CMiC Construction and Capital Project Management Blog

Identify your key ERP objectives

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Identify your key ERP objectives

An enterprise technology deployment can only reach its full potential if decision-makers have a clear game plan in mind, and this is especially true for a core software component such as ERP. In the construction sector, these solutions represent a central resource for financial strategy management, and leaders across the industry rely on these tools to inform their choices in every area of their operations, from subcontractor management to job-site supervision. Simply put, a construction firm is directionless without a strong ERP system to guide its decision-making processes.

But while ERP systems are present in nearly every enterprise arsenal, many organizations deploy their solutions blindly, failing to account for the unique demands of their industries. That's why companies in the construction sector need to select ERP systems that account for the distinct parameters of their operations, and create a set of objectives that accompany the deployments from the outset. Leaders should consider the following three decision points as they select and implement ERP solutions that best fit their respective needs as competitors in the construction arena:

1. Supply chain insights: The modern construction company has an operational profile that extends far beyond its immediate capabilities, meaning that an ERP solution must encompass the nuclear financial footprint, as well as the extent of the entire supply chain. Executive leaders at the enterprise level need insights that inform decision-making at every level, from materials suppliers to equipment vendors and the subcontractors that make close job-site collaboration possible. All of these moving parts must be visible from a centralized financial platform that all C-Level leaders can use.

"You should understand the business drivers for ERP in your own organization and include these requirements in your RFP," noted Mary Shacklett of Transworld Data in a recent piece for TechTarget. "In some cases, companies just want centralized finance and HR systems. In other cases, companies are in unique industry verticals, so they want ERP systems that are tailored to these verticals."

2. Mobile functionality: Today's business leaders aren't limited to the boardroom when making key decisions. In fact, they're expected by employees and stakeholders to constantly be on the move from one job site to the next, all while having access to ERP data to inform choices no matter where they may be. This means that any ERP solution must be fully mobilized, with all features readily available on tablets and smartphones. When it comes time to make a pivotal decision on the go, executives with mobile ERP functionality will be prepared to take the best possible course of action. 

"An increasingly connected world leads to increasing speed of business," explained Adam Cheatham, an ERP consultant for Panorama Consulting, according to Enterprise Apps Today. "You can interact in real time with people from around the world. We are seeing a push for having a single source of truth and being able to interconnect it throughout the globe. It's no different than any other business endeavor. If you have a strong strategy and can refer back to it, it is going to help the entire company in implementing the strategy."

3. BIM integration: While not every organization has made the full transition to a BIM design and planning environment, the migration stages are well underway in the vast majority of construction firms. This is because architects, engineers and other third-party collaborators have discovered the power of computer-aided design in their own operations, and internal strategists are beginning to realize that these tools can prove invaluable for on-site strategy. With fully integrated ERP modules to support BIM, a company has a huge advantage from a pricing and scheduling perspective. 

Tags: Construction Technology

Big data in construction: Combating uncertainty

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Big data in construction: Combating uncertainty

Uncertainty is the enemy in the modern construction landscape, and decision-makers heading these organizations are doing everything in their power to combat this concept in an effort to mitigate risk and boost productivity. By far the most effective tool in this battle has been big data, which has so far transformed many of the predictive and analytic processes that define strategic operations in the construction sector. The following three areas of the construction life cycle have been drastically altered by the use of big data, and here's how.

1. Financial forecasting: An enterprise construction firm is a massive operation, and financial acuity is necessary to ensure that all moving parts are well coordinated with the overarching strategy of the business. With analytics on their side, financial strategists can see into the future thanks to information based on past patterns of spend and return. Decision-makers can then weigh their contract options with a better idea of what will deliver the greatest profits, while steering away from projects that may be more trouble than they're worth. 

"In order to plan and execute projects effectively, construction companies need to be able to predict risks accurately through intelligent use of data," explained John McMalcolm in an article for Construction Global. "By implementing big data analytics, they can gain valuable insights that enable them to improve cost certainty, identify and avoid potential problems, and find opportunities for efficiency improvements."

