We’re back with part 3 in our series on signs that your ERP system doesn’t have what you need. In this edition, we’ll discuss how budgeting and forecasting shortcomings can limit your growth and highlight ways that an ERP solution that isn’t up to the task of supporting your operations will reveal itself.
Budgeting and Forecasting Problems are Entrenched In Construction
Many experts in the construction sector believe that budget overages are just part of the job. When discussing a commercial project that failed to control costs, one project leader told Stuff Limited, a New Zealand-based publication, that shifting economic circumstances and general unpredictability can easily cause budgets to escalate. As a result, forecasting is more of an art than a science.
A project management expert countered, telling the news source that poor budget preparation and forecasting is often the result of inadequate planning. In many cases, construction firms promote skilled workers from on-site jobs to project leadership, creating a potential skills deficit.
Who is right? It may be a little bit of both. While project management expertise can go a long way in addressing budgeting and forecasting challenges, the reality is that construction efforts do naturally involve a degree of unpredictability. In the end, the key to success is being able to use historic project data and timely information from across the organization to create a more accurate forecast of expenses. From there, effective communications that leverage a single repository of enterprise data—but that is shared across the organization—can ensure that budgets remain up to date at all times, helping teams stay on top of cost variances and their impact on the overall financial position of each job.
Solving the Budget Visibility Issue
A Healthcare Facilities Today report explained that digital technologies are helping construction firms get better at daily reporting and budget management. In particular, cloud services are empowering workers in the field to easily connect with the office and keep projects on target.
These technologies are great, but they are effective only if they mesh well with your ERP system. You can’t control costs in ‘near time’ if your project management apps don’t exchange data seamlessly and bi-directionally with your ERP setup. To improve budget and forecast preparation, many construction companies choose to undertake costly—and sometimes risky—integrations of back office and field systems.
At CMiC, we take a different approach. Our ERP platform has a modular architecture with components that are purpose-built for construction. Specifically, we offer a comprehensive project management & administration suite built on the same platform—and database—as modules that handle your project controls as well as all of your financials—budgeting, forecasting and cost tracking.
The result? This fully featured, construction-specific approach to ERP lets users gather all the data they need effortlessly. In turn, this sets the stage for budgeting and cost forecasting that delivers unsurpassed levels of speed and accuracy, while enhancing decision-making at all levels of the organization.
If your projects are being held back by a chronic lack of budget transparency and forecasting reliability, then it’s time for a new approach. Having helped hundreds of construction firms with their accounting, cost management and project controls for the past few decades, CMiC can help – contact us to learn how. And … don’t forget to check in next week for part 4 in our series, which will focus on the inefficiencies, risks and missed opportunities caused by enterprise systems that fail to deliver complete project visibility.
We’ve all been there. You’re trying to budget a project only to have one thing after another force you to change your plans.
You could find unexpected rock formations underground, messing with your strategy for the foundation. A small labor dispute a few states over could disrupt your lumber supply chain, forcing you to shift your bill of materials. You might be hit by an unexpected safety inspection, slowing work for a few days and forcing you to either hire more staff or pay for overtime to compensate. When you’re in the construction industry, you’re used to dealing with unpredictability, but you can get uncertainty under control. What you need is an enterprise resource planning solution built for the specific needs of builders.
If you’re a general contractor, the problem is simple: Projects have so many moving parts that any small change has a far-reaching effect on your spending. A simple roof repair could escalate because tearing up the old shingles reveals a larger structural issue, for example. Suddenly, the number of work hours in a project goes up, the bill of materials increases and you need to update the budget. Again.
In most cases, general contractors have had to deal with broad guidelines during budget forecasting. However, new technologies are available. Now, there are opportunities for precision and coordination that weren’t readily possible in the past. If a project leader goes to buy siding and the vendor raises prices, he or she can immediately update the ERP so you know about the change.
Why construction budgets tend to fail
As a small construction organization, chances are you’re running your business on a solution like QuickBooks or Quicken. If all you need to do is balance the books, that’s fine. But your growing business requires more. You need visibility into every part of a project so you can anticipate costs.
