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In recent years, the construction industry has been bombarded with new software solutions that advertise they are the fastest, greatest, cheapest, most mobile and user-friendly products.

What makes software companies different? Take a look at the company’s history. Construction software should focus on a contractor’s specific business needs, not the current “app buzz of the month.”

How many years have they been in business? Look at software companies with a solid track record of awards for innovation and decades in business focused on software for construction management. Are they a software startup, new to the construction industry? They may have five or even 10 years of software development experience in mobile apps, but lack construction estimating and project management experience.

Be wary of companies that only promote the educational credentials of their top executives. Newer software companies sometimes recruit a Fortune 500 executive to add credibility to their company profile. This is mainly to attract investors, not to improve software products.

Ask if the company encourages customers to make product improvement suggestions. Many of the best construction software enhancements are developed when the software company and the customer work together.

Does the company provide software for the entire lifecycle of the project, or just one piece? It’s not enough anymore to only offer software to help perform takeoffs and submit bids. Today, many estimators are involved in projects long before they ever break ground after winning the bid. Then during construction, they may have multitudes of change orders and labor/budget tracking to do. After the project is complete, they often analyze the costs compared to the budget and use the data for the next bid.

Do the sales representatives ask appropriate questions? Are they fast talkers? They may have a canned pitch and must make 200 short calls a day. These companies follow a business model built on extensive advertising, huge sales call centers and 75% discounts on all their products. Ask yourself, 75% off what? Customer retention is low, churn is high.

Does the company have live customer support? Or is the software so user-friendly they provide only pre-recorded PowerPoint presentations? That is a red flag.

Without support, it may take weeks to install the software, and the user never learns more than 50% of the functionality. A DIY implementation of software modules that are not designed the way a contractor operates does not add much value. Without solid customer support for training and implementation guidance, you may end up doing more work than the old-school manual estimating way.

Look for 24-hour customer support every business day from software companies that know the workflow of takeoff, bids, change orders and job production tracking. Look for companies that offer live training, webinars and professional videos.

Don’t hesitate to ask about their employees’ experience. Ask how many of the company’s employees came from construction, project management or business software implementations. If they don’t know, it must not be important to them.

Ask about their customer satisfaction rating. If they don’t track customer satisfaction, that is a big red flag. Check out their website. Do they serve your trades? Do they have customer testimonials, toll-free numbers for support, helpful blogs, training and case studies? Or are they just trying to sell you over and over again?

Does the software company’s support staff understand contractor lingo? Do they know the pain points? A software service rep should easily speak the language of construction and walk you through software features.

Of course, no software product guarantees a company will win every contract, but a quality takeoff and bid solution — with industry-specific data sheets and automatic quote requests for suppliers — helps contractors accurately produce more bids, which will win more jobs. With the addition of a project tracking module, contractors can better manage production and labor throughout the job and have all the data for a jump start on the next bid.

Schedule a free demo to learn how software can play an important role in the growth of your business.

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