2. Design and planning: With a firmer grasp on the capital assets that fuel construction projects, business leaders can turn their focus to the preliminary stages of the contract itself, beginning with the operations of architecture, engineering and design teams. Even in these creative stages, analytics serve powerful functions, according to the news source, which pointed out that factors such as materials and labor pricing need to be kept in mind when mapping out blueprints. Only with big data resources can designers turn quantitative information into a high-quality, realistic plan. 

Without question, the most powerful design application utilizing analytics is building information modeling, which draws from real-time data streams to inform its pricing and scheduling details. Since design teams must be aware of these factors as they outline their models, it's important that construction organizations can bridge the gaps between BIM databases to ensure accuracy across the board. Once it comes time to execute on these plans, contractors will be glad they combated risk in earlier phases. 

3. On-site execution: Big data may be most commonly characterized as a behind-the-scenes asset, but the information extracted from these volumes has tangible results on efficiency and productivity on the job site. Since today's supervisors have access to mobile devices and live data feeds, reports and directions based on real-time information can be dispersed across the construction site and allow leaders to make more data-driven choices for team coordination, subcontractor management and other aspects of the build process.

"The ability to solve problems quickly can contribute significantly to the successful completion of construction projects," noted McMalcolm. "According to the company, forensic issues usually occur in major construction projects, and they can cause big problems, such as failure to meet deadlines, if they are not properly assessed." 

For example, an analytics readout can clearly tell a construction team how cost-effective and timely its past efforts were in comparison to one another. From these insights, on-site stakeholders can strategize in accordance with best practices to ensure that risk is mitigated and uncertainty is kept to an absolute minimum. With these data-centric standards firmly in place, a construction team will be at a strong and consistent advantage as it navigates an increasingly competitive marketplace. 

Tags: Construction Technology

How BIM technology accelerates construction operations

Posted by Jeff Weiss on Tue, Jul 21, 2015 @ 10:51 AM

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How BIM technology accelerates construction operations

The expression "time is money" applies to nearly every business scenario, but few sectors take this concept quite so literally as the construction industry. Contractors, architects and engineers all concern themselves with executing their tasks in a timely manner, and will utilize a range of techniques to boost productivity without sacrificing quality or incurring risk. With these priorities in mind, it should not come as a surprise to see so many design and contractor firms leveraging construction project management software to gain an edge on the competition. 

But while standard construction software offers a range of compelling benefits to speed up manual processes, today's business leaders are looking for ways to disrupt conventional methods and accelerate operations on a much more substantial scale. Building Information Modeling software is arguably the most transformative tool available in this regard, and is rapidly gaining popularity across the construction sphere. Here are three ways in which BIM solutions can speed up operations at every stage of the construction process. 

1. Planning and design: Long before construction teams hit the job site, designers and project planners must map out the exact structure and specifications of the facilities in question. Regardless of whether the project is a new build, a large-scale renovation or a minor repair, this key initial stage can be significantly shortened with the use of BIM. While many designers prefer to use hand-drawn methods to get their ideas on paper, 3D modeling software allows them to quickly transfer these conceptual images to a collaborative environment, accelerating the design phase overall.  

"Construction projects which used to take months to complete can now be completed by design and construction professionals within a few weeks provided right tools and technology is used by them," explained Bhagwati Pathak of CAD Services in an article for R&D Online. "High-end tools must be used by design and construction professionals in pre-construction because design for different building disciplines is created during it."

2. On-site execution: Once blueprints have been developed and distributed across stakeholder groups, a contractor's work has only just begun. Even in productive building stages, BIM serves a range of very important functions, each of which can accelerate operations and boost the value of labor and material investments. For instance, BIM platforms can be accessed by project managers on the job site using mobile devices, allowing them to direct their teams with more precision and confidence.

Additionally, according to Archinet contributor Nikunj Patel, these software solutions provide project leaders with powerful insights into schedules and budgets that help contractors stay on track from a financial and timeline perspectives. As the author mentioned, "building information modeling for efficient constructability enables contractors to plan and manage construction activities under stringent schedules." Being aware of these constraints and having a clear, accessible plan are two ways that on-site processes can enjoy substantial acceleration in these key phases.

