3 Outdated Project Management Practices That are Derailing Construction Projects

The situation is easy to understand: Construction firms are facing a crisis when it comes to project management. If you run a construction organization, chances are that you’re used to spending an inordinate amount of time handling project management tasks and issues.

At the most basic level, the unpredictability in construction makes project visibility, forecasting and managing changes difficult most of the time. But these are just the entry points to the frustration facing construction firms. The even bigger issue may be—simply—a lack of project management talent.

The scale of the project management talent gap

The Project Management Institute found that the need for project management professionals across a variety of sectors is skyrocketing. Between now and 2027, the lack of project management talent could lead to a $207.9 billion loss in gross domestic product across the 11 nations analyzed in the study.

What’s more, the lack of professional project managers is expected to hobble the growth of industries around the world. The gap is most apparent in manufacturing and construction, where approximately 9.7 million project-related jobs are expected to emerge from 2017 through 2027. The next closest sector, according to the study, is information services and publishing, with the job total at 5.5 million.

The situation is dire, as evidenced by well documented studies. Construction companies can’t find the skilled project managers they need to keep up with demands. Training, succession planning and similar strategies are useful, but, at this point, it might not be enough. The solution may instead be to improve project management processes and procedures to drive efficiency and ease the workload within your organization. Instead of needing more project managers, your current experts can get more done if they’re empowered with the right tools.

Of course, updating legacy project management procedures isn’t always easy, but here’s a look at three tasks that are in desperate need of change:

1. Field collaboration

Are your project managers spending as much time on the phone or driving between sites as they are actually solving problems? It’s time to change. Mobile devices are offering construction leaders an opportunity to get the information they need wherever they are, but many builders lack the backend data and workflow management tools needed to deliver relevant data to project managers in a timely fashion.

A construction-focused enterprise resource planning system can provide the data integration, notification and alert systems needed to help project managers stay ahead of big-picture issues while they’re in the field.

2. Project implementation

Working with siloed and outdated paper-based data is preventing managers from performing adequate planning and forecasting for a project. Getting an initiative off to a good start is key to creating positive customer impressions and meeting deadlines, but it’s a huge hurdle in the industry.

A Deloitte study found that funds lost due to inefficiency in the implementation portion of a project often amount to between 30 and 40 percent of the total cost. Better controls and procedures are needed. Organizations can map their processes and workflows in an ERP system, forecast costs using reports on historic data and create a clear construction schedule quickly when managers have the information they need integrated in one place.

3. Emergency response

Construction project management isn’t just about planning and scheduling. To minimize delays, leaders must act quickly and decisively to resolve immediate problems. However, the lack of data visibility in many field settings – not to mention poor data management in the back office – leaves many project leaders to perform guesswork as the best way to respond to an issue.

ERP solutions feature dashboards, reports and data visualizations that can empower managers to gather relevant information and make decisions quickly, changing how organizations respond when something goes wrong.

Efficiency is becoming an acute need in construction project management. Embracing digital technologies, including construction-focused ERP systems with project management capabilities, can go a long way in modernizing legacy processes.

Low Productivity is Prevalent in the Global Construction Industry – But It Doesn’t Have to Be in Your Business

If you’ve been in construction for a while, you know that, as an industry, we have a productivity problem. We often deal with rework because poor design or a lack of visibility requires the inefficient repetition of tasks. We face environmental conditions and supply chain problems that slow us down when we least expect it. We even have safety, training and other staffing challenges to contend with. In construction, being productive isn’t ever simple… but—like many players in the industry—are you stuck with a yawning productivity gap?

The short answer: No. Many firms are running into completely avoidable problems because they have neglected to update their information systems to solve the visibility and communications shortcomings that undermine productivity at every turn. You can step up and solve your organization’s efficiency problems. The first thing to do is take them seriously.

Construction Productivity May Be Worse Than You Think
You’re probably aware of how quickly projects get stuck due to budget, supply and/or staffing issues, but have you thought about how these problems become additive and escalate? According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the construction industry leaves a whopping $1.6 trillion of potential revenue on the table as a direct result of low productivity.

According to the research firm, the global construction sector represents almost $10 trillion in annual spend. Think about that. Collectively, construction firms are foregoing 16 cents of revenue for every dollar spent due to sub-optimal productivity. And although it’s an industry-wide problem, you can’t afford to sit back and conclude that there’s nothing you can do about it.

The simple reality is that other industries that have faced similar productivity challenges have pushed through and found success. Take manufacturing. Lean operations, connected devices, big data, automation and just-in-time supply chain management have all become prevalent in global manufacturing operations. In construction, many organizations are still relying almost exclusively on paper-and-pen recordkeeping, spreadsheets and basic accounting software to manage projects.

