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Why contractors need project-based ERP solutions

  
  
  

At this point, contractors in every area of the construction industry understand the power of an ERP solution, using such software to gain deeper insights into their financial outlooks and map out the future of their capital assets. Unfortunately, many decision-makers limit themselves to basic functionality when deploying these programs, forgetting the importance of project management in the scheme of the construction operation. Tech leaders in the sector should leverage project-oriented solutions that offer the advantages of ERP while helping teams navigate the contract life cycle. 

Beyond asset management
While the availability of accurate financial data is indeed necessary for successful project execution, today's construction leaders are beginning to recognize that they need supplementary software to fully support the complexities of project delivery. This includes elements of workforce management, risk assessment and integration with design platforms such as BIM - a much more involved set of features than is typically found in an ERP deployment. As Gadget Magazine pointed out, software must address every project stage to ensure efficient, expedient operation. 

"In today's risk adverse and competitive environments, technology plays an important role in supporting and fostering best project management practices," wrote Thabo Ndlela, director at IFS Africa. "The logical solution is to select and implement enterprise software designed for the project environment, with project management functionality that shares data, in a natural, event-driven way, with the rest of an enterprise suite."

The source also pointed out that factors such as occupational health and safety must be taken into consideration when decision-makers fortify their project management solutions, noting that regulatory compliance is often overlooked in comparison to productivity suites. No matter which aspect of the project life cycle is in question, firms require comprehensive construction software that facilitates reporting in real time, ensuring data visibility across the workforce. A solution should standardize a stronger level of transparency for clients and other business partners as well. 

Genuine ERP integration
Cross-platform software integration is a commonly cited goal for modern IT leaders, but in the construction industry, leveraging interconnected applications is a vital part of project management. Since information must be drawn from a wide range of sources and constantly made available in a digestible format for on-site teams and subcontractors, there can be no barriers between data sets and the applications that rely upon them. Gadget Magazine suggested that tech teams evaluate the fluidity of their app ecosystems, honestly assessing whether they promote maximal visibility and access. 

"In evaluating project-based enterprise solutions, bear in mind that there is a tremendous value difference between ERP with native project management and point-to-point integration with external project management software," continued Ndlela. "It pays to ensure that data flows freely between project management and the rest of the application set."

As contractors begin to focus on building integrated app structures, dedicated vendor support will be an essential success factor. Organizations should create partnerships with ERP service providers who truly know the construction industry and can generate an optimal project management environment. 

How mobile apps are shaping the enterprise in 2015

  
  
  

Enterprise mobility has experienced a rapid and impressive evolution over the past several years, as contractors have gradually chipped away at the obstacles holding their organizations back from full-on mobile functionality. No longer are tech teams concerned with BYOD compatibility issues or policy-building - software is now the star of the show, and companies are seeking to maximize the value of their apps in the mobile domain.

As 2015 rolls along, business leaders in construction should continue to push for app development and optimization, promoting the highest standard of mobile mastery.

Apps become a priority
When mobile strategies first came onto the scene years ago, organizations struggled to integrate these new hardware components, making software a secondary factor. Now, according to Information Age, applications are top of mind for enterprise leaders, who have since overcome the initial device management challenges of mobility. The source pointed to a report from Claranet, in which 76 percent of the 900 IT decision-makers surveyed considered applications their No. 1 priority in 2015. This proves that device details are playing second fiddle to software and data.  

"The software revolution is in full swing, affecting every industry - applications and data, and the IT teams that manage them, are more important to a company's success in the market than ever before," said Neil Thomas, Claranet's U.K. product director, according to the source. "The reality is that organizations will increasingly need to use a blend of services to arrive at the optimal solution."

The source argued that third-party application support will be a critical success factor for enterprise applications in the months and years to come. For contractors tired of crafting substandard apps for their mobile workforces, it may be time to consider upgrading to a more comprehensive construction software system that integrates back-office operations with on-the-go staff members' devices. 

Expecting more from mobile
An article from Enterprise Apps Today echoed the sentiment that a streamlined mobile experience is crucial for business leaders in all sectors, pointing out that inconsistencies across databases and applications can cripple employee productivity, regardless of their device flexibility. The source explained that there should be no structural silos separating the mobile and desktop domains, as this can lead to communication breakdowns and a lack of coordination. This is especially important for contractors, whose operations are heavily collaborative and demand close synchronization. 

"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, according to the source. "I want to approve employee-related requests from my smartphone or tablet, like expenses on paid time off."