A project’s success often comes down to two big questions. Was it on time? Did you make money? If you can’t get ahead of your budget, the costs will get ahead of you. To do this, you need to get your whole team on board. CIO Magazine laid out the challenges this way:
- Evaluate the needs and desires of all stakeholders and create clear lines of communication.
- Explain the budget to the project team and provide regular updates.
- Identify the types of surprises that are likely to arise and include wiggle room in the budget.
- Evaluate the project on an ongoing basis and readjust the budget forecast accordingly.
Practically speaking, many construction companies lack the tools they need to follow this advice to its fullest. With so many moving parts depending on one another, it’s easy for project details to slip through the cracks when relying on communication between people using different technologies to manage the job. The good news is that this situation is changing. The cloud is bringing big-business functionality to firms in sectors that have long held off on major IT projects.
The budget forecasting answer has arrived
Small construction companies have avoided emphasizing IT for good reason – to focus on building things, not managing technology. The cloud lets you use advanced tech without having to take on too much overhead.
A Frost & Sullivan study found that digital transformation is beginning to hit the construction sector as organizations work to overcome challenges such as poor supply chain practices, limited automation efforts and a general lack of planning.
The research indicates that construction firms are embracing digital technologies to:
- Increase productivity.
- Use analytics reports to reduce unpredictability.
- Reduce project overruns.
- Establish visibility across platforms and processes.
- Manage large amounts data.
- Create a more collaborative workplace.
Cloud-based enterprise resource planning systems designed for the construction industry let you coordinate work across your teams based on interfaces designed specifically for the demands of building projects. This improvement in day-to-day project efforts then creates a data trail that can be used for more precise reporting on potential costs associated with any project.
ERP systems make possible the immediate transparency you need to create single sources of data truth. Inaccurate records and redundant documents are eliminated. What’s more, you can use this accurate data to generate reports that let you predict how much a typical problem will usually cost.
So let’s go back to the start. Budgets can go south fast. But if you run into a foundation problem, your workers can take photos, upload them in the system and add notes about the problem. You can use those details to look up past projects, see how much similar issues cost, and update the budget with precision. If your typical lumber vendor increases prices, you can go into the ERP to compare quotes from other providers and see if they can get you closer to your original quote. Very simply, you get the data visibility throughout the project to not only make a better prediction of costs, but also adjust budgets with precision along the way. Construction unpredictability isn’t going away, but modern ERP systems let you respond to change and optimize your budgets.
This post is part of the CMiC blog series ERP Solutions to Common Workflow Challenges. Check out the previous post in this series, where we look at how to streamline the job costing and subcontract creation process.
The process of turning an estimate into a job cost structure is complex and must be completed with total accuracy to avoid potential confusion, delayed work and lawsuits. There’s also no guarantee that the time spent on job costing will produce profit for a construction firm. Meaning, inefficient job costing workflows is extra time spent on a project before actually winning the contract.
Again, because job costing is an activity where the payoff is uncertain, leaders should seek out the best, most streamlined job costing software available. Unfortunately, there are still many firms not taking advantage of the technological advancements that have improved operations for countless firms. Let’s examine some common job costing workflow challenges and the industry-leading solutions that come with advanced ERP.
Many firms use an internal network or a generic application to store projects, drawings and other documentation. Because such applications aren’t built for the construction industry or equipped with smart data retrieval, firms must create time-consuming workarounds. For example, simple network databases don’t have the ability to transfer data across multiple documents or auto-populate new documents with project data. This means that when creating bid packages, RFIs or change orders, data must be entered manually into each new document created. Not only does additional manual entry increase the likelihood of mistakes, it also makes document version control more difficult and complex. At later stages of the project, this can make it hard to tell which version is the most up-to-date.
In contrast, advanced ERP software like CMiC’s platform is designed to streamline document management. Instead of entering the same data multiple times, CMiC users can “relate” documents to a given bid package or RFI. When creating documents for a particular project, all the relevant project data will be automatically added to the document—no manual entry, no hunting for the correct numbers.