McKinsey explained that the construction industry has fallen behind when it comes to deploying and using digital technologies. In terms of digital maturity, the construction sector is 2nd-worst among U.S. industries and dead last in Europe.

However, it isn’t too late to begin closing the gap. Launch—or accelerate—your digital journey… it’s the only way to make meaningful productivity improvements a reality. Here’s how:

Put In Place a Tailored ERP System
Most enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can be delivered through the cloud, delivering price and deployment flexibility that smaller organizations can afford. You can’t coordinate operations to boost productivity when your workers are dependent on spreadsheets and paper records to get the job done. But you can when employees are all working from a central, mobile-enabled ERP that is purpose-built for construction-industry workflows.

Start By Solving Specific Problems, and Work Your Way Out
Deploying a complete ERP system can transform your business, but it may be a lot to chew in one bite. By honing in on a single, critical issue, you can focus your productivity efforts and measure your gains. For example, a Quality.org report explained that embracing digital technologies helps firms eliminate rework. The improved communication and collaboration ends up paying for the investment by ensuring that tasks are completed correctly the first time, preventing duplicative efforts, compressing timeframes and reducing risks.

Unify the Office and the Field
Driving solid productivity gains in construction is often a matter of effective synchronization between the office and the field:

  • Accounting needs invoices in a timely matter to collect bills in time to order products for future projects on schedule.
  • Project managers need real-time inventory updates so they can tweak work orders relative to changes in supply availability.
  • Engineers depend on quick notifications of design problems that arise in the field to adjust plans before productivity slows.
  • Executives need complete data related to challenges when they arise so they can make well-informed decisions quickly and effectively.

You can’t meet all of these needs if your field staff and your office-based resources aren’t working from the same source of truth. A single ERP and field operations platform breaks down barriers between headquarters, field offices and job sites, eliminating the operational obstacles that impair your ability to secure, manage and deliver multiple projects profitably.

Embracing modern digital technologies can seem overwhelming for any construction firm. For the past 40 years, CMiC has made the digital journey predictable, transparent and cost effective for hundreds of construction and capital projects firms. Our ERP platform is architected specifically for these industries, minimizing the amount of customization, management and maintenance you’ll need to take on as you tackle your productivity challenges and realize your true potential.

 

The Future of Cloud Computing and What It Means for Construction

Cloud technology has become an essential differentiator for many of the construction industry’s top firms, and it’s no wonder: cloud solutions offer powerful flexibility when it comes to data storage and analysis. Specifically, the cloud makes it possible for construction firms to maintain a single, reliable database that is easy to access from both the field and the office. Considering that the construction industry remains one of the least digitized sectors, firms gain a major advantage with cloud adoption.  

The benefits of cloud technology aren’t exclusive to construction, however. Across all industries, use of the cloud is widespread and on the rise, In fact, by 2020, it’s expected that cloud spending will reach an estimated $200 billion, according to IDC. Contributor Louis Columbus rounds up an assortment of recent studies in his Forbes Roundup of Cloud Computing Forecasts. He points out one particularly impressive finding from a 2017 BDO Technology Outlook Survey, which found that 74% of CFOs said cloud computing will have the most measurable impact on their business in 2017. The Internet of Things (IoT) came in a close second, with AI, 3D printing, virtual reality and blockchain technology falling far behind. While all these technologies are promising, cloud computing is proving itself the most useful across industries.  

In the construction industry, the cloud has helped firms store and manage the massive amounts of data that construction projects generate. In the past, there was no way for contractors to make use of all past and current project data. Firms typically used pen-and-paper methods to track ongoing data, which meant that any big data analysis would require massive amounts of manual data retrieval. When digitization began, data could be captured and stored, but it was often scattered throughout folders and spreadsheets. Managers and executives were basing decisions on old document versions with outdated data, and they couldn’t get a bird’s eye view of operations.

The cloud also helps construction firms avoid having to purchase expensive hardware. With on-premise server solutions, companies only have as much hardware as they pay for. Servers need to be purchased, powered, housed and maintained by internal IT, which requires a significant upfront investment and ongoing costs. It’s also possible for firms to over-purchase on hardware if their growth predictions turn out to be false. Pay-as-you-go cloud services eliminate this issue and make it possible for companies to change their storage plans as business increases or decreases. As a result, construction firms have been able to use the cloud to scale more smoothly and with less risk.

Read more about how the cloud empowers scalability.

