The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and around the world has been uneven in scope and timeline. With infection rates and restrictions differing widely from one region to the next and economic activity coming back in fits and starts, contractor firms are dealing with the same unpredictable conditions as all other companies.
This lack of clarity has forced construction industry businesses to stay especially conscious of their budgets and financial matters while dealing with unprecedented challenges to their workforces and strain on their ability to complete major contracts. This raises an important question: What type of construction software are these businesses using to manage their information? A company’s IT approach can determine its ability to keep functioning effectively in the midst of extreme conditions.
Cloud-Based Software Shows Advantages
One of many factors determining how well contractor firms are holding up during the pandemic is whether their critical software deployments are compatible with remote work. Even in states where offices have been cleared to open, social distancing and frequent disinfecting procedures remain the norm, and it may be more convenient, safe and comfortable to keep up work-from-home practices for a long time to come.
This poses a problem for construction firms using legacy systems that must be accessed from their offices. During the worst of the COVID-19 crisis, these organizations have been forced to take suboptimal measures such as accessing their own systems through VPNs or even sending personnel into the offices amid lockdowns to access vital data such as financial records.
These contractor firms suffered major issues during the first wave of infection and remain unprepared to handle potential future waves leading to extended shutdowns. Many of these companies are now realizing the value of cloud-based deployments that are accessible remotely. Upgrading is a way to enable a geographically dispersed workforce and ensure that office accessibility doesn’t have to be necessary for data availability.
The good news for contractors interested in switching to cloud-hosted solutions is that they can make this change now, even as the situation remains fluid and unclear. Indeed, we at CMiC have observed companies meeting their go-live dates for new cloud-based ERP solutions despite lockdowns and travel restrictions, thus setting themselves up to weather what comes next.
Cloud-based financial systems designed with construction in mind [are] an essential tool for locked-down companies.
Finance and Accounting Have Remained Essential
Financial and accounting software modules are some of the essential systems contractors have been so desperate to access, even during the most serious periods of business shutdowns. The union-based nature of the construction labor force means organizations are locked into strict payment and auditing schedules. Meeting these contractual obligations is a must, making cloud-based financial systems designed with construction in mind an essential tool for locked-down companies.
Accurate and frequently updated data is also important for other financial purposes: Contractors need to be able to track project start dates and statuses. This will tell those businesses whether they can reach their payment obligations. When a job is put on hold, the contractor must know as soon as possible, especially if cash flow considerations force the company to return rented equipment or cut hours on that job.
Advanced Software Can Support New HR And Job Site Reporting Needs
Human resources matters have remained complex and unique as ever for the construction industry during the crisis. Due to the constant threat of skilled labor shortages, companies are largely retaining their personnel wherever possible rather than engaging in layoffs, but putting those individuals to work has become complicated by the inescapable specter of new safety risks.
Human resources matters have remained complex and unique as ever for the construction industry during the crisis.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics have shown the up-and-down progress of construction employment through phases of the crisis. While the sector in the U.S. shed 995,000 people between March and April, the number went back up by 464,000 in May, mostly among specialty trade contractors. While there is no doubt that employment has been severely impacted by the virus and its attendant economic instability, there is also movement toward keeping skilled laborers at work on jobs wherever possible.
Human capital management software designed for the construction industry has always been an important tool for contractors, as it reflects the uniquely project-based nature of work in the field. Now, HCM modules that allow remote access to centralized employee records can also become part of a company’s COVID-19 safety plan. By sharing data, such as daily temperature readings, companies can change their processes to comply in areas with specific requirements before work can restart.
Record-Keeping on the Job Site Has Evolved
Another essential feature of ERP systems is to keep information that will be needed for regulatory compliance purposes. As of now, related requirements are in a state of flux due to the presence of COVID-19. Construction Dive reported that since OSHA does not consider contracting a high-risk industry, companies’ recording requirements for COVID-19 cases among the workforce are somewhat different from those in health care and other riskier fields.
OSHA offered a clarification of its first reporting rule for construction to ensure contractors can focus more on workplace safety than the minutiae of recording. Construction Dive specified that under the new rule, companies should use similar standards to other illnesses or injuries when deciding whether to log a COVID-19 case as work-related and use OSHA Form 300 to record it. In any case, being proactive and comprehensive in record-keeping is far better than lacking information and stumbling into a potential violation.
The need for versatile records that will enable them to keep up with new mandates, including at the state level, has increased the need for modern ERP solutions. Not every state has the same requirements, and these divergences may continue as infection rates differ widely between regions. Many Californian contractors have recently engaged in ERP upgrades, working to keep up their operations in the midst of the disruption.
Construction Software Solutions Matter Now and In the Future
The high-pressure environment of continuing high infection rates, COVID-related closures and widespread economic stability has not changed contractors’ software requirements. Rather, it has intensified the need for the same traits that have always mattered in the field: Companies need versatile software – accessible from anywhere – that can store a variety of data in ways that are both compliant with regulations and easy to use internally.
Now more than ever before, fast-paced and proactive decision-making based on accurate and up-to-date data may prove critical for success.
The tightening margins and rapidly changing conditions associated with the crisis have favored those organizations that have gotten ahead of the curve and already adopted cloud-based construction ERP solutions purpose-built for the sector. The HCM, finance and accounting, enterprise planning, Enterprise Content Management and other capabilities associated with these systems have enabled these organizations to keep working strategically in ways off limits to firms tied to on-premise systems not configured for construction use.
Increases in business activity as more states and cities reopen and lift restrictions will take place under a shroud of uncertainty and heightened risk. Now more than ever before, fast-paced and proactive decision-making based on accurate and up-to-date data may prove critical for success. Investments in advanced ERP solutions are poised to pay off in the months ahead.
Your firm needs a platform such as CMiC, one that will support all departments’ efforts to become more intentional and data-driven, and that will grow with the business as it ramps back up. To learn more about the CMiC platform and its suite of construction-focused modules, visit our resource center.