And because every document contains a history section, anyone with the proper clearance can view all past changes. All the changes are made in a single document, which means team members don’t have to sift through multiple document versions or worry about using the wrong one.
Consolidating Estimate Data
Manually consolidating data is considered a necessary evil for many firms, especially when crucial estimate data is compiled in a cumbersome Excel document or computerized worksheet. The process can be a long one and introduces the risk of rekeying or copy-paste errors.
With CMiC, data only needs to be rekeyed once. As long as the initial input is accurate, the correct data will intelligently flow into the job structure. With the click of a button, all the estimate data trickles down to create the budget. No consolidation required.
Sorting through subcontractors effectively is crucial to creating an airtight bid. A single screen should be enough to display everything you need to know about a given subcontractor—but many non-unified systems have two separate profiles for a single subcontractor (for example, one profile in the financial system and one in the project management system). To get the full picture, you have to log in and out of two systems, repeating the process many times before making your decision.
A true single-database system that combines financial and project management operations solves this issue. ERP systems offer one source of data and one comprehensive profile for each subcontractor.
Job Cost Structure & Budget Setup
Once the estimate is created and consolidated, financial data is typically emailed to accounting. Then—especially in companies with non-unified systems—accounting enters the financial data into separate systems used for managing billings and budgets.
Single-database systems have eliminated much of this process. Users can set up their project, import an estimate and hit the “update budget” button. The system takes care of the rest by creating the cost and revenue budget, including relating the set up cost codes and types to the schedule of values. Without moving or rekeying the data, users can analyze the sub-trade estimate and get started on executing subcontracts. Instead of sending the accounting department a to-do list of rekeying tasks, the platform produces a ready-to-go job cost structure.
Summary of ERP in Estimate to Job Costing Workflows
With CMiC, users can enter their bid in the same place they store all communications and documentation. On top of that, all the data entered in the bid can be sent to subcontractors and used to create the job budget. This means that once you’re awarded the project, you can immediately start contacting subcontractors and gathering quotes without rekeying information.
Let’s go over the key advantages of ERP for creating a budget from an estimate:
- Each subcontractor has a single, comprehensive profile
- Estimate data can be imported or manually keyed-in once
- Documents only need to be uploaded once and can be related to other documents for smart data retrieval
- Advanced workflows completely automate manual tasks such as data consolidation
Looking for more ways to transform everyday workflows? Check out a previous post in this series on how to streamline the change order process.
This post is part of the CMiC blog series “ERP Solutions to Common Workflow Challenges.” Check out the previous post in this series, where we look at how to streamline the change order process.
Construction firms can be hesitant to modify their workflows. Because their procedures and processes have been successful in the past, they see no reason to make changes. But, as times change and technology advances, old strategies for construction management may not be as effective.
Job costing is a perfect example. While software technology has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade, many firms are still relying on word processing and spreadsheet applications. They manually input vendor information into spreadsheets, compile project data in a word processing document and email these documents around the office for approvals and revisions. Unfortunately, firms using this outdated workflow may not realize how much this system is costing them in productivity, efficiency and human error.
Let’s explore some of the so-called “tried-and-true” job costing methods that are in serious need of upgrades.
Submitting Prequalification Data
Before the bid process can begin, firms need to sort out potential subcontractors and vendors. It’s extremely important to hire the right vendors, and there are a variety of crucial variables to consider. Using a spreadsheet program to track and submit vendor data is not only time-consuming, but it also opens the door to mistakes.
With advanced ERP software, vendor applications are received electronically and all prequalification data is immediately saved to a central database. Vendor data is stored with other project data, so that key players and stakeholders can access relevant information anywhere, anytime. This eliminates the need to search through email chains for attached documents and prevents the problems that come with document version control.
Tracking & Approving the Project Scope
The project scope must be detailed and precise. On top of that, it must be created quickly and streamlined enough to be easily approved by numerous project collaborators. Every round of emails and approvals can create bottlenecks, especially when the project scope, exclusions and inclusions are housed in a word processing document.