The benefits already seen by adopters of cloud technology are only expected to continue. Serverless architecture will allow IT infrastructure to be more flexible and responsive, data security is expected to increase exponentially and advancements in IoT technology will provide businesses with new ways to make use of databases, software and networks. In the coming years as cloud technology advances, it’s expected that all businesses will have made the switch to the cloud. In other words, transitioning to the cloud is not a matter of if, but when.

Are you considering a cloud implementation? Don’t do anything before you read The Most Common Mistake in Cloud Adoption.

Choosing the Right Mobile Software for Every Member of the Team

When construction leaders are shopping for new software for their company, they’re not just buying for one department because they’re buying for every department. That means that all team members, from on-site workers to executives, need to be satisfied with this increasingly necessary piece of technology.

When it comes to mobile construction management apps in particular, choosing an app that will improve the day-to-day lives of your team and the firm overall is crucial. And, because the quality of construction apps varies significantly, it’s up to construction leaders to find a solution that improves upon every aspect of construction management.

Some standalone mobile apps may be inexpensive and easy to implement, but because their functionality is limited and not deployed as part of a standalone solution to manage all aspects of a firm’s project delivery operations, they must be integrated into a larger system of multiple applications. Bridging together several mobile applications can prevent real-time data from getting to the right people and this can make the lives of key players much more difficult. To make sure that a mobile solution is right for your team, it’s important to look at the app from their perspective, considering every team member when assessing your options.

One way to make the lives of all your employees easier is to invest in a complete construction ERP software platform that also includes mobile functionality. Let’s explore how key team members will benefit from choosing a single database solution.

Subcontractor

Even when you pick a great subcontractor with the proper qualifications and a reputation for success, mistakes still happen in the field. Your electrician may have several worksites to visit in a single day and as a result, arrives overworked and behind schedule. An advanced mobile solution can maximize your subcontractors’ efficiency and make the most of their time — on and off the job site. Here’s how:

  1. Reducing Paperwork: Replacing paperwork with a mobile platform eliminates the need for subcontractors to collect and sort through countless documents. With access to your firm’s ERP platform, there’s no need to collect physical documents, schedules or blueprints from the office in between jobs. Less paperwork means they have more time to focus on getting the job done.
  2. Eliminating Confusion: Avoid costly errors that arise when your accountants try to read the scribbles a carpenter has left for them. A “1” that looks like a “7” can create serious confusion down the line.
  3. Mobilizing your Schedule: Offer subcontractors mobile schedules and checklists all within a single platform. Make it easy for workers in the field to check-in to the job site and mark tasks as completed through their smartphone. They’ll always know the next task at hand, and stakeholders will know exactly when each task is complete.
  4. Standardize Reports: Collect standard reports through a mobile app to keep track of the work.

Project Manager

Project managers deal with many moving parts every day, especially in large firms. They plan budgets, negotiate estimates, create schedules and report back to the client. Seasoned project managers spend years perfecting their management style, but no strategy can replace the efficiency of a unified mobile platform. Here’s how mobile ERP software improves construction project management:     

  1. Oversee Operations from Anywhere: When mobile apps are part of a single database solution, project managers can manage construction teams from anywhere. Applications like CMiC Field, download project information locally onto the mobiles device, allowing PMs to monitor, track and modify essential project data. Any changes made or new information added will be automatically synched with the database. And, if there’s no internet connection, offline changes are saved and synched with the database when the device is back online.  
  2. Receive Photos from the Jobsite: When something goes wrong on the job site, project managers want to know about it. Advanced mobile tools allow for problems to be reported in real time. Workers can easily send pictures so that project managers and stakeholders can see the challenges for themselves.  
  3. Customize Reports: Stakeholders must be informed and may need to approve of certain details before operations can continue. To avoid potential bottlenecks, mobile solutions offer tools to automatically populate reports in a variety of formats. CMiC’s platform, for example, is built with a workflow engine to quickly distribute data and gather approvals, with notifications to keep things moving forward.

Looking for more project management wisdom? Check out our blog on the 5 Traits of Successful Project Managers.

Executive

Some executives are more concerned than others when it comes to the nitty-gritty details, but all executives need to be kept in the loop. Mobile technology makes it possible to provide the most up-to-date snapshots so that executives can quickly get all the information they need. Even high-level executives can benefit greatly from knowing that day-to-day operations are going off without a hitch. And if issues are coming up, they can see who’s accountable and isolate the problem.