By leveraging the services of a dedicated construction software provider, contractors can overcome the limitations of fragmented application deployments, unifying their tools and data sets in a way that seamlessly bridges the mobility gap. With these capabilities, a company can finally realize the benefits of mobility it has always envisioned. 

Get a jump on green initiatives with construction software

  
  
  

The sustainability movement is one of the most widespread and important trends to impact the construction sector in recent history, and leaders from across the industry are eager to employ the latest green practices to catalyze positive environmental change and remain competitive in their field. According to the U.S. Green Building council, nearly 50 percent of new nonresidential construction this year will be eco-conscious, and by 2018, 84 percent of single-family homes will be built with sustainable materials and methods. Clearly, it's time to embrace the green revolution.

Despite the massive uptick in enthusiasm and capital for these projects, many construction leaders lack the experience and insight necessary to execute green initiatives in a profitable manner. Decision-makers should look into these three technological advantages to maximize the impact of their environmental endeavors and ensure that business continues to boom for years to come:

1. Strategic vision of ERP: The concept of resource efficiency is at the core of the sustainability movement, and from the perspective of a construction company, there's no better way to improve this standard of operations than by improving their capital management processes with an ERP solution. As a recent article from TechTarget pointed out, organizations are realizing that the key to many green goals lies in data generated in these software programs, as they provide decision-makers with the insights necessary to tackle new project types and engage with different construction methods. 

"It's not tree-hugging stuff," said Debbie Altham, co-president of Sustainable Dynamics, according to the source. "It's basic commercial business sense. Businesses need to be smarter, and this is one way of being smarter. I realized there is a huge [potential] in building measurement tools to help them manage their sustainability."

2. Connectivity of CRM: A great deal of sustainable strategy comes down to strong communication among the various stakeholders who embark on green projects, as these initiatives require exceptional coordination of resources and expertise. CRM platforms optimized for the construction sector are the best tools available to promote connectivity across departments and collaborative teams. With frameworks such as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification, leaders need to be on the same page with one another as they navigate the project life cycle. 

CRM can also dramatically enhance the visibility of the supply chain by keeping closer records of collaboration and improving upon key supplier and delivery relationships. All of these elements can solidify connections with the clients and collaborators that make green construction possible, promoting sustainability from at every stage of a project's execution. 

3. Transparency of BIM: Few technologies are as directly beneficial to sustainable construction as Building Information Modeling, as these 3D design programs offer tangible value in the reduction of waste and erroneous decision-making. TechTarget explained that BIM allows for more transparent planning processes, as well as real-time feedback into the efficiency of particular building components when implemented on-site. For designers, engineers and job-site supervisors, BIM provides visibility into the key factors that make up sustainable construction. 

A three point construction software vendor checklist

  
  
  

 

Every contractor knows that business partnerships are vital to the health and growth of their operations, but many organizations overlook one of the most important connections of all: the relationship with their construction software vendor. Since IT is a such a central element of today's enterprise strategy, companies must prioritize strong, lasting bonds with their service vendors to ensure they reap the full range of benefits these technologies have to offer. Contractors should run down this three-point checklist to see if their IT partnerships are optimized for longevity and value:

1. Industry-specific? Many vendors claim they can tweak their software offerings for construction, but only a few service providers truly know the nuances of this industry inside and out. Contractors need to thoroughly evaluate the experience of potential partners to gauge whether they're prepared to deliver the specialized solutions unique to their operations. The VAR Guy recently pointed out that a vendor's industry expertise is often the most telling indicator of its compatibility with a client, and in the world of construction, this connection is essential for success.  

2. Integrated deployments? Any service provider can deliver a slew of disparate applications to a client and call it a proprietary solution, but unless a vendor implements a genuinely integrated suite of services, contractors may be missing out on a host of valuable advantages. Construction teams should make sure their IT partners consolidate their apps whenever possible and reduce the complexity of the software implementation. 

3. Mobile-ready software? The bring-your-own-device movement is in full swing, and contractors must have mobile-conscious IT partners if they want to achieve and maintain a competitive edge. An article from Enterprise Innovation argued that future ERP deployments must be ready for mobile functionality, and construction teams should hold their vendors to this standard moving forward.  

"An ERP solution that enables access to information anywhere, anytime and on any device empowers users to work with increased efficiency," explained Craig Charlton, Senior Vice President at Epicor Software, according to the source. "ERP solutions that are built with mobile in mind and are able to balance the need for mobile usability will be favored by the buyers and users of tomorrow."