On the other hand, with ERP software, scope data is intelligently extracted from the subcontract. There’s no need to key specific information into a separate document. Relevant information can be sent with the click of a button, all within the ERP system. Not to mention, the scope can be revised by project collaborators in real-time, while past versions are kept on record.
With CMiC’s platform in particular, approvals can be gathered quickly using the workflow engine, which pushes important data to relevant decision makers. It uses automatically generated emails and alerts to get all the necessary approvals in the shortest amount of time.
Creating the Subcontract
Once the bids have been negotiated, analyzed and awarded, it’s time to get to work on the subcontract. Unfortunately, firms working with older systems may spend time manually copying line items and scheduling data from the bid package to the subcontract.
Construction ERP systems, on the other hand, intelligently store project data from phase to phase. This eliminates the need to retype line items into the subcontract because all the relevant data comes automatically from the bid package. Every time you make a change, that change will be automatically reflected in relevant documents. For example, when you create a subcontract in the CMiC platform, you’ve already impacted your budget.
On top of that, ERP systems can track and validate certain values to cut down on human error. This means, for example, the system can alert workers immediately when they enter an invalid vendor code.
The Value of ERP
Not only can ERP software streamline job costing, bid approvals and subcontract creation, but it also supports operations across the entire enterprise. Here are a few of the overarching advantages of ERP:
1. In-Browser Login
Throughout the job costing lifecycle, different project actors will need access to important data. In traditional systems, key players would need to access the firm’s local network each time using a remote desktop login, Citrix connection or other workarounds.
Full-scale ERP systems shouldn’t force you to be connected to an internal network. Every project actor or stakeholder with security clearance can be given quick access to project data in their browser. No apps, complicated logins or local connections required.
- Simple browser login
- Secure access
- Cuts down data-sharing time
2. Detailed Document Audits
In an enterprise system, documents organically move from phase to phase while gaining approvals and revisions along the way. Within the document’s detail section, stakeholders can easily look through the document changes to double check information.
- Always-available audit history
- Clear evidence in case of legal disputes
3. Integration with Third-party Estimating Solution
CMiC is built to seamlessly incorporate third-party estimating systems. Customers retain their estimating procedure, and the CMiC platform intelligently imports estimate information for the job structure and subcontract creation.
- Keep your estimating system
- No re-keying
To learn more about the ways that ERP can eliminate workflow bottlenecks, check out ERP Solutions to Common Workflow Challenges: Change Orders.
When it comes to managing daily operations, many companies use different software applications that have been bridged together, instead of a single, unified system. To connect these separate apps, they use software integrations known as middleware, which promises a connected system where data flows freely.
Unfortunately, integrations come in all shapes and sizes. Some are built well, while others have been quickly thrown together by developers without enough knowledge or expertise. If construction firms want to create an efficient digital management system, then it’s important for them to evaluate the claims of software developers offering integrations.
What Are Software Integrations?
The first step is understanding what “integration” means. Integrating software is the process of bridging together two different software applications. The purpose is to combine all business software into a whole system. Integration is necessary when using software applications sourced from different developers or when adding a single-purpose application to a larger ERP system.
When software is integrated properly, the connected apps will share data and streamline communication, collaboration and data sharing. When software is poorly integrated, however, it can make storing and accessing project data more difficult and time-consuming.
This is because the quality of integrations varies dramatically, depending on the developer. For example, when companies have open APIs, an integration can be created by anyone – including developers who aren’t skilled. Open APIs is an application program interface that is freely available. With open APIs, any developer can get programming access to a piece of software and develop integrations that will allow the application to interact with other applications. Twitter, for example, has an open API that allows developers to create separate applications for scheduling tweets.
Because claims of effective software integration are everywhere, it’s important to sift through and determine their validity. If an integration hasn’t been built with knowledge of the construction industry, firms may run into issues getting applications to share and receive data.