  1. Computerized Reporting: With all communications happening inside a single mobile platform, it becomes easy for executives to assess project status at a moment’s notice. You can know instantly when things are behind schedule or over budget.  
  2. Store Everything: Store the details of your firm’s mobile interactions, including communications and document versions. Advanced software will even track which changes and approvals were made as a document is passed around. That way you can keep everyone accountable and protect yourself in the event of a legal dispute.
  3. Trust the Data: With CMiC Field in particular, data is always extremely reliable and up to date. That’s because CMiC single database system never copies and distributes numerous versions of the same document. What you see will always be a reliable “master” version with markups and a full document history attached.

Owner

Project owners have the most to lose and are often the least involved in the project — especially when a firm is using legacy software. ERP systems with mobile apps built in allow owners to check in on day-to-day operations quickly and easily.

  1. Stay in the Loop: Owners are often too busy to keep tabs on every detail of their project. Mobile software makes it easy for PMs to send out reports (in a variety of formats) with the click of a button — all based on real-time data.  
  2. Eliminate Human Error: People make mistakes, but a trusted construction firm with smart mobile ERP can significantly reduce human error when it comes to data entry and data management. Intelligent platforms like CMiC’s ERP software automatically pull data from the relevant documents and auto-populate new forms so that the numbers are always correct.  
  3. Quickly Fill Change Orders: A solid mobile platform makes it easy to change directions on a dime. When a client makes a change, owners can easily get in touch project managers so that the change is implemented ASAP.

If you want to learn more about how ERP mobile technology can transform operations, 3 Ways Top Contractors Lose Clients—And How Mobile Can Help is a must-read!

4 Preventable Reasons Construction Projects Miss their Deadline

With the natural complexity of construction projects, it’s no wonder the construction industry is notorious for its costly delays. Unexpected events come in all shapes and sizes, from last-minute change orders and scheduling issues to weather delays. And when operations come to a grinding halt, there’s a good chance that cost overruns are just around the corner. 

Construction leaders understand common job site challenges all too well, but they may be surprised to learn how much power they have in preventing potential delays before they happen. Here are 4 easily avoidable mistakes that push projects past their deadlines.   

1. Poor Estimates

Cost estimators have a tough job: they manage multiple projects and work long hours to meet tight review deadlines. When trying to complete high-quality, accurate estimates under a time crunch, it’s easy to make mistakes or miss steps in the process. Unfortunately, overlooking crucial information can threaten the outcome of a project. And if the mistake isn’t recognized until halfway through the project, the project may be significantly delayed or abandoned altogether.  

To make matters worse, every construction project comes with its own set of unique variables. Cost factors for one project may not apply to another, no matter how similar the two projects are. This makes it difficult to base estimates solely on past projects or cost estimating guides. The best way to avoid unexpected costs that could throw off the estimate is to research the individual factors of a project and gather information from other team members. When estimating labour costs, for example, you can reduce the margin of error by having a quick meeting with a seasoned foreperson. They will be able to double-check the projections and help make adjustments where necessary.  

Creating an accurate and workable project estimate is the foundation of delivering a project on-time, so make sure that you end each project with a post-mortem to compare estimates and final costs. This will help your firm develop ways to improve the estimate process. 

 2. Scope Creep

A strong estimate sets out a clear vision for the project ahead, but any changes made during the life of the project can get messy quick. Scope creep can happen if stakeholders aren’t on the same page when it comes to project goals, clients change their minds about project details or new information arises that affects the project plan.  

Whatever the cause, scope creep can place construction managers in a tight situation. Initial budgets are strained and become more difficult to manage. Team members may be forced to conduct costly re-work, working overtime to make the necessary changes while keeping to the schedule. Even profit margins suffer, as leaders are forced to revisit estimates and make revisions that will keep their clients happy.  

While scope creep is a common phenomenon, it is by no means a foregone conclusion. To keep a close eye on budgets and project specifications, construction firms must involve stakeholders early in the planning process and keep them in the loop throughout the duration of the project. The best way to make sure everyone is on the same page is to invest in project management software that facilitates strong communications and collaboration.  

To drastically lower the impacts of scope changes, get stakeholders involved early and keep them in the loop. An ERP platform with a single database makes it easy for stakeholders to view relevant milestones and data with apps that present the information in intuitive analytics dashboards. In addition, firms can invest in mobile technology, which allows for on-site workers to upload data to the ERP system in real-time.  

With the lines of communication open and operations streamlined, it’s much easier for construction teams to create change management strategies that are sure to prevent scope creep.  

3. Stunted Decision Making

The last thing any project manager wants is to keep workers waiting around on the job site. But when approvals are needed before a team can move forward, delays in executive decision-making waste time and money. To make confident decisions in a timely manner, leaders need to be well informed and they must be able to contact stakeholders and suppliers at a moment’s notice. A shared construction software platform with a single database is the best solution for empowering decision making. With advanced ERP platforms, leaders can access real-time information, send stakeholder reports using standard templates and coordinate with other decision makers on a single platform.   

