is often information about a software solution or new technology that gets brought to light after, or during, implementation. This can be a pain in and of itself as this new information may have affected the decision to adopt. Since there isn’t a point-solution for evaluating point-solutions, here are three topics that often get overlooked, but should be considered when putting a new solution through its paces during evaluation.

1. Integration Roadmap, Method and Expectations. 

Integrated software will continue to be increasingly important as the industry undergoes a digital transformation, but the questions usually stop pretty quickly regarding integrations.

It’s not until contracts are signed and implementation is underway that a contractor discovers that building the integration will require a development team working with complex APIs and might take months to get right. The cost and time of getting the new solution to where it needs to be increases, and the perceived return on investment decreases.

A fully-integrated tech stack will eventually be the norm in construction, so don’t hesitate to spend a little more time discussing how the software provider intends to fit their piece in the tech stack puzzle. Some questions to consider would be:

  • What integrations are available today? 
  • What integrations are being worked on and what does that roadmap look like?
  • Who does the heavy lifting building an integration, the contractor or the software provider?
  • Will a custom integration use an API and require ongoing maintenance, or is there a third-party automation platform being used?
2. Required ‘Homework’ During Implementation

Speed of implementation is important when deciding on a new software solution. Contractors want to get up and running quickly to keep the momentum going and maintain buy-in, which can be difficult when introducing new tech to the larger team.

“How long will it take to get up and running?”

This is when a contractor will get the “best case scenario timeline,” which is rarely ever the case. A best-case scenario timeline usually means the time to implement after the contractor’s data is shared. If a contractor were to ask for a guaranteed implementation date, it’s almost guaranteed this timeline would suddenly have a few days, or even weeks, added to it.

Think of it this way—if a contractor is looking to import their active, upcoming and historical projects into a new tool, how exactly does that work? Do they just send the data they have and let the software company sort it out, or will it require someone on the contractor’s end to organize and deliver that data?

It’s not uncommon that this “homework” will exponentially increase the time to value, which is not the contractor’s fault. Contractors are typically working at capacity and don’t have time to organize all the necessary information to get a new tool up and running. Sure, in the long-term contractors will benefit from taking the time to ensure their data is accurate and organized, but it’s important to know what the expectations are on their end before moving forward. Some questions to consider are:

  • How will data be imported into the tool and who owns that?
  • What is the lift required by the contractor?

Some tech companies will send a data template to help speed up the import process, but it still requires the contractor to transfer their data to the template. If that’s the case, a contractor should ask to see the template and the required information so they can understand the work that will go into implementation before the “best case scenario timeline” even starts.

3. Development methodology

There are a few different methodologies that a tech company will use to develop and release new features. However, the most commonly used methodologies for software development are Waterfall and Agile. As a basic overview of each:

  • Agile methodology is all about iterative development. Tech companies release new features quickly and frequently, and then get feedback from their customers and make incremental improvements at a rapid pace. This methodology allows them to adapt quickly and shift priorities to respond to customer demand.
  • Waterfall methodology should be pretty familiar to contractors. It follows strict and linear principles and takes a top-down approach like a waterfall. For example, a project starts in phase 1 and doesn’t move on to phase 2 until phase 1 is complete. In the software world, this means less frequent feature releases, but bigger releases as all of the planning is done before development begins. To learn more about these two methodologies, check out this blog that dives a little deeper.
Why Does This Matter? 

As the end user, a contractor should consider if they want their software provider to be predictable, or adaptive to their needs. The development methodology will also impact a contractor's ability to offer input. With Agile, the conversation is ongoing and changes can be made quickly. With Waterfall, there’s a lot of planning involved, but it’s nearly impossible to pivot once development is underway. Some questions to consider are:

  • What development methodology is used?
  • How and when can feedback be communicated?
  • How frequently are features released?

The bottom line is, don’t hesitate to ask more questions. Software and technology companies should be comfortable answering any of the questions listed above and not hesitate to get into the specifics of their integration roadmap, development method and a realistic implementation timeline that includes the required lift on the contractor's end.

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