Two executives looking at drawings and using a calculator 1200x801
Two executives looking at drawings and using a calculator 1200x801

7 Questions to Ask Potential Construction Software Vendors

Choosing a new construction software company is a big undertaking and requires extensive research. When it comes to sourcing software with the right functionality from a vendor they can trust, firms have a lot to evaluate.

First, construction companies need to learn about the technical structure and functionality of their software short-list. Details like how the system manages and stores data, how the software was developed and what the user experience is like are important considerations. Security is also a key decision-making factor. A software vendor will be storing and protecting confidential data, so their security protocols should be extensive.

Finally, construction executives need software that will help them continue to innovate as a company. SaaS and ERP technology aren’t static – they’re advancing at rapid rates. As a result, companies need solutions that will grow with them. This means scalable storage and the release of new products and updates. Put simply, you want a vendor that can keep up in our fast-paced, digitally-driven world.

When shopping for construction software, take your time and do your research. Interview and evaluate companies to make sure they can be relied upon to safeguard your data and provide superior service. Here are some construction software vendor interview questions to ask:

1. Is your construction software unified or open-source?

It’s important to know the different types of construction software on the market. Platforms can be divided into two categories: unified and stand-alone. Stand-alone systems are individual apps with limited functionality. Companies that choose stand-alone solutions generally purchase several applications from different third-party vendors and bridge them together within their operations.

In contrast, unified solutions come from a single software developer and contain multiple applications that are all connected to the same database. With stand-alone applications, you can easily create data silos. But because unified software is a single, contained system, data can flow freely between departments.

2. Has the ERP solution been developed natively in-house or pieced together?

Some construction ERP software is made by companies that package together groups of applications they’ve acquired from third-party developers. While these apps are sold as a single unit, they’ve been created by many different software companies. This means that data may not flow easily between individual software components and there can be huge differences in the user experience of the various apps.

All of CMiC’s applications have been developed to work together seamlessly. We do have a few third-party applications that we’ve integrated within our system, but these apps are connected to the central CMiC platform. When evaluating software vendors, you want to make sure that the apps included in their system are integrated correctly – bad integrations will only create headaches.

3. How often do you release new products or updates to current products? How do you adapt to industry trends?

The construction industry is on the cusp of a technological revolution. AI, drones, BIM and 3D printing are examples of how technology is transforming job sites and changing fundamental systems and processes. This is why it’s important to evaluate potential software vendors on their commitment to innovation and growth. You want to know how quickly they adapt to emerging technological trends and how smoothly they roll out new products and advancements.

If your software vendor can’t adapt quickly enough, you’ll either be left behind or forced to switch products. Swapping software tools means another lengthy implementation process that includes training employees, establishing new relationships with service reps and learning new protocols for billing, service and support.

By choosing a software solution that will grow with your company throughout the years, you’ll balance innovation with consistency. Look for solutions that allow easy scalability from companies with regular product advancements. And don’t be afraid to ask your ERP vendor what type of updates have been done in the past few months.

4. What measures does your company have in place to protect the security of your customers’ data?

When the US Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) was looking for a new construction ERP system, they needed a platform with superior data protection. They chose CMiC because we provide the highest level of security.

Just because a company isn’t dealing with highly-classified information, doesn’t mean that security should be an afterthought. Doing business with a software vendor with low levels of security can increase your risk of being hacked. Hackers often target software vendors with inferior security to gain access to larger company networks.

It is, therefore, crucial to evaluate every vendor for potential security threats. Ask them about their IT practices and policies, check security certifications and talk to current customers to see if they’ve had any security issues. Understanding their commitment to security will help you avoid risk.

5. Do you assist your customers during implementation with training, planning and technical support?

Implementing new software into your digital workflow requires planning, training and progress monitoring – this is something your firm will need help with. Choose a company with a solutions specialist to help you map out the journey, remove pain points and ease employees into the new system.

It’s also important not to rush the implementation process. Many construction executives opt for small, individual applications that are quick and easy to add into their workflow. Their strategy is to fix only the areas of operation that need urgent attention, choosing stop-gap solutions rather than investing in a long-term IT strategy.

Powerful, robust software systems will take longer to implement, but a more involved implementation process lays the groundwork for increased productivity and efficiency.

6. How will your company provide ongoing technical support after implementation?

After the implementation process is complete, you need to trust a software vendor to be there for ongoing support. Make sure that potential vendors have the expertise, infrastructure and resources to respond quickly to system crashes and security issues. Even if a matter isn’t urgent, your vendor should also provide ongoing education and be available to answer everyday questions.

7. Do you have any customers I could speak to about what it’s like to do business with your company?

One of the best ways to get a sense of a company’s values is to understand how current clients feel about them. Asking to speak to current clients is like asking a potential employee for their references: it’s a perfectly reasonable request. If a vendor can’t connect you to any of their clients, check out online software reviews. By reading reviews and hearing from clients, you’ll hear about any services gaps, billing issues or support problems.

Engaging a new software vendor is not a decision to be taken lightly. Interviewing and researching potential companies will help you find a company you can trust and a software platform that’s tailored to your firm’s specific needs.

To continue learning about what to look for in a software company, check out Are Third-Party Vendors Putting Your Data at Risk?