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For contractors, managing their workforce effectively across multiple projects can be a tough hill to climb. Today’s construction projects are becoming increasingly complex and, in some cases, the most difficult problems the industry has ever been asked to solve. Schedules are constantly changing and unpredictable delays always seem to be just around the corner, lying in wait. Depending on the tools at their disposal, managing resources effectively across a project pipeline can be a challenge for even the most seasoned contractors. 

There was a time when spreadsheets were an absolute game changer for the construction industry. Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Projects gave contractors a new way to store and maintain project and workforce data. Essentially, they helped contractors digitize many of their core processes. Spreadsheets take a lot of time to maintain and are difficult to share without risking unwanted changes, but they are leaps and bounds from the pen-and-paper and whiteboards that came before them.

While contractors have been able to manage their workforce this way since the 1980s, it’s also contributed to a disjointed process. This has grown increasingly problematic for contractors due to a steep decline in labor availability and unpredictable project schedules as a result of COVID-19. Construction projects are more fluid now than ever before, and the tools in place to help contractors make the right decisions with their workforce have fallen behind.

The data is there, but the data is meaningless if it isn’t being used to make informed decisions. It’s essentially the difference between “digitizing” a process and “digitalizing” a process. “Digitize” and “digitalize” are often used interchangeably, but there is an important difference. If digitization means converting a contractor's data to a digital format, digitalization means transforming processes to not only collect data, but also helping contractors use it to identify trends and make better business decisions.

Specialized workforce planning software like Bridgit Bench, Smartsheet and 10,000ft are all helping to usher in the age of digitalization, and contractors are jumping on board. 

More Effective Planning

One of the key issues with utilizing spreadsheet systems for workforce planning is the lack of workforce insights. It’s near-impossible for a contractor to understand how their team is being utilized and if they’re taking on any unnecessary costs by not fully utilizing their workforce.

Again, it’s the difference between digitization and digitalization.

Automated workforce planning tools help to fill that gap with insight into utilization rates and help contractors forecast their future project and resource demands. This helps create optimized and informed workforce and recruitment strategies. It also helps to better understand the impact future bids and pursuits will have on the larger resource strategy.

On top of high-level workforce insights, automated resource planning tools also help to capture team member skills and experience. By tracking this information, contractors are better equipped to build stronger project teams that can meet their project requirements. It also helps to identify top performers that can provide experiential learning and mentorships to less experienced team members.

Even capturing data as simple as a team member's address can help to assign them to projects close to home and reduce travel time. While this may seem like a minor detail, every workforce will appreciate that travel time is considered when allocating project teams and will be more engaged with the work at hand.

More Efficient Planning

Efficiency is crucial for keeping projects profitable. Finding the right person for a project can be a difficult task in itself, but making the right decisions when project delays happen can be even more so. It requires consolidating information about team members and ensuring they have the right availability and skill sets. By using an automated tool, however, that information is surfaced immediately. In many cases, contractors can also customize their chosen software solution to provide an even more granular view of their people and projects.

Typically, managing project teams is the responsibility of a sole team member. Capturing and updating this information can take anywhere from 8-14 hours each week—the equivalent of a full day’s work. Specialized workforce planning software is not only significantly reducing that workload, it’s allowing operations managers to confidently share the responsibility without risking the integrity of their data.

Forecasting Resource Demands

 For contractors that have made the switch to automated workforce planning software, one of the biggest benefits is the ability to visualize their workforce strategy across the entire project pipeline, including project opportunities and pursuits. Being able to identify project demand for the months and years ahead helps to better prepare a workforce strategy that gets the most out of their workforce.

Some of the leading workforce planning tools will also offer forecasting abilities that help contractors dial in on specific time frames. This helps to identify if and when their workforce is being either over or underutilized so they can create balanced workloads and isolate any skills gaps that need to be filled.

More Control Over Transparency

 Once contractors have made the switch to automated workforce planning software, in most cases, their data will be secure beyond what a spreadsheet is capable of. Users won’t be able to access workforce data without being given the appropriate permissions. This level of controlled transparency means there is no need to store private information on multiple platforms or spreadsheets anymore.

Controlled transparency also helps contractors improve cross-functional collaboration. They can comfortably provide more access to their workforce planning and decision-making process without risking anyone seeing sensitive information not meant for them.

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