Single Integration Point
Sometimes, when separate pieces of software are connected, data sharing works in only one direction. This means that one app will send the data and one app will receive it, but they can’t share data back and forth.
To explain further, here’s an example: a project management application pushes an invoice to the accounting department and to a CRM or opportunity management tool. Unfortunately, the client doesn’t pay the invoice and after several months, the bill becomes a debt that can’t be recovered. The integration between the project management app was only designed to push out data–not receive it. So, the information from accounting can’t be sent back to the PM system or the opportunity management tool. As a result, team members relying on the PM and opportunity management tools will be working off inaccurate information and may inadvertently bid on future projects with this client.
In general, when data isn’t flowing freely through all channels of operations it can create:
- Data silos – data that is inaccessible to certain applications or areas of operation
- Orphaned data– pieces of data with no home
- Conflicting/duplicate data – data entry errors
- Add – double data entry
The flow of data is crucial for companies looking to streamline their operations. Construction firms need software vendors that will help them map out their data flow and figure out how all software applications can communicate and work together.
The Spreadsheet Stopgap
When systems aren’t working effectively people often turn to spreadsheets to make-up for inefficiencies. For instance, if one department doesn’t have access to data from another, they may create a spreadsheet to store and gather data for ready access. Since the data in the spreadsheets won’t be updated automatically, it will quickly become out of date.
Similarly, if a company has only a couple of apps, instead of a full ERP system, they may be missing out on functionality. Rather than going through the hassle of integrating another new application, they could decide to turn to spreadsheets.
But spreadsheets can be dangerous. Errors happen all too easily and a single typo can completely throw off an entire set of data. Spreadsheets also complicate data storage and sharing. If a firm must track down important documentation in the event of litigation, such as quality assurance checks, they may have difficulty finding and accessing the information.
Finally, spreadsheets don’t give you the high-level analytics and insights that robust ERP systems can offer. While you may be storing data, you won’t be able to dive into what makes that data significant. In contrast, advanced construction software like CMiC, firms have access to several dashboards that provide high-level information for project management, resource planning and financials.
To avoid falling prey to faulty integrations, the best strategy is to choose a unified construction software solution. By choosing a robust platform as your system of record, you’ll create a solid foundation for data management, storage and access.
In addition, many vendors offering unified solutions will offer integrations with third-party applications to increase the functionality of your system. Because these integrations are built by the people who understand your main system of record, they’re much more trustworthy. CMiC, for example, has developed reliable integrations with a number of third-party applications to offer our clients greater functionality, while maintaining the integrity of the CMiC platform.
Most importantly, by choosing a single software developer as your system of record, you’ll have access to technical support and training. Without a primary vendor, who will you turn to for help? Having multiple apps from different vendors will make troubleshooting more complicated, and if vendors react by pointing fingers and blaming other vendors, it will take longer to find a solution.
In general, when a company is selling unified software it means they understand and are committed to data integrity and simplified operations. Put simply, they want to help their clients create a single source of truth. With unification as their central goal, their integrations with third-party apps will work to support the main ERP system.
Integrating third-party apps into your larger ERP system is the best way to maximize functionality while streamlining digital operations. To learn more about integration possibilities, check out this guest blog from CMiC client Miron Construction.
No project ever goes exactly as planned — there’s always the possibility of last-minute change orders, supply chain issues, dangerous weather conditions and more. Despite these variables, a construction firm’s success depends on their ability to produce accurate estimates and stay on budget.
Today, that means finding the strongest software for managing construction financial processes. The days of relying on pen and paper and spreadsheets are long gone – or at least they should be. When it comes to staying on budget, construction software has become indispensable. Any firm still shackled to past strategies simply can’t compete.
Staying on budget requires two things: making an accurate estimate and sticking to it. Granted, there will always be variables that are beyond the scope and control of any firm, but the right construction software can help firms anticipate challenges and limit cost overruns.
Managing a budget is made easier with an integrated, bird’s-eye-view of financials — and unified construction software is a huge help in this area. Because ERP systems are connected to a single database, team members both in the field and in the office see the same financial information. Project managers can manage cost and accountants can capture those costs all in the same platform.