 4. Poor Visibility & Collaboration

Balancing the day-to-day job site management with big picture key performance indicators can be incredibly challenging for project managers and construction leaders. When the field and office are disconnected, project managers and executives can’t coordinate data.  

Without access to project-level and enterprise-level key performance indicators, project managers can’t make the adjustments necessary to ensure that a project remains profitable. Similarly, poor visibility into progress, efficiency and productivity on the worksite prevents executives from standardizing protocol or streamlining operations.  

Mobile apps that are part of a larger ERP system are the best way to connect the field and office. An advanced mobile app can allow workers in the field to fill out daily checklists or send pictures of equipment malfunctions and other material issues. Leaders can address job site problems and project managers can get a bird’s eye view of the project with analytics dashboards.  

A modern approach to construction has changed the way we view project delays. With a balanced combination of traditional expertise and advanced software, construction leaders are gaining control over challenges that were once simply taken for granted. 

Looking for more info? Find out how lean efficiency can transform your operation today.  

5 Traits of Successful Construction Project Managers

Construction project managers carry a lot of weight on their shoulders. While there are many leaders and stakeholders on the team, it ultimately falls on project managers to make sure the job gets done while meeting strict project specifications and constraints. In “Simplified Project Management for Construction Practitioners,” Dr. Tarek Hegazy explains that every construction PM has three main objectives:  

  • Deliver the project on time 
  • Keep it under budget 
  • Maintain a high-level of quality 

Easier said than done. To meet these three goals, project managers use a variety of tactics, developing vastly different management styles. For example, some PMs have learned through on-the-job experience, while others have formal training. There are PMs that create a basic schedule and handle issues and challenges on the fly, and some that are married to a systematic approach to planning, scheduling and execution.  

Whatever your style, it’s important to stay up-to-date about the best practices that have helped PMs create better plans and more accurate forecasts. Here are five traits that all successful project managers have in common: 

1. They Anticipate the Future  

One of the most important elements of project management is foresight, and nowhere is foresight more important than with resource planning. The most successful PMs use resource-based scheduling to make sure that they incorporate employee and equipment availability into their project planning process. 

To merge resources and scheduling, PMs need strong software that allows them to anticipate project needs. CMiC’s Resource Planning tool, for example, combines three pillars of data and presents that data in dashboards that give PMs at-a-glance insights, such as: 

  • Employee and payroll information 
  • Job costing  
  • Project schedules and timelines 

If for instance, a PM needs a site foreman with certain certifications, they can search within the Resource Planning tool for employees that meet these requirements. The tool pulls information about employees from payroll and HR such as, where they live, their project history, their hourly rate and the markup on their billable hours.  PMs can check how much it will cost to have that employee on site, and by viewing a visual heat map, they can see if the employees that meet their search criteria are available for a job. 

Finally, the Resource Planning tool is also connected to the Opportunity Management tool. This means that teams can look ahead at resource availability during the opportunity phase before they bid on a project. With advanced notice, companies can anticipate staffing shortages or overages and make the necessary adjustments for keeping a project on-schedule and running smoothly. 

2. They Stay on (or Under) Budget

Managing construction costs all comes down to using the right tools, and the best PMs leverage technology to make sure that every aspect of financial management is transparent. This means using a software platform that provides team members with accurate, real-time financial data.  

Project managers must conduct regular budget reviews and look at financial information from multiple vantage points. For this to happen, they need regular access to data from the accounting department. And this works both ways: the accounting department relies on regular financial updates from the project manager. For example, if a PM receives a change order, they need to submit that information to accounting who adjusts the budget accordingly.  

When construction firms use completely different software systems for accounting and project management, they’re forced to manually enter project data into multiple programs. Unfortunately, manual entry increases the likelihood of human error and conflicting data. If either the project manager or the in-office financial team is working off inaccurate information, there will be discrepancies between financial reports.  

The best way to keep stakeholders on the same financial page is with a unified construction software platform. With unified software, all the applications within the system are connected to one database. So, while the accounting department and the project manager are using different applications for daily tasks, these applications communicate with one another and auto-populate real-time financial data.  

3. They Make Communication Their #1 Priority

Construction is a highly collaborative industry and project managers act as the hub for communication and teamwork. Project managers are tasked with funneling the right information to the right people, facilitating discussions and helping stakeholders make crucial decisions. In a fast-paced world where getting everyone in the same room for in-person meetings is nearly impossible, the only way for PMs to manage communication is with technology. 

