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What to Look for in Construction Project Management Software

April 6, 2021

The key to selecting the right construction project management software for your company is to develop a list of “must have’s” and “like to have’s” and prioritize them. By shopping around, you can discover new features you didn’t even know were available.

To help you in your search, here are some key characteristics to look for in construction project management software:

Accessibility

Most construction work, including project management, occurs in the field. For this reason, field workers and office staff both need to have access to project information so they can make critical decisions that affect the project and the company.

Many project management software packages are cloud-based. This makes it easier for teams to access information wherever they’re located. It also reduces costs because companies don’t have to invest in additional computers or servers. They can use existing phones and laptops. Cloud-based software is safe and secure, as the data is backed up regularly and is housed on many servers.

Another option is to have your project management software hosted on your server and provide access to the field through remote connections. This provides additional security and control over your data. If you go this route, make sure your server and connections are up to speed so that field workers can be productive and efficient.

Ease-of-use

Project management software should be reasonably easy for your employees to use. If the program is too complicated that no one understands it, or there’s a lot of steps in each process, employees aren’t going to want to use it. Moreover, complex software requires more time to train employees on how to use it. This can slow down implementation and increase costs.

When assessing ease-of-use, keep in mind what processes you need the software to perform. If you are performing complex jobs or have complex needs, you’ll need more complex software. Using a more straightforward software system will not provide the services you want. If you choose a complex system, make sure it supplies these complex services as simple as possible.

Integration

Create a list of the software systems you currently have and interact with your project management software. These programs may include accounting, payroll, invoicing, timesheets, emailing, or scheduling. Look for systems that will interact with these software programs.

If you choose software that doesn’t integrate, you’ll have to enter information twice or import and export data, which can add time to your work process and cause mistakes. The goal of implementing a software solution is to save time, and integrations will help with that. It’s essential to recognize that often work processes will need to be refined to match the new software’s requirements and workflow.

Cost

The cost of purchasing and implementing new software includes both money and time. Several factors go into determining how much a company will spend in implementation. First, there’s the cost of the software or service itself. Some programs are paid as a subscription, while others are a one-time payment. Look at the expense of each package over time to assess which is the best for your situation.

Next, you’ll need to determine how much training time will be required for your staff. They’ll need to learn how to use the new software and any new work processes that will be required. Recognize that, at first, things will take much longer than they did before you implemented the software. Speed will increase over time as your employees get used to the new processes.

Implementation costs also include time spent on software setup and testing. It’s usually best to start with a small group when implementing new software. They act as a test group, working out the bugs and determining the best workflows for your company. Data may need to be entered twice, once in the old system and again in the new one during this time. You’ll want to include this additional time in your cost estimate.

As you implement the new system, the training and ramp-up time may slow production in the field and the office. Ensure you include potential delays caused by the software into your schedules or authorize overtime to make it up.

Reputation

Before purchasing a software package, it pays to research the company and the software’s history. Find out how long they’ve been in business and how long the software has been in use. The more extended history a program has, the more stable it is. This doesn’t mean that young companies and software should be dismissed; just be cautious when purchasing them.

Check out reviews of the software packages you’re looking at, paying particular attention to those by companies in a similar trade or industry. Ask the software company if they have references you can call to ask questions. This is often the best way to find out how a software package performs since you can ask things that aren’t answered in most reviews or that are specific to your situation.

Another way to research software is to ask contractors that provide similar work what software they use. This will allow you to ask additional questions, get insight into what the implementation process was like, and find out how easy the software is to use for someone in your industry.

Features

Before shopping for project management software, determine what features you need the software to have. These will probably include ones that your current system provides, plus some added ones, which is usually the reason you’re shopping for new software.

Next, create a list that includes features that you would like to have. You may not know at this point what those are unless you’ve done some research to see what’s available. Shop around and then start brainstorming ideas with your team to develop a shortlist of top priorities.

You’ll want your new software to meet as many of your needs as possible. However, you may need to compromise. Prioritize your overall list of features to know what's most important when it comes time to select one.

Next steps

Choosing construction project management software for your company can be a complicated process. Get off to a good start by assembling potential users and going through this list. Then search for software packages that best meet your needs and schedule a demonstration. Continue to narrow down the list, asking questions and contacting current users. Soon you’ll be able to make a decision and take your business to the next level.

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