Construction Software: Who Knows Best?
Construction Software: Who Knows Best?
At BuilderStorm, we are always looking to better understand the market that we cater for. We believe that unless we know what our subscribers want we can’t really provide them with suitable solutions. This is the perspective we had when we came across some research Software Advice, a construction software review firm, had carried out on Job Roles within the construction industry. Moreover, this was precisely our mindset when we went about analysing their key findings and data.
The full report can be found here: Job Roles Report 2014
Software Advice is an organisation that specialises in helping construction professionals and their firms pick the most suitable construction software. Software Advice has direct contact with many stakeholders within the construction industry, enabling it to complete its valuable research on the opinions of all parties within the construction industry. Feel free to check them out if you would like advice on your own software solutions.
Our goals while analysing this research were simple but varied at the same time. We were looking to answer some very specific questions which we believe will not only help us develop a better product, but also the industry in general.
- How do perspectives of what is important for a construction firm differ on the basis of job profile?
- Who’s best suited for making the final decision about construction software purchases within a construction firm?
- Web based Vs Installed Software – which is more suitable for a construction firm?
- Why investment in technology/software is so low for most construction firms and whether this can be expected to change in the future?
- Why is investment in a comprehensive construction software program considered to be a cost-effective option for a construction firm?
We will now go on to try and answer these questions, so as to help our existing and potential clients understand their employees, their firms, and the industry better. The following information may also help construction firms work out whether they need to upgrade their existing software systems or not.
How does the job profile affect the perspective of what is important for a construction firm differ?
The construction industry is vast in many different ways. There are various types of projects that construction firms handle. There are different varieties of business models. There are niches and sectors which themselves contains numerous different types of procedures and requirements from each company involved. So with this in mind not only does the perspective of different members of the company vary with their job type, but it’s not necessarily consistent across the whole industry.
We will focus on 3 different job profiles. The business owner who is responsible for all the projects handled by the firm, the project manager who is responsible for individual projects, and the IT manager who is responsible for ensuring that the firm has the right technology to complete its tasks.
Software Advice is an organisation that specialises in helping construction professionals and their firms pick the most suitable construction software program. Software Advice has direct contact with many stakeholders of the construction industry which is how it managed to complete its valuable research on the opinions of players in the construction industry.
Software Advice has a great deal of experience and contact within the industry allowing it a great insight into the requirements of the different parties within a company. These were some of its findings.
Business Owners – In fact, of the total number of business owners that were surveyed, 36 percent stated that when they consider getting a new software program, their primary criteria is improved accuracy of bids and estimates so as to gain more assignments without affecting the existing flow of work. Similarly, about 19 percent of business owners stated that another reason why they seek out new construction software is to improve upon their current software program.
Specifically, business owners wanted an upgrade on their accounting software. Small to medium scale businesses usually begin with accounting software programs and upgrade when their requirements grow. Many of the people Software Advice interviewed specifically stated dissatisfaction with QuickBooks needing a more flexible solution.
Project Managers – Project Managers, however, explained their priority to be more efficient with the utilisation of their time and greater synergy between various aspects of a project. What they are essentially looking for in their new construction software is greater integration between various modules. More than a third of the total project managers interviewed gave this response.
Almost the same number of project managers (just over 30 percent) even cited better organisational capabilities for choosing software upgrades. For example, one of the most burning issues that project managers face in the modern construction industry is the manual entry of data into modules. This often leads to the project manager entering the data more than one time over multiple platforms leading to potential human error and inefficiency.
IT Managers – While many IT managers stated increased accuracy (16 percent), better organisation (just under 30 percent), and greater integration (just over 30 percent), their major requirement was consistency and stability.
In fact, around 54 percent of the IT managers interviewed cited old and inadequate software programs as the main reason why they would choose to replace their construction software.
For most of them, the biggest concern with old software programs is that they constantly broke down and required fixing, which is a very time and resource consuming process.
In the case of business owners, you’ll notice the element that is of most importance is the bottom line. This isn’t surprising because the main goal of any business’s owner is to make profits and keep increasing the scope of his profits.