Increased communication between project managers and accounting is one of the best strategies for managing project budgets. With unified software, all areas of operations have access to the same data. Project managers can see how their costs compare to the overall budget, and they can forecast on individual line items. For example, if laying concrete is delayed by bad weather, a PM can see how this delay will affect cost. This information is crucial for finding ways to compensate for any extra expenditure and communicating financial changes to accounting and other project leads.
And when it comes to invoicing and pay requests, accounting can easily get invoices approved all within the ERP system. If companies have separate software for project management and financials, accounting must get project managers to manually approve invoices, either by emailing or printing them out. Not only is this inefficient and time consuming, it also increases the likelihood of human error. Unified software improves data accuracy and helps project managers and accountants avoid costly errors.
Projects that go past schedule increase costs and cut into a construction firm’s profit margin. So naturally, keeping projects on-time is another key component of managing a construction budget. There are a number of ways that out-dated technology can lead to delays. When invoice approval is done manually, for example, it can take longer for vendors to get paid. If payment is late, there could be delays in services, pushing back the dates of completion on certain jobs. There’s also the issue of change orders. If change orders aren’t communicated to the different areas of operations, there will be delays in arranging for the added work and unnecessary work may be completed in the meantime. Finally, out-dated technology increases the number of steps it takes to complete certain tasks. While inefficient procedures may seem insignificant, they can accumulate and stretch out the timeline of a project.
Unified construction software solves these problems by improving communication and eliminating resource-intensive processes. Making the most of employee time and energy is essential in keeping a project on-time. Using unified construction software will increase efficiency and productivity by removing unnecessary tasks and operational headaches. Cutting back on the time it takes to complete even the smallest job can lead to exponential benefits when it comes to your bottom line.
Keeping Everyone in the Loop
One of the most common reasons for broken budgets and cost overruns is lack of communication. When construction teams can’t collaborate easily, errors happen. Mistakes caused by miscommunication can waste time and resources, as it often means backtracking. The good news is that these types of mistakes are 100% avoidable.
With advanced collaboration software, team members can access project data, schedules and lists on mobile devices. With a platform like CMiC Field, everyone stays in the loop with project alerts for actionable items or change orders. Put simply, every member of the team has the information they need to do the work right, the first time.
The Project Post-Mortem
Budget considerations don’t end after a project is over. Reviewing the costs of past projects is a great way for improving budget management on future projects. Construction software helps you capture all the data from a given project, and over time this historical data becomes a wealth of insight that can improve planning and execution.
With CMiC’s unified platform, for example, you can import all the different versions of a project estimate. By gathering this information, you can see where your estimate began, what the final estimate looked like and how the estimate compared to the actual project cost. Instead of relying on estimating books that don’t account for regional differences, you’ll have a real account of the projected, actual and unexpected costs associated with past projects. Knowing this will improve the accuracy of future estimates, which in turn, will help you stay within budget.
Managing complex budgets requires powerful and reliable construction software. And in this fast-paced, competitive marketplace, clients’ expectations keep on rising. To keep up and set your firm apart, check out Doomed to Fail: Why Project Controls Are Vital to Project Success.
Collaboration is tricky business — no one knows this better than those in construction.
The construction industry relies on strong collaboration to get things done, because the way a team works together can make or break a building project. To stay on-time and under budget, every single worker must coordinate and cooperate.
Average teams are a dime a dozen. To build a great team, construction executives need first to remove collaboration barriers by implementing the right field software solution. Next, they should focus on these three factors: strong leadership, a forgiving environment and cooperation skills. To help you improve in these areas, check out these three TED talks from top leadership and mediation experts.
Perfect cooperation between workers is about as rare as a four-leaf clover. That’s why every team needs effective leadership to succeed. With large groups of employees tackling high-stakes tasks, employees need a leader they can trust. So, what separates the good leaders from the bad?