3. Facilities maintenance: BIM continues to provide value to contractors and facilities owners long after the original job is done. These solutions come equipped with management and maintenance features that allow stakeholders to make proactive repairs and adjustments before they ever present performance issues or risks. For example, a BIM system can highlight potential issues with structural integrity or point out certain areas of inefficiency in the electricity grid powering the building's HVAC or lighting units.

With these insights on hand, owners can always stay on top of maintenance needs, focusing instead on the optimization of the facilities and the operations therein. With such clear and varied advantages, BIM will certainly deliver value for years to come. 

Tags: Construction Technology

ERP solutions evolve in scope and complexity

Posted by Jeff Weiss on Thu, Jul 09, 2015 @ 10:54 AM

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Stay on the cutting edge of ERP software.

Of all the apps currently in the enterprise arsenal, ERP solutions are arguably the most popular and widely-adopted category. Since every business on earth needs to track its financials and capital resources in a clear and consistent manner, it's easy to see why ERP is such a powerful force in the world of corporate software. Of course, these solutions have advanced in a number of fascinating ways over the past several years, and enterprise strategists should be aware of these developments to ensure they stay on the cutting edge. Here are four aspects of today's ERP evolution: 

1. Massive data volumes: Across industries, teams and even on an individual basis, the average amount of data stored and accessed on a regular basis has spiked dramatically in the past several years, and will continue to rise as long as the digital economy keeps barreling forward. In regard to ERP systems, this means that companies will have to plan for much heavier volumes of data to be both stored and processed, and supplanting legacy applications with the next generation is a strong place to start. New software versions have been developed by teams much more accustomed to handling these huge burdens. 

2. Interconnected apps: While ERP systems have traditionally existed in silos separate from other enterprise applications, today's tech teams are recognizing the competitive advantages that can be gained by connecting these disparate apps in an intuitive manner. For instance, in the construction industry, companies are integrating ERP tools with project management, client relationship management and even building information modeling systems. Of course, forward-thinking firms will have to deploy systems capable forming these interconnected environments. 

3. Newfound mobile focus: Enterprise mobility has been on the map for years now, but this fast-moving trend is seeing advancement at every level, especially in relation to software components such as ERP. According to a blog article from Memeburn, companies are emphasizing mobile access for their most critical enterprise apps, as today's employees and clients are becoming more attuned to mobility in their personal and professional lives. Soon enough, entire suites of enterprise software will be fully optimized for functionality in the mobile domain. 

"Enterprises need to give customers, employees and business partners access to business applications and data wherever they are," explained Keith Fenner, Memeburn contributor. "We're seeing a distinct shift in the marketplace from inflexible desktop applications to modular, intuitive apps that people can as easily use on a smartphone as on a traditional computer."

4. Strong vertical emphasis: With the enterprise software market booming, specialization has skyrocketed and companies now have access to a range of vertically-oriented solutions for the unique needs of their industries. For instance, a construction firm can select dedicated systems for contractors that are optimized for the workflows and challenges of the modern job site and supply chain. The resulting simplicity and convenience reduce the need for in-house customization and mitigate risk as a company becomes more deeply invested in the software. 

Tags: Construction Technology

Unlocking the value within enterprise data

Posted by Jeff Weiss on Sat, Jul 04, 2015 @ 11:53 AM

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Unlocking the value within enterprise data

The modern construction company, especially an operation at the enterprise level, has an unfathomable volume of data stored within its hardware assets and across a number of individual mobile databases, reflecting the massive shift toward digital processes in recent years. With all this data at hand, one would think that a firm has the opportunity to capitalize on these facts and figures by utilizing analytics programs and other systems that offer predictions and direction based on patterns. After all, this seems to be standard operating procedure in today's business world.

Sadly, however, many companies suffer from a disconnect between their raw data assets and the actual insights that they can derive from these numbers, suggesting that much of this volume is rendered useless when it comes to effective utilization. To help enterprise leaders make the most of the data held within their walls, here are a few tools and techniques they can employ right now:

1. Dedicated content management platforms: Far too many organizations make the primary mistake of leaving their content strewn about the enterprise, letting data fall as it may throughout email servers, back-office storage units and personal devices such as smartphones and tablets. The most immediate and effective remedy to this issue is the deployment of a specialized content management system that collates all of these disparate sets of information into one accessible environment. This simplifies data management and sets a company up for more streamlined operations overall. 

