Despite the offline nature of construction work, these days, it’s incredibly difficult to manage a construction business without the right enterprise solution. From accounting to scheduling, your back-office operations depend on feature-rich IT software applications that can be tailored to your specific company. Further, by leveraging an enterprise-wide system, you can:
- Communicate more effectively across your organisation
- Improve efficiency across all operations by standardising and streamlining business processes, breaking down silos through increased data visibility, and enhancing planning and reporting capabilities
- Increase productivity by automating routine tasks
- Improve customer relationship management by providing client-facing staff with a broader range of customer data
- Reduce the costs involved in supporting individual hardware and software systems for each function
- Mitigate security risks inherent in using multiple systems and software packages
The right software can and should make your entire organisation run more smoothly, rapidly, and efficiently. However, construction firms often rely on a patchwork of disparate systems or poorly integrated enterprise-wide solutions with high upfront and ongoing costs. Construction managers often find themselves developing workarounds for their software rather than being able to customise their software to the needs of their business.
Does this sound familiar? If so, you should consider replacing your legacy system(s) with a new, more effective construction management system. To begin to evaluate the solutions available on the market, start with the essential functions your new system should support.
Key Construction Management Software Functions
While each construction firm has its own unique brand and operational style, at a minimum, your construction management software should support the following functions:
- Accounting and Financial Management
- Customer Relationship Management
- Document Management
- Equipment and Materials Management
- Human Resource Management
- Project Management
- Team Management
Accounting and Financial Management
Trying to handle billing, budgeting, cash flow management, payroll, and invoicing using separate systems, limited staff, or both can be a nightmare. Integrating these systems into a single application can save your finance staff time and money. Further, providing key managers access to your entire range of financial data helps them make more informed decisions, assess your current financial status more precisely, and forecast your future performance more accurately.
Customer Relationship Management
You’ll also want a customer relationship management (CRM) module in your system — one that allows you to aggregate all of each client’s information in a single place. The next time a client calls, you want your staff to know their previous communications with you, the status of their project, their payment status, and more to provide the best customer service support possible.
You’ll need a robust document management feature to keep track of everything from proposals to permits. Your document management feature should be effectively integrated into all of your other functions, as you’ll want to pull documents into various modules. For example, you’ll want to have a project’s financials accessible to those working in accounting, those working directly with clients, and otters as necessary.
Human Resource Management
A human resources module is also a key component of effective construction management software. You’ll want one that can automate routine manual tasks like recruitment, onboarding, and off-boarding, freeing your HR staff to address more complex issues like training and compliance. The best options provide self-service capabilities so that workers are not deluging HR staff with time-consuming requests, like providing updated time and leave summaries, personnel records, or duplicate tax documents.
Equipment and Materials Management
To optimise efficiency and productivity, you need to exercise tight control of the materials you purchase and the equipment you use. You want to be able to track as much information about each as possible, such as repair or warranty expiration dates on your equipment, to keep operations running smoothly.
You may already have a project management application and may feel an instinctive urge to keep it silo’ed from your enterprise solution. But the most effective project management systems allow you to high-level and granular views of each project at any point in time, allowing you to make strategic and tactical decisions as needed. In an enterprise system with a fully integrated project management module, you have the advantage of data from across your firm’s functions, yielding you richer strategic insights, as well as more details as you need.
Timing is everything in construction. Your scheduling module should easily allow you to schedule specific tasks by project, prioritise tasks, and track task progress. Depending on how well your entire system is integrated, you may even be able to automatically assign monetary values to each task, allowing you to understand which activities are most valuable and pursue new projects accordingly.
Though your team management module will heavily overlap with your project management and scheduling features, this function should contain some standalone features to foster productive collaboration. Team leaders will want to track each team member’s task completion progress, quickly communicate changes to team members about the task or project, and keep track of their team’s whereabouts.
What to Consider in a New Construction Management System
Ideally, your construction management software should support the above functions. However, before settling on a system that advertises it does so, you need to know more A lot more. Here’s what to learn and the questions you’ll need to ask:
You’ll want to understand the technical requirements of your new system and what relationship may be possible between it and the legacy systems you intend to keep. In some cases, it may be prudent to replace your legacy systems entirely; in other cases, you may want to keep some or all of them, integrate them into your new system, and add new modular functions. Ask the vendor:
- Is this a cloud-based service or an on-premise (on-prem) solution? If on-prem, what are the hardware requirements?
- What does the data migration process look like?
- Can this solution be integrated with other systems? If so, which ones?
- What platforms were used to build this solution?
You’ll need to know how much you can customise the software, as well as how easily you can scale it up or down. Be sure to ask a vendor to walk through how much customisation their solution provides. Describe a couple of non-standard workflows and ask the vendor to show you how their solution can accommodate them.
One of the most significant considerations is cost: both upfront expenses and ongoing expenses. Ask vendors for a full pricing breakdown, whether they use a subscription-based pricing model for services, a flat-rate model for on-prem deployment, installation, and ongoing support, or other pricing methods. And make sure you’ve taken advantage of a free demonstration of, and are satisfied with, the software under consideration before you commit to buy.
With cyberattacks on the rise across the globe, you need an IT solution that’s secure, especially if you’re looking at a cloud-based solution. You’ll want to consult with your in-house IT staff for a deeper dive, but here’s what you’ll need to know:
- What data security protocols does the software use? Encryption protocols?
- What data security standards has your solution achieved?
- How do your security protocols align with those my company is using?
- Can the solution anonymise data, and if so, what functions are that capability built into?
- What internal access controls does the solution support?
For cloud-based solutions, you’ll also want to ask:
- Is your cloud-based service deployed on an on-prem or offsite data centre?
- Is your customer data separate from your central infrastructure?
- What internal access controls are in place among your staff regarding client data?
- How do you mitigate the risk of human error among your staff?
- What third parties do you work with, and what’s their level of access?
- What are your cyber incident protocols?
- What are your disaster recovery plans? Business continuity plans?
Considering Upgrading Your Construction Management Software?
If you’re looking for a customised construction management software solution tailored to your business, contact us at Steadfast Solutions. We’ll help you develop the right cloud-based platform for your construction management firm. We’ve worked with construction firms in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth to enhance their IT infrastructure, improve productivity, and save money with comprehensive enterprise solutions. For more information, reach out to us today, and we’ll be happy to talk to you about how we can work together to grow your construction firm.