For Simon Sinek, author and leadership expert, the military is the perfect case study. In this compelling talk, Sinek explains why military heroes consistently put their own lives at risk for the benefit of others, and compares modern tech leaders with military captains. He looks at where some organizations go wrong and outlines the key to creating a circle of trust and security.
Here’s Simon Sinek on Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.
The Work Environment
Whether employees are in-office or on-site, your construction team should enjoy their workplace. Sinek’s talk briefly discussed how the social environment of a company contributes to successful cooperation, but Tom Wujec, a thought-leader in collaborative creativity, takes this idea a step further by analyzing the “marshmallow challenge.”
He explains the drawbacks of closed-minded collaboration and outlines how to achieve collective success.
Do recent graduates of kindergarten have stronger collaboration skills than recent graduates of business school? Does the freedom to make mistakes improve performance? Find out in Build a Tower, Build a Team.
There’s No “I” in T-E-A-M
No matter how forgiving your collaborative environment may be, individual team members are always under some level of pressure to perform. When this pressure becomes too intense, employees get stuck in a “survival of the fittest” mentality — leading to intense conflicts that prevent teamwork.
Jim Tamm has resolved more school district labor strikes than anyone in the United States, so he knows a thing or two about conflict. As an expert mediator, Tamm sees conflict resolution is a core competency that all businesses should have. In this talk, he explains that managing defensiveness among your employees is essential, because “…you can’t compete externally if you can’t first collaborate internally.”
Find out how to reduce conflict by up to 70% in Cultivating Collaboration: Don’t Be So Defensive.
While the advice in these videos is universal, the construction industry offers its own unique challenges. Project managers are stretched thin, team members are scattered across locations and project restraints are tight. To address these and other issues, construction executives need to digitize. Construction management software allows seamless collaboration between project stakeholders. And mobile solutions give everyone real-time access to essential tools. Find out the 3 reasons your peers are upgrading to the most advanced mobile software.
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.
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 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:
- Find multiple apps to fix specific challenges without disrupting operations.
- 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.
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.
Construction projects have gotten a lot more complicated over the past 20 years. While technology has made the process easier, high-tech tools have added more data into the equation than ever before. As a result, firms are managing a whole new set of risks.
To help you find the right software for managing your data, we’ve outlined important software solutions for avoiding Construction Exec’s 5 major project risks.
1. Project Delays
Problem: Outdated data leads to project delays. Using software to manage data can be helpful, but it can also make data sharing more difficult.
Solution: You can improve data sharing by storing information on a single database. This will give key players access to all the latest information.
2. Quality Assurance Issues
Problem: QA can be tedious. When it comes to QA issues, construction management software can help smooth the way by standardizing the process. Incorporating audits and reporting mechanisms into QA allows executives to monitor the process.
Solution: The best software for QA lets workers enter audit trails and keep logs using their mobile devices. To make sure workers make use these of mobile tools, find an interface that is easy to use.
Tip: look for project management software with dashboards that provide simple overviews of key information.
3. Data Conflicts
Problem: Many firms use a maze of software tools to manage their data. But, when these tools aren’t properly integrated, data must be duplicated across platforms. This wastes time, reduces productivity and makes it nearly impossible to maintain data accuracy.
Solution: Look for a solution that is built for advanced integration. By investing in a unified system, you’ll create fewer “data silos.” You’ll also make your workers’ jobs easier by giving them access to a single, trustworthy database.
4. Lost Documents
Problem: Companies that use more than one platform find that information gets scattered. As a result, stakeholders have trouble finding updated documents.
Solution: By using a single platform, you can reduce document loss. And, storing everything on a single database makes it easier to access.
5. Missed Assignments
Problem: During day-to-day operations, it’s not hard to lose track of assignments — even with modern technology on your side. Unfortunately, missing assignments causes project delays.
Solution: To stay on top of large teams, look for collaboration tools, standard logging tools and automatic reminders.
Choosing the right data management platform will help your company avoid risk. For more information, check out 5 Ways Unified Financial Software Reduces Risk.
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.