"As we've seen with countless Fortune 1000 organizations, enterprises that lead with their information as an asset and use data to effectively manage it will ultimately see the real value of corporate information - both in their bottom line and through increased operational effectiveness across the board," explained Pedro Cardoso, a senior information and data governance consultant at BackOffice Associates, in a recent blog article for Enterprise Apps Today.

2. Unified mobile applications and data sets: With so many digital processes taking place in the mobile domain, it's easy to see how a company's data management dynamics could become challenging, especially since nearly every end user brings their own device to work these days. Therefore, when a company selects construction software for its enterprise, it must ensure that the chosen applications are built on a unified set of data that synchronizes across all mobile outposts, as well as the standard desktop workstations used by back-office employees. 

A company that unleashes the value of its data in the mobile arena will be much better equipped for success in a generation of construction that prioritizes speed, precision and accessibility for all end users, regardless of their location. 

3. 5D BIM tools that draw from available info: One tool in the modern construction arsenal is particularly dependent on strong data availability, and when used right, can transform an operation from the ground up. According to BIM How, "5D in Building Information Modeling is a concept that refers to the linking of 3D BIM with time and cost related information." This requires a level of data integration that may indeed be difficult to orchestrate, but can prove massively effective when it is put to use. 

Tags: Construction Technology

The new enterprise focus on mobile applications

Posted by Jeff Weiss on Wed, Jul 01, 2015 @ 10:36 AM

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The new enterprise focus on mobile applications

There has been enthusiasm for enterprise mobile applications ever since smartphones first started making their way into construction offices and work sites around the world. Still, analysts have found that a recent surge in app development investment and adoption has placed these technologies at the forefront of enterprise strategy. As contractors look to integrate these mobile solutions into their operations with greater fluidity and depth, they'll need to stay attuned to employee demands while partnering with the best possible vendors for unique construction requirements.

What do end users really want?
When selecting from the huge variety of mobile apps available on the market today, companies are finding that their own employees have a lot to say about picking the right tools for the job. As a recent article from Gartner pointed out, today's users have been downloading apps in their personal lives and in the workplace for more than eight years, and their opinions should be taken seriously when it comes to matters such as functionality and ease of use. IT leaders should consider working more closely with these employees to determine which tools make it into the enterprise lineup. 

"After eight years of searching for, downloading and using smartphone apps, users are maturing in their usage behaviors," said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner. "However, we may see those patterns change in the future as users integrate apps more deeply into their daily lives."

Turning to the pros for guidance
While end users may offer some useful feedback regarding the selection and integration of mobile applications for the enterprise, business leaders will ultimately want to consult with their internal IT experts and external business app developers to make the smartest choices for their operations. With issues such as device compatibility, security and regulatory compliance, there are many components of the decision-making process that end users may not be able to navigate. 

According to C-Suite UK, a recent 451 Research global survey, sponsored by Kony, Inc., revealed that more than half of businesses consult with outside app experts to make their final decisions for adoption and integration, suggesting that the choice ultimately lies in the hands of the pros. 

"IT is still in the driver's seat when it comes to both the bulk of internal mobile app development, technology procurement and project management, although line of business want input and greater collaboration. Line of business is also starting to bring a great amount of funding support to the discussion."

Where is enterprise mobility headed?
There's no telling what's in store for the future of mobile applications, especially in an enterprise environment such as the fast-moving construction arena. One thing is for sure, however: A greater diversity of devices and use cases will lead to the development a wider range of apps, and companies will need to keep their strategies flexible to quickly integrate the biggest trends of tomorrow. This means working closely with internal business teams and external providers alike in order to get a balanced mobile strategy and stay on the cutting edge of construction technology. 

Tags: Construction Technology

What makes the ultimate enterprise app?

Posted by Jeff Weiss on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 @ 02:14 PM

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What makes the ultimate enterprise app?