The project manager is responsible for every little detail of a project. Thus, it’s only natural for project managers to want something that can help them organise and integrate all their responsibilities.
Similarly, the IT manager’s primary task is to keep things ticking inside the construction firm so that the work doesn’t get interrupted. Effectively, IT managers want a construction software program that can do its job to the full without breaking down regularly.
Who’s best suited for making the final decision about construction software purchases within a construction firm?
From the evidence above it’s very clear different construction types have different requirements and priorities. The big question then is who is the ideal choice to make the most informed decision on which software to invest in? Balancing cost, integration, training and trying to get the best out of the software and the people that use it. There is no easy answer to this question because a lot of factors are usually in play for such decisions.
For example, no firm can choose to upgrade its software technology if it doesn’t have the budget. Whether money is available or not depends on profits which, in turn, depend on how successful the business is.
Similarly, there’s no one better qualified in a construction firm when it comes to deciding how effective the current software program is and whether there is something else better in the market than the project manager. Moreover, they are also the best-suited individual for deciding what a construction firm needs to complete the projects it has taken up.
Finally, while the business owner understands his firm’s finances and the project manager understands its requirements and capabilities, they’re both limited in their understanding of software technology. Some of them may not even use the software. They’re not involved in dealing with regular IT day to day issues. Moreover, they can’t entirely assess the quality of a software program. In contrast, the IT manager understands how software programs work/behave, their advantages/disadvantages and generally the best way to use them.
In the end, each of them is incapable of making the final choice by himself. The trick is for them to consult and make the decision themselves. A business owner, hence, should make it a point to hold discussions with his project managers and IT managers. The subject of the discussions should be the pros and cons of upgrading software technology as well as the type of software program that should be targeted.
Web based Vs Installed Software – which is most suitable for construction firms?
If you look for construction software programs in the market, you’ll find them to be available in two categories which are web-based or downloadable. Installed construction software programs are either downloaded to individual users computers and connected via a network or downloaded onto a firm’s local server. Web-based construction software programs are either based on the owner’s server of the service provider that can be set up in a cloud system.
The Software Advice research also managed to shed some light into how business owners, project managers, and IT managers view the deployment element of new construction software programs. While the vast majority of professionals interviewed (84 percent) hadn’t decided which deployment option they preferred the most, the ones that had given diverse answers.
Moreover, from the deployment angle, their opinions changed on the basis of their technological awareness. For example, almost 75 percent of business owners preferred downloadable construction software programs, while almost 75 percent of project managers preferred web-based construction software programs.
The reason why the two opinions are so at odds with each other is that the requirements and technological awareness of the two groups are distinctly different. Business owners want more profits and sustainability, while project managers almost always go after functionality and flexibility.
In this case, business owners tend to shy away from web-based construction software programs because they don’t travel as much and don’t need to access project information from remote locations. Business owners also have to take financial matters into consideration. Web-based systems tend to require monthly subscription which means monthly outlays.
Installed software on the other hand can only require one time lump sum fees, but it’s still common to have licence fees. Furthermore, these owners feel more in control of their project and company information if it is housed on their servers or kept in their offices.
This is the exact opposite of how project managers view deployment of construction software. Project managers seem to want functionality the most because they often have to go from one project site to another. A lot of their time is spent on the road. A web-based construction software program makes it easier for the project manager to access the pertinent data as he can simply whip out his preferred device from anywhere in any situation.
In addition to this, project managers also prefer web-based construction software programs because of the flexibility that they provide over and above accessibility through multiple devices without needing to go through VPNs, etc. A project manager is responsible for coordinating the work being done on a project. This means collaborating with third party suppliers and external contractors. If the construction software program is limited to their employees then these project contributors cannot be given access to the information.
This means that they’re always operating from outside the loop. This can cause delays, cost overruns, and even other operational clashes. Web-based software takes away this problem as external agencies can be given limited access to individual modules of projects. This becomes the second reason why project managers prefer the web as the deployment mechanism.
