Technology
Business

Getting the Most From Construction Software

With the right software solutions and a commitment to look for ways technology can improve processes, contractors can work smarter, realize more productivity and achieve larger profit margins.
By Zach Feige
December 8, 2019
Topics
Technology
Business

The construction industry is in the midst of a significant technology transformation as contractors adopt the latest cloud technologies to help enhance operations, automate workflows, streamline data into single streams and extend collaboration beyond the walls of the office.

Yet, for an industry that has historically struggled with change, many contractors who have yet to modernize may not know where to start—or how to integrate and maximize their technology investments to get the most out of new solutions put in place.

Making Smart, Future-Proofed Software Decisions

Most contractors realize they need to update the technology running their organizations in order to stay competitive. But replacing multiple, disconnected systems with slightly more modern versions of those same systems doesn’t help them arrive at the gains that a true software solution suite—with cohesive data—can net their business outcomes.

To both take full advantage of current technology advancements and scale for the future, contractors should look to upgrade to a construction-specific, integrated and cloud-based software suite. An integrated software suite standardizes construction data between the field, office and extended project teams, providing a single, accurate data set to base business decisions on, while cloud-based solutions allow that data to be gathered and analyzed in real time.

Meanwhile, software designed specifically for construction provides contractors with the right fields, common reports and proper industry terminology needed to make data relevant to different stakeholders.

None of that matters, though, if the software is not easy to understand and operate for end users. Intuitive user interfaces, automated workflows that reduce manual tasks and mobile-friendly formats make adoption much easier for contractors’ teams. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Is there a solid consensus for and understanding of organizational needs prior to evaluating software?
  • Will the software truly automate processes and simplify workflows?
  • Does the software allow for real-time collection and analysis of construction data?
  • Is the company providing the software committed to continually investing in the software and scaling it for future functionality growth?
  • Is there a consistent track record of new features, releases and enhanced capabilities?
  • How closely and effectively will the software vendor work with clients, not just during implementation, but for support, future training and beyond?

A Continual Technology Commitment

New software and technology implementations often occur—especially across the construction industry when an end user is trying to solve a specific need, but that’s simply a point solution. Today’s leading contractors are taking a different approach—developing corporate-led, ongoing technology strategies to ensure their businesses are getting full value from their investments.

A key part of these strategies is to routinely examine software use and technology processes to gauge:

  • Are technology solutions being used to their full potential?
  • What processes could be better and more efficient?
  • Is there an active effort to consistently assess needs and learn about new processes and tools to address them?
  • Is there an active effort to stay on top of new technology advancements and developments that could help dramatically improve productivity or solve key challenges?

In the construction industry, these questions have historically been left to IT professionals or a CFO. But as technology has evolved and more and more contractors are moving from on-premise software to cloud-based solutions, that dynamic is changing. The construction professionals that use software every day are becoming more tech savvy and thus, much more open to exploring functionality beyond traditional silos.

Leading contractors are empowering these users to help their organizations better leverage technology investments to squeeze every bit of relevant functionality possible. Many have created dedicated teams committed to improving internal processes, planning, internal innovation and staying informed on the latest technology advancements to ensure that software is used to its full potential.

Five Tips to Ensuring Ongoing Technology Success

Whether an entire team or one dedicated person, a commitment to maximizing technology investments can drive bigger margins, lower risk and increase company-wide efficiencies. Here are five key things to consider putting into action right away:

1. Keep software up-to-date on the latest version. This may seem obvious, but many contractors do not keep the vital business and construction management software that runs their business up-to-date. Technology changes quickly, but with cloud and subscription-based software solutions, vendors are rolling out valuable updates and new features to end users, often multiple times a month. If contractors are not working on the latest versions of their software, they could be missing out on key features and functionality.

2. Keeping current with software features and functionality. Staying on the latest version to achieve seamless feature and functionality updates is a good start, but truly understanding the software and the entirety of its features and functionality is vital to getting the most out of it. Here are some ways to stay updated:

  • read the release notes when new versions of the software are issued;
  • read the product enhancement briefs when new features or functionality are released;
  • take advantage of product training provided by the software provider;
  • attend webinars on new product features or functionality;
  • join user forums or online communities and engage in learning opportunities and peer-to-peer discussions;
  • attend user conferences and road shows to learn about new features, processes and be informed as to what’s coming down the road; and
  • arrange for in-person training/refreshers for the team annually

3. Adopt the relevant new features. Once in the know about new offerings, identify which enhancements will bring the most value to the businesses. Set up and test new features, and create a training plan to bring end users up to speed on how to use or apply them with their workflows. Quick adoption of these technologies can give contractors an immediate leg up in a competitive market, and can boost productivity and profitability within their organizations.

4. Make process improvement continuous. Reviewing needs and adding new features should never be a one-and-done act. To ensure the most value from a software suite, technology adoption needs to be a continual process. Consider building a process improvement team and budget the appropriate time and resources. Contractors who build this principle into their overall company culture ensure their entire team is always looking for ways to improve.

5. Set clear goals for improvement. To ensure the maximum return in technology investments, clear and measurable goals should be set for what contractors hope to achieve. Are there specific issues or challenges that need to be addressed? How will success be measured? Is there a roadmap for scaling company growth or project efficiencies and how will technologies line up with these efforts? To accomplish these goals, contractors should identify goals and bottlenecks, clearly state desired improvements to their team(s) and follow consistent timelines in order to stay accountable.

With the right software solutions in place and a commitment to consistently look for new ways in which technology can help improve processes, contractors can work smarter, realize more productivity and achieve larger profit margins. Leadership support and metrics for measuring technology success internally are a critical piece of ensuring ongoing ROI and better business outcomes.

by Zach Feige
Zach Feige leads the professional services team for Portland, Ore.-based Viewpoint, a leading provider of construction management software solutions. He has more than 20 years of experience managing professional services and technical teams, and is driving Viewpoint’s professional services teams toward deeper integration – and positive business outcomes for customers. 

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