Now that the lines between the consumer arena and the enterprise are blurring more than ever before, business leaders are finding it more difficult to discern what constitutes a true corporate software application. While it may not seem like a major point of contention, it's actually quite important that decision-makers recognize the characteristics of an authentic enterprise app and ensure that their organizations only deploy these services to ensure maximum security and performance. Here are a handful of criteria that must be considered in the app selection process:

1. Strong vertical specificity: The primary difference between enterprise applications and their consumer counterparts is that the former tend to be built with a specific industry and purpose in mind, while the latter are engineered for general, low-stakes use. For example, a personal file-sharing solution may be developed with a handful of helpful organizational features for the typical user, while the enterprise version will include a range of vertical-centric file structures and workflows for particular industry operations. Of course, leaders must find the solution right for their needs. 

2. Cross-platform capabilities: Whether it needs to be accessed in the back office, on the road or at the construction site itself, an authentic enterprise application will offer the same set of powerful features no matter the situation. This means that the software must be engineered with cross-platform dynamics in mind, as well as the ability to synchronize data sets across every user device imaginable. As Enterprise Apps Today pointed out, a business should also be ready to create a comprehensive mobile environment for managers, supervisors and all ground-level employees. 

"Users are looking for apps that don't just allow them to look up information in separate data sources; they are looking for seamless interactions with their enterprise that enable them to get stuff done," said Peter Price, CEO of Webalo. "I want to approve employee-related requests from my smartphone or tablet, like expenses on paid time off."

3. On and offline functionality: Every construction manager knows that on the job site, Internet connections come and go. However, strong enterprise apps are capable of overcoming the ebb and flow of Web connectivity, maintaining its essential functionality regardless of Wi-Fi status. On the other hand, consumer-grade apps are only capable of running when a connection is available. Construction teams that can rely on enterprise apps at all times are sure to achieve higher levels of performance than competitors with outdated solutions. 

4. Total IT department control: Consumer apps, while easy to download and deploy, often fall short when it comes time for IT administrators to customize the solutions for unique business needs and end-user preferences. The ability to tweak the functionality of a software system is sure sign that an application is geared for the enterprise, and a company will find much more long-term value in such solutions, especially as technical demands evolve over time. It's better to have a flexible, full-featured software deployment than one that must be completely updated every few months. 

Tags: Construction Technology

Software for next-level construction collaboration

Posted by Jeff Weiss on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 @ 11:08 AM

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Software for next-level construction collaboration

Collaboration is essential for success in a construction industry that demands precise coordination across teams both within the organization and aligned with external subcontractor groups. While upper-level leaders know the importance of top-down control over job site and back office operations, there is an alarming lack of support from the IT department in their efforts to fully coordinate tasks and objectives throughout the project life cycle. What can be done to ensure that multiple contracts move forward in total synchronization and unity?

In short, the answer can be found in next-gen construction software solutions, namely those that feature collaborative options for design, ERP and project management modules. Companies will find that when they prioritize accessibility across these software environments, their operations will naturally move toward a more efficient and productive standard, bridging communication gaps and promoting more transparent leadership from the upper management. Here is a closer look at these three spheres of construction software and how they can boost collaboration across the board:

Planning and design
Perhaps the most challenging phase in which to coordinate construction operations is the initial design stage. Since architects, contractors and clients all want maximum visibility of the blueprints and materials that compose these primary plans, it quickly becomes difficult to ensure that all stakeholders remain informed and satisfied with progress. As an article from ConstructionWeek Online recently noted, Building Information Modeling tools can be hugely effective in a firm's efforts to promote greater transparency in these steps, offering teams raw and uncut design content from the start. 

"Projects frequently suffer from adversarial relationships, low productivity rates, high rates of inefficiency and rework, frequent disputes and lack of innovation, resulting in time or cost overruns in several projects," explained the news provider. "BIM aims to help in addressing these challenges. It extends the capacity of the project team to start thinking about time, cost, quality, sustainability and other pragmatic parameters in the early stages of the project."

BIM not only serves to enhance collaboration from the outset of a project, but it also raises the bar for visibility and communication once things are underway on the job site. For instance, internal teams and outside subcontractors can tap into BIM files at any point in the contract to align their objectives with the demands of the design materials and ensure that all operations are fully calibrated. The solution drastically reduces risk and gives project leaders invaluable peace of mind when entering the fray of the modern construction environment. 