Armed with advanced construction software, project managers can be effective communicators. They can send and receive RFIs in real time, track all project-related communications and create regular stakeholder reports quickly and easily. Most importantly, with mobile tools, they can manage these tasks from their smartphone or mobile device.  

Construction software also helps PMs tailor their communication style by audience. The project schedule, for example, needs to be in different formats depending on who’s using it. Executives may want to see the critical path, while work crews will need simple task list with deadlines. With the right technological tools, project managers can adapt information for different audiences and provide project views that are relevant to individual roles.   

4. They Set High Standards for Quality Control

Project managers that push their team to continually improve their skills and reach for greater levels of craftsmanship tend to be the most sought after by construction firms. Not only does setting high expectations ensure that the final product exceeds stakeholder expectations, it also motivates employees to take pride in what they do.  

The construction industry has been slow to digitize the quality control process. Many firms are still using pen and paper to check-over their work: they print out QC sheets, check off the items and scan the sheet when they’re back at the office. This process wastes time and makes archiving the information difficult. 

On the other hand, companies that use quality control applications are setting their PMs up to do their best work. With construction software, project managers can create quality control checklists and use mobile devices to complete daily QC checks. For example, during the concrete pouring phase, they can check and log whether a core sample has been tested, what the temperature was when the concrete was poured and how long the concrete was left to cure.  

What’s more, with unified software solutions all the QC data is stored in a central database that team members across the organization can access easily. When PMs spot any deficient items, they can take a photo and attach it to an issue report that’s emailed to the contractor. Not only does recording the issue create a paper trail for legal purposes, it allows PMs to monitor the status of repairs or corrections. 

5. They Use Technology to Monitor the Job Site Like a Hawk

Skilled project managers are multi-taskers, keeping their eye on the big picture while also monitoring the minute details of day-to-day operations. They understand that it’s their job to make sure employees are adhering to quality standards and staying on-track.  

To keep a close watch on work crews, some PMs spend a significant amount of time on the job site so that they can monitor progress, quality and productivity with their own eyes. Sometimes, being physically on-site is necessary, but project managers must also be able to track day-to-day job site activity remotely. 

With software like CMiC Field, project managers can check in on their team with their mobile device. Whether it’s a quick snapshot of the project progress or a more detailed look at the work completed, mobile construction software lets project managers lead their team whether they’re on site or not.  

 

To learn more about how technology is helping construction project managers keep up in this highly competitive industry, check out How Construction Software Has Reinvented Project Management.

The ERP Approach to Construction Management

Enterprise resource management (ERP) is a method for managing everything that’s involved in delivering a product to the customer. The approach uses unified software – software that’s connected to a single database – to increase the flow of data between departments and create more opportunities for automating systems and processes. By connecting all departments together, companies experience better communication and easier collaboration. ERP was first used in the manufacturing sector in the 1990s, but the approach quickly spread to nearly all other industries including health care, education, insurance and finance.

ERP & the Construction Industry

Within the construction industry, however, companies have been slower to adopt the ERP approach. Many firms base their software decisions on the needs of individual departments instead of looking at the entire organization. The ad hoc approach to business and IT management often results in construction firms buying many apps from different third-party vendors. With too many apps, companies experience a lack of data sharing, inefficient communication and an uneven use of technology and automation across the organization.

Construction firms that have invested in ERP software, on the other hand, have streamlined their processes, removed data silos and increased the flow of information between departments. Companies using a construction ERP platform can access tools within three main categories:

  • Planning: preparing to begin a construction project
  • Execution: managing everything that goes into completing a construction project
  • Finance: controlling cost, mitigating financial risk and making financial forecasts

Unification with ERP Software

The ERP approach to construction management uses software to bring all operations under the same roof, but not all ERP systems provide the same level of unification. Some use a combination of different products that have been packaged together into one software solution. Usually, these products include third-party applications that have been acquired by the ERP company that owns the entire system.

When an ERP platform is a collection of third-party applications, it can still impede the flow of data across the company and create data silos. And, if the components are all made by different developers, the interface, user experience and functionality of the apps will be different. Not only does this complicate employee training, it also makes managing day-to-day operations more time consuming. Employees may have to log in separately to each application and keep six different windows open on their desktop just to do their job.

In contrast, ERP software that has been organically produced by a single software developer comes with multiple applications that are all connected to one database. This unified database, which facilitates company-wide data sharing, is the core feature of CMiC’s construction software. With data freely flowing from department to department, productivity and efficiency increases exponentially. (While the possibility/risk of double data entry is eliminated.)

