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Modern, purpose-built information technology solutions are part of the essential operating infrastructure of nearly every industrial enterprise. The use of technology by construction contractors has accelerated thanks to ubiquitous mobile broadband service and devices. Demand has exploded for technology solutions that take full advantage of mobile and cloud computing. The construction industry is now beyond the tipping point regarding the adoption of software platforms and point solutions to improve construction productivity and profitability and to deliver more predictable outcomes for all building project stakeholders.

While nearly all contractors use basic accounting software, construction operations teams remain, in many ways, tethered to desktop computers and overly reliant on spreadsheets and Word documents. The individual documents created by teams are difficult to access and share, and they create miniature silos of information that are notoriously prone to errors and of little value when it comes to connecting people in the office to the field. Yet these remain the most popular tools of the trade when it comes to estimating costs, evaluating quotes, creating proposals, producing contracts, change management, collaborating and controlling costs.

This should not be a surprise, given that today’s construction company leaders have grown up with spreadsheets and Word documents. They can be powerful tools for individuals or very small teams, but they are not well suited to support enterprise workflows. They are disconnected from other systems and wholly inadequate to scale construction companies managing growing portfolios of work in progress. Disconnected and disparate systems compromise situational awareness. They can leave a team extremely vulnerable and without access to critical information about the work in progress.

In this regard, modern construction software has the potential to deliver a positive transformational impact on a business, and it warrants careful consideration by a team. Selecting and onboarding the right solution is existential and will require time and resources to get right. Below is to provide a framework and orientation for construction business leaders as they endeavor to select and implement technology solutions for their organizations and to avoid mistakes that might result in operational deficiencies or compromise performance.

Selecting Construction Software

Compared to legacy software, modern cloud solutions are much easier to acquire and deploy. And because they are often continually updated, they are far less susceptible to obsolescence. This is important to keep in mind as you evaluate technology solutions. We’ve grown accustomed to evaluating competing products by diligently reviewing lengthy lists of features. It’s still necessary to evaluate features, but keep in mind that software providers are regularly closing feature gaps. As you compare systems, it is important to understand when such gaps will be closed, and how new features will be prioritized and added.

Here are five high-level evaluation criteria for a team to consider as they go about choosing the best overall solution for an organization.

  • Alignment: In addition to the features a team needs right now, it is just as important to consider how the team aligns with the prospective solution providers. Selecting modern technology solutions is more analogous to hiring a new employee than purchasing an asset. The relationship forged with the technology provider is vital for the successful use of their solution. Involving all key members of the team in the selection process is the only way to gauge chemistry and rapport with prospective technology providers. How well does the team relate to the people who will support the solution? Do they share values and truly understand the business? These are important questions to consider during the selection process.
  • Platform versus point solutions: The key benefit of a platform solution is broad functionality in a single solution. Point solutions, on the other hand, are designed to solve narrower sets of requirements, but they sometimes have more robust features when compared to platform options. The disadvantage of point solutions is that it may not be possible to integrate them with other systems supporting the business. Data kept in those solutions may be siloed and inaccessible by other systems and workflows.
  • Suitability: Platforms are generally more vertically specialized than point solutions. Platform providers should tell you right away if they are built for companies like yours. Point solution providers will want to identify exactly how the company will use their software for a particular workflow. The needs of a custom residential home builder are quite different from those of a commercial general contractor. There are likely systems built specifically for the work teams regularly perform. Technology providers are just as interested in ensuring the business is a good fit for what they offer, so the suitability of a particular solution is an urgent goal for the contractor and the prospective technology provider.
  • Compatibility: Compatibility is a measure of how a potential solution will work with the other existing or future systems. Existing infrastructure and business processes, manual or automated, may be replaced or complemented by new technology. A complete understanding of how these systems will be integrated must be understood before final selection. Contractors can expect the potential solution provider to describe in clear and certain terms how an integration will perform. In most cases, technology vendors have collaborated closely to ensure their integrations deliver the results needed and expected.
  • Scalability: Scalability is a measure of how a potential solution can support a company’s growth (or contraction) over time. It’s important, however, to be realistic and not overcommit on features and functionality the team won’t need or use for years to come. Therefore, it’s more prudent to focus on the functionality the team can adopt and use right now. Unused features and computational capacity are perishable commodities.
Preparing the Team for Onboarding

Contractors can’t afford to stop or slow their business while their teams implement new software. Selection of the right platform or point solution and effective onboarding ensures continuity during adoption and implementation and ensures the team realizes the full benefit of the new software.

Be open with the team about objectives and the reasons for the decision to acquire new software—obsolescence of existing systems or inability to support your scale, or automation of manual tasks (for better service, lower risk, cost reduction, quality of life, etc.).

Explicitly ask for everyone’s commitment to the success of the implementation, and establish a management structure to govern the process. The leadership of an executive sponsor and an onboarding manager are critical, and they may involve additional cross-functional team members to set priorities, overcome obstacles and adjust the direction of the onboarding process as needed.

  • Executive sponsor: Ideally, the person designated as the executive sponsor is the highest level leader in the organization who can direct resources to ensure the success of the onboarding effort. This executive leader must have a deep understanding of the organization and its culture, and be prepared to inspire commitment and articulate the vision for the implementation and lead through the inevitable challenges the team will encounter.
  • Onboarding manager: Designate someone on the team to be the onboarding manager for implementation. For larger organizations, this may require creating a full project management office (PMO), involving more than one person to manage the implementation. The onboarding manager or PMO will be responsible for the scope, schedule, coordination and metrics around executing this effort. If necessary, they will get involved with project-related tasks and follow up on project activities through completion and keeping the team focused on critical goals and objectives.
  • Start with a plan: Contractors know the success of any project is good planning. The team should have a plan for selection and onboarding, and the technology provider can assist the team in developing this plan. During the selection process, ask the provider about their ability to support onboarding and the development of key milestones to ensure the contractor achieves their key objectives.

The plan should also address the following critical tasks:

  1. Evaluation and selection;
  2. Kickoff;
  3. Initial configuration complete;
  4. System integration;
  5. User and administrator training;
  6. Commissioning; and
  7. Performance assessment.

Many construction organizations struggle with legacy technology and remain overly reliant on spreadsheets and word documents. At the same time, modern, purpose-built technology solutions have become standard “means and methods” for the business of construction. No system will be perfect, and it’s unlikely a contractor will find a solution that meets every one of its expectations. However, selecting the right solution can have an immediate positive impact on productivity and profitability and will help improve the effectiveness of the company’s people and establish foundational infrastructure for the long-term future of the construction business.


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