Financials and forecasting
While BIM offers a reliable platform for collaborative design and checkpoint coordination, back-office operations must depend on dedicated tools such as ERP to keep key capital processes moving along. Although contractors have long used ERP solutions to underpin their financial decision-making, the role of collaboration is not given enough emphasis in these settings. For this reason, teams need to harness the collaborative dynamics found on the job site and integrate them into the transactional side of things, all while remaining aware of future estimations and forecasts.

 "[Cost] estimation of a project becomes the biggest challenge for any construction company, which in turn could help the company containing its overheads and expenses," noted Sudheer Nair, CEO of eresource Infotech, as quoted by the source. "Like we often say, the projects are usually spread over many years, aligning the projected cost with the actual cost becomes difficult. The challenge becomes manifold given that most companies deal with large project and huge volumes."

Of course, the information gathered and accessed in ERP systems must be available to on-site supervisors and other decision-makers pulling the trigger on key tasks, as they are responsible for tracking labor, materials and other capital assets involved in their processes. This represents another facet of collaboration that can't be overlooked, meaning that construction teams must rely on software solutions to disperse these details across the many corners of the enterprise. Such strategies further enhance communications and accountability on all fronts. 

Project management
With design and financials covered, project management remains the final frontier for collaborative excellence on the modern construction site, as well as the most challenging for many firms. This is because today's contracts involve so many moving parts, the synchronization of internal and external stakeholders, as well as a level of client involvement never before seen in the industry. Project leaders are tasked with juggling all of these demands at once, and must stay in close communication with one another when contracts are in full swing. 

"Accessing work progress of different projects that includes estimation of material supply, stock in the site, stock in the warehouse and manpower management all can be managed at anytime from anywhere with a the help of a laptop and internet connection," explained the ConstructionWeek Online article.

The best management tools offer decision-makers insight into every element of a project's past, present and future, including up-to-the-minute reports about every conceivable transaction and task execution. With these systems supporting their operations, next-gen construction leaders can truly maximize their potential. 

Tags: Construction Technology

Enhance subcontractor management to drive performance

Posted by Jeff Weiss on Fri, May 22, 2015 @ 05:01 AM

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Enhance subcontractor management to drive performance

Construction project managers tend to focus primarily on their core teams and professionals when moving a contract forward, as progress on the job site is largely dependent upon the performances of these groups and individuals. After all, a contractor is responsible for executing the core objectives and tasks that ensure timely and cost-effective construction as the client requests.

Without the support of the various subcontractors that provide specialty skills and knowledge sets, however, general contractor teams would not be able to navigate around the more challenging aspects of their projects and properly fulfill the needs of the client in question. That's why strong subcontractor management is vital in the modern construction world, and why contractors should ensure that their software solutions are optimized to handle partnerships with fluidity and transparency. With stronger subcontractor connections, a firm can easily take performance and productivity to new heights. 

Managing multiple teams
For contractors facilitating large-scale, multi-faceted projects, there's no denying the challenges presented by juggling a multitude of smaller, niche teams at once, especially when sites and schedules become saturated over time. As an article from Construction Global pointed out, the stakes are high when it comes to orchestrating subcontractor activity, as specialty organizations must be coordinated perfectly with job site circumstances to ensure timely execution of their tasks. For these reasons, a dedicated software solution is a powerful ally in the struggle to master subcontractor relations. 

"Communication is also an issue when you are commissioning work from people who are not part of your own company," explained Construction Global contributor Wes Simmons. "If you don't have an effective way for subcontractors to feed their progress back to you, it can be hard to keep track of how a project is developing. Subcontractor management requires a relentless focus on project management, coupled with effective processes to keep two-way communications channels constantly open."

With these operational pitfalls in mind, it's easy to see how a strong management platform can help shed light on the situation and give project leaders a way to better synchronize subcontractor activity. For instance, a clear view of a daily job site schedule can dissolve ambiguities surrounding task timing, while a visible design plan may be seen by all partners simultaneously, allowing team captains to identify what needs to be done before arrival. Dedicated channels of communication are a bonus that can serve to move projects along, even when managers are not necessarily present. 