Another advantage of ERP software is that you can create a custom solution that includes all the tools your company needs, without paying for extras you won’t use. Some ERP software companies also allow for the integration of third-party apps. CMiC, for example, has several integrations that increase the functionality we offer our clients.

To give you a better idea of how ERP applications and tools help construction executives streamline operations, we’ve created a list of some of the ways ERP systems assist in construction planning, execution and finance.

Planning

1. Finding & Winning Customers

Opportunity management tools help construction companies manage customer relationships and identify potential projects. Companies can also increase their chances of winning projects by tracking sales performance, standardizing successful sales techniques and ensuring repeat business.

2. Receiving & Submitting Bids

Bid management software allows construction firms to track and analyze their bids. They can also integrate project estimates to keep track of the changes made across the estimating process. And when it comes to evaluating vendors, they can define exclusions and inclusions, and automate the selection process.

3. Planning Ahead

During the planning process, project managers must look ahead at company-wide resources so that they can effectively plan the project schedule. With a project resource tool like CMiC’s dynamic timeline, PMs can view a timeline of resources across the entire organization. If they need someone with a specific set of skills, they can see what individuals are available at the times they need them.

Execution

1. Keeping the Project on Track

Construction project management applications that are part of a unified software solution use data from all areas of the organization to make day-to-day job site management easier.

Whether they’re on-site or in the office, project managers can access a set of tools to:

  • Record and monitor team communications
  • Track and monitor expenses to keep costs in check
  • Organize and manage sub-contractors
  • Send and receive RFIs
  • Provide stakeholders with regular project updates and reports
  • Manage change order requests
  • Oversee multiple job sites remotely
  • Store, access and send project documents easily

2. Collaborating with Project Stakeholders

Keeping stakeholders in the loop is an important part of managing a construction project, however, it’s also time consuming. With construction ERP, project managers can automate their reporting procedures so that they can send reports quickly and easily — right from their mobile device. And with CMiC’s platform, team members have many options for creating RFIs. They can use desktop apps, their mobile devices or they can send an email using CMiC I/O, and the ERP software will automatically keep track of any information contained in the email.

3. Getting the Big Picture with Analytics

When analyzing data, we turn into Goldilocks. There’s either too much data or not enough, and we never seem to find the sweet spot. Here’s why: a small amount of data is easy to access and report on, but this quick overview rarely gives us all the information we need. Deep data dives, on the other hand, are thorough, but they’re also time consuming.

Project leaders are looking for the best of both worlds: specific, comprehensive data that can be quickly compiled into a big-picture report.

With ERP software, key players can create polished, accurate reports and provide a bird’s-eye view to project stakeholders. Monitoring all the nitty-gritty details – like ongoing transactions, budget fluctuations and last-minute change orders – is easy with custom dashboards use that provide real-time project overviews.

Finances

1. Controlling Cost

Your accounting system is the foundation of your business and financial controls are crucial to success. CMiC offers a set of accounting tools that you can integrate with your current billing system, including:

  • Shareable analytics
  • Audit trails
  • Past invoices and transactions
  • Ability to automate regular transactions

2. Managing People

With a master database, you can combine all employee information – profiles, time cards, payroll and administrative data – and easily manage your team and monitor labour requirements.

3. Protecting Your Assets

When it comes to asset management, timing is everything. CMiC software uses cloud technology so that all data can be accessed in real-time, which means you can monitor assets like a hawk.  The results:

  • Improved inventory management
  • Fast and transparent purchasing
  • Tighter compliance control

4. Managing Risk

Corporate risk management tools protect against risk by tracking compliance with state, national and international regulations. For example, you can track and create audit trails in a central database to make sure you’re following the accounting rules of specific locations.

ERP software is the only way to create a single source of truth – something that will help you make stronger business management decisions. CMiC’s platform produces faster, more accurate results in the office and the field. To learn more about the difference between stand-alone and unified construction software, download our latest e-book today!

 

Why a Quick Software Transition is NOT the Answer

We’re living in an age where technology has disrupted nearly every part of our lives. Digital transformation is everywhere and every company is a now a software company. But even though much of the world is rapidly advancing, the construction industry has been slow to embrace new technology — a fact that tech critics like to point out again and again.

This culture of technology puts do-or-die pressure on construction executives to make big changes, fast. And while digital transformation is an important part of doing business, urgency isn’t always a good thing. When executives are under a transformation time-crunch, they end up buying small bits of software to avoid disturbing the whole system. What they don’t realize is that this approach prevents serious, ground-up change. Their newly added tech may provide some marginal improvements, but it won’t address deeper platform issues and can end up causing more problems than it fixes.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the pitfalls of a half-baked digital transition.