Responses from IT managers in the deployment category wasn’t extremely clear because about 60 percent of IT managers showed a preference for web-based software and the rest for downloadable software programs. The gap is small with IT managers because, for them, there are benefits to be had with both types of construction software programs.
When a newly installed software program is purchased by a firm, it usually means an upgrade for the hardware already in place. On the other hand, when web-based construction software programs are used, it usually means that the IT manager is absolved of the responsibility for maintaining and fixing the software program, and sometimes out of a job.
What you will note from everything mentioned above is that web-based construction software programs are much more popular with project managers and IT managers. It isn’t surprising because construction software programs (except for CAD programs) don’t require a lot of computing power or even storage space. They’re not very resource intensive which makes them suitable for mobile devices as well. Furthermore, because a construction project involves so many outside parties, web-based construction software programs can actually end up improving the synergy and coordination for the project.
The construction industry is right now in a transitory phase. With compliances being updated and Building Information Modelling (BIM) on the verge of becoming mandatory, it is becoming important for construction firms to upgrade their technologies so as to keep pace with the wider world. Our opinion at BuilderStorm is very much weighted towards using web-based construction software as this is the first step towards the modernisation of construction firms and, resultantly, the construction industry. This is precisely why web-based programs are not only growing in popularity but also being pushed by industry and government experts.
Why investment in technology-related upgrades is so low for most construction firms and whether this can be expected to change in the future?
Typically, a construction firm’s profit margin is very small. In fact, estimates suggest that construction firms operate with margins that range between one and two percent. This pushes them to be very careful in how they allocate their financial resources for the firm’s development. Resultantly, many construction firms only allocate about one percent of their total corporate revenue to their IT department. An even smaller portion of that maybe allocated towards upgrading existing software systems.
The reason for this is again the business owners’ perspective about their software systems. A project manager understands how the right construction software program can make a firm’s projects more efficient and, hence, more profitable. The same can’t be said for business owners who mainly try to get the most bang for the buck. Their target is to get the most out of a software program with the least amount of investment.
All this boils down to the fact that business owners need better communication channels with their project managers so that they can absorb their perspectives and experiences in a more comprehensive and constructive manner. If these channels of communications are unobstructed and open all the time then the business owner will soon come to realise the relevance of improving his firm’s software setup. Because of this awareness, he would not only be more interested in investing in new software or upgrades but also proactively try to make it happen.
The goal of the government of United Kingdom is exactly this with regards to their BIM directive. They want construction firms working on government projects to start working with BIM principles in mind. This will allow business owners, project managers, and all other construction professionals to see the value of BIM. The government hopes for these benefits of BIM to permeate to the rest of the industry inspiring an industry-wide adoption of BIM techniques.
Why is investment in a comprehensive construction software program considered to be a cost-effective option for a construction firm?
In order to answer this question, one needs to analyse what the primary objectives of all construction software programs are these days. All good construction software programs are designed to improve the functionality of various aspects of a construction project and construction firm. They aim to prevent wastage of resources through better allocation and waste management. They try to avert cost overruns by helping various independent agencies working on the same project coordinate better. Finally, they target time and cost efficiencies for a construction firm.
If you consider all these elements that good construction software programs’ designs are based on, you’ll realise that in the medium to long-term, investment in a comprehensive software solution it does turn out to be cost-effective. Without these qualities, a project is usually plagued with various types of redundancies and flaws. These include things like double entries, schedule clashes, resource wastage, allocation reversals, estimate revisions, manual organisation of compliance documents from subcontractors, and even manual bid invitations.
Essentially, when the firm’s employees become proficient with the chosen construction software program, the software program starts giving returns on the initial investment. Depending upon the cost of the software program, these returns soon overrun the initial outlay.
Thanks go to Software Advice for providing some key research that we have used to base this article on. If you need some advice then its worth checking them out for unbiased advice. Equally, if you would like to take advantage of some of the above-mentioned benefits please consider BuilderStorm as a complete solution to your construction needs. We’ve developed the software with you in mind and we’d love to help you out.