Accounting made simple
On-site operations aside, subcontractor management also presents a series of distinct challenges in the accounting arena, a facet of the construction business that poses difficulties for many firms. As Construction Global noted, things are already a bit cloudy in the world of construction financials, as strict, evolving regulations play into every transaction within a company and among business partnerships. To ensure close adherence to these expectations, it's crucial that contractors integrate tools that help them to stay on the right path and minimize risk. 

"Effective systems can help you keep track of when payments to subcontractors are due or have been paid," continued Simmons in his piece for Construction Global. "Successful construction companies invest in software systems that [synchronize], linking procurement, accounts and other databases - including subcontractor details - to give them instant access to all the information they need to enable them to make informed decisions and prepare accurate estimates."

Today's construction leaders can't be expected to do it all, which is why subcontractors play such a key role in project execution for organizations at the highest level. With enterprise-grade tools to manage these relationships and enhance accounting capabilities, construction teams will certainly have an edge on the competition, promoting optimal performance and combating risk factors. 

Tags: Construction Project Management

How to overcome these 4 ECM challenges

Posted by Jeff Weiss on Wed, May 06, 2015 @ 05:38 AM

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How to overcome these 4 ECM challenges

A strong ECM system is one of the many software essentials in the arsenal of the modern contractor, as every facet of the project life cycle requires fast, reliable access to key enterprise data. Whether teams need to collaborate on blueprint documents to shore up designs, look into financials to balance budgets or communicate with clients on key deliverables, there seems to always be a new set of digital demands facing the construction operation. Content creation and management is a fact of life in the IT era, and organizations know that ECM is the golden ticket to master these requirements.

Of course, deploying an ECM application is not always smooth sailing, and ensuring that these software components generate long-term value is a daunting task on its own. To help construction leaders navigate the difficulties inherent to the world of enterprise content management, here are four of the most commonly encountered ECM challenges, and some tactics to overcome them. 

1. Establishment of scope: Arguably the hardest part of an ECM deployment is creating a roadmap for the software itself, namely the goals it aims to achieve and the issues it will hopefully remedy. This process, according to DPCI, is referred to as "defining scope" and should be the first and foremost priority of any ECM agenda. Before ever selecting software or pulling the trigger on a system, an organization should identify exactly what it hopes to achieve with its ECM agenda, coordinating across teams and departments to ensure a cohesive approach to deployment. 

"[I help] that group get what they might call an "enterprise content strategy" documented," explained Joseph Bachana, president and founder of DPCI. "I think the safest thing to do is to document the department's requirements, then go to other divisions/segments of the business to see if what they have implemented can fit the documented needs."

2. Determination of policies: Following the selection of a software system, ECM strategists need to establish how the deployment will be used on a day-to-day basis. This means collaborating with on-site construction teams, back-office employees and even external subcontractor partners to establish workflows and create policies that simultaneously empower and protect users to access key data points. As Bachana noted, this is a crucial step to avoid redundancy and miscommunication, as "it is not unusual to find numerous duplicate files" in an ECM portfolio. 

3. Education of end users: While most of today's ECM software systems are fairly intuitive and quick to grasp by most tech-savvy users, employees still need to be educated on the details of a deployment in order to eliminate ambiguity in all its forms. As a recent blog article from Idatix pointed out, the best vendors will help an organization facilitate comprehensive training programs to teach users the ins and outs of the application. This can help to dramatically accelerate adoption time and reduce support demands down the line. 

"Time and time again, expensive software purchases go under-utilized because of lack of training and support material," explained the news source. "To safeguard against this problem, choose a vendor that offers continued services, support, education and product enrichment to ensure that the software investment is paying off."

4. Navigation of change: Even the most well-established construction organizations undergo periods of expansion and adjustment, forcing IT teams to alter ECM systems to meet new and changing demands. Rather than reacting to these situations and risking falling behind the curve, ECM administrators should remain in close contact with business leaders to promote a synchronized approach to development. This continuous method of improvement will help keep software on the cutting edge and ensure that content is always readily available.