Compatibility Issues

Let’s say you’re looking for a new project management application. You’re happy with the software that’s running other areas of operations, but you’d like a PM app that will work on mobile devices. You take a couple of weeks to research your options and choose one that’s inexpensive and easy to use.

After a few weeks of using the app, your simple solution has only created headaches. The new project management app isn’t compatible with your other software, so your PMs have to manually enter data into two separate platforms. Whenever project managers get a change order, for example, they must input the new information into the financial software separately.

On the surface, this scenario may seem only a little annoying. But in practice, it can be disastrous. If you take the addition of one simple step and multiply it across dozens of operations, employees and projects, your easy solution could cost you huge amounts of time and money.

Data Silos

Data silos are databases that aren’t connected and can’t share information — instead, they trap chunks of data within a closed system. Having individual apps that aren’t talking to one another creates data silos.

As we saw in the example above, having your financial data stored separately from your project management data can be a pain. Not only does it require manual entry, it also compromises data accuracy. This is because all manual data entry is susceptible to human error.

Similarly, data silos can cause conflicting data. If this app says one thing and that app says another, which one do you trust for accurate, up-to-date information? Problems with accuracy and duplication only increase as you add new apps to the system. Over time, your project management and financial systems can grow further apart, increasing data complexity and wasting time.

Security Blind Spots

When considering a construction software change, many  owners and reps feel they have just two options:

  1. Find multiple apps to fix specific challenges without disrupting operations.
  2. Leave legacy software systems in place and keep everything running business-as-usual.

Both these options leave construction companies open to serious security threats. If you choose multiple apps, it will increase your risk of a cyber-attack. That’s because the more vendors you have, the more points of entry hackers have into your organization. If you stay with your legacy software, on the other hand, you’re still vulnerable. Regular security updates aren’t released for legacy software, meaning that hackers can find easy ways of accessing your data.

The Solution

Luckily, there is a third option. Unified construction software limits points of security risk, eliminates data silos and doesn’t rely on third-party integrations to function. It may take longer to implement, but unified solutions streamline operations into a single platform and offer a broad range of functionality and controls. They also increase transparency between departments and offer quick access to all relevant information in a single place.

To access these benefits, construction CEOs must invest in powerful software and a long-term strategy. A thorough transition can serve as the groundwork for major improvements to current and future operations. That’s why — contrary to popular belief — a more involved implementation process is worth it in the long run.

For a truly successful transition, consider your firm’s future needs as well as current challenges. To see the true benefits of a digital transformation for yourself, check out our case study on North America’s leading construction manager, Govan Brown.

7 Tips for Developing a Mobile Strategy

The best executives know how to get more for less. They carefully manage workers, consultants and software to maximize productivity across departments. They don’t let a perfectly capable ERP system waste away in the back office. Instead, they develop a mobile strategy that encourages on-site employees to utilize apps that bridge the gap between the job site and the office.

Encouraging bring-your-own-device job sites increases collaboration. And with advanced mobile construction software, there’s no reason for workers to be out of touch with team members and project stakeholders. But how do you build mobile into your team’s workflow? Here are 7 tips for developing your mobile strategy:

1. Start with Mobile-Ready ERP

Take a good look at your current ERP solution. Is it capable of advanced mobile functionality? Ensure a smooth transition by finding an integrated platform that connects desktop and mobile devices within a single database.

2. Choose Industry Specific

Generalized ERP software will waste more time than it saves. Apps that aren’t designed for construction job sites force workers to sort through unnecessary features to find the tool they need. Industry-specific software, however, provides only the functions relevant to worksite challenges.

3. Establish BYOD Policy

It should be easy for users to hop on the mobile bandwagon. If the transition is painless, employees will adapt quickly to a mobile workflow. One way to ensure success: make sure your software is compatible with a variety of user devices.

4. Protect Your Data

Mobile collaboration tools must be used carefully. Digital threats and privacy hazards are far more common once you go mobile and employees being using private devices. To protect your data, choose a reliable ERP platform with strong access controls.

5. Train End Users

The mobile and desktop versions of your ERP software will each function differently. Make sure to train users on both platforms and make IT support easily-accessible. A well-trained employee is much more productive.

6. Check for Offline Sync

If your mobile construction software only works when connected to the internet, it won’t be useful. Choose software that automatically saves changes and will sync when connected to the internet again.

7. Look for App Integration

To get the most out of a mobile strategy, apps need to be integrated with the central ERP platform. This will ensure that centralized project data isn’t duplicated.

 

Still not convinced of the value of BYOD job sites? Here are 3 reasons why you should upgrade to mobile software.