Tech trends - mobile or otherwise - are constantly saturating the market. A trustworthy IT vendor will act as the eyes and ears of its clients in the digital domain, identifying and adopting game-changing advancements as they are introduced over time. 

BIM awareness and adoption rates reach new heights

  
  
  

 

Contractors have been utilizing 3D imaging tools to orchestrate their construction projects since the turn of the millennium, but not until recently have software suites such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) become widespread in their popularity and functionality. Organizations are now making BIM a top priority when it comes to the adoption of construction software, recognizing its value at every stage of the project life cycle. Now that BIM has hit the mainstream, business leaders can no longer ignore the power of this revolutionary technology. 

A rapid rise to the top
The speed with which an IT trend saturates an industry generally indicates its influence and importance for businesses within the sector, and BIM is a prime example of such a phenomenon. More contractors are realizing the differentiating effects of BIM in the construction operation, and decision-makers everywhere are now becoming familiar with its capabilities. For those who may still be uninitiated or unclear on the subject, here's the National Institute of Building Sciences' definition of BIM, as offered by Eureka Magazine:

"A building information model is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility," explained NIBS, according to the source. "As such, it serves as a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle from inception onward." 

Surveying over 1,000 construction professionals from all corners of the industry, the NBS National BIM Report speaks for itself with regard to the undeniable impact of this modeling technology. Compared to the 58 percent of organizations aware of the software in 2010, 95 percent of survey respondents claimed familiarity with BIM this year. Implementation has also seen a boost, with 54 percent of firms using BIM in some capacity, compared with a 39 percent adoption rate the year prior. It's clear that BIM is on the map as a truly game-changing solution. 

The importance of integration
While BIM has become one of the most popular technologies in the world of construction software, organizations are still in the process of mastering these tools, especially when it comes to integration with existing application suites. One of the key necessities for BIM success is the development of a unified database on which digital elements must communicate with one another, since 3D models require financial and scheduling information to be maximally effective. This has led to a shift in BIM priorities, with firms looking to add new dimensions of value to their deployments. 

"More and more assets are being 'built with BIM', and this provides a fantastic opportunity to revolutionize the way in which users interact with the information contained in those assets," explained the NBS BIM Object Standard, as quoted by Eureka Magazine. "To achieve this, the digital building blocks that create virtual assets need to be standardized."

For instance, a company may benefit from the use of an isolated 3D BIM environment, but the advantages of a 5D system - one that includes the elements of time and cost information - are undeniable in a fast-paced construction environment. Firms are raising the bar for the capabilities of their BIM tools, piecing together disparate ERP and scheduling suites with the modeling components of their software. This heightened standard of functionality leads to improved performance, increased efficiency and the reduction of waste on the job site. 

Future BIM functionality
Contractors have their work cut out for them in terms of building stronger BIM systems, focusing on app integration and interweaving the functions of these tools. There are still countless advancements to be made in this area of construction technology, however, as Construction Week Online pointed out. For example, companies are bringing BIM's capabilities to new stakeholder groups within the organization, broadening the scope of its influence and letting employees access its resources in powerful new ways. Mobile devices are just one example of how the BIM frontier is always pushing forward.

"It's now not just modeling - it's management and mobility - it's across the whole design and build operation," explained Ahmed Fahmy, senior application engineer at Bentley Systems, to the source. "The technology is way beyond just building. And it's not just for the design team. There is a need to contribute so that the model contains the level of data which everyone needs."

Internal construction and design teams aren't the only ones benefiting from BIM's expanding footprint, as external groups such as clients and business partners are now also looking to get in on the action. If orchestrated properly, a contractor can turn its BIM environment into a fully collaborative domain in which various contributors can access and manipulate the modeling technology in a synchronized manner. Soon enough, companies will consider BIM integration a required measure for participation on a contract, internalizing the value of this software on a deeper level. 

ERP Forecast: 6 Trends impacting construction software

  
  
  

 

Construction software tends evolve in stride with the world of enterprise IT, with leaders in the sector interpreting overarching trends in a way that benefits their unique goals. Enterprise resource planning solutions are perhaps the most significant benchmark of progress when it comes to developments in the software realm, as these services play a central role in every firm's tech strategy. ERP systems also typically reveal the technological savvy of an organization, as smaller IT trends are often reflected in these deployments.

It is through continuous evaluation and revamping that construction firms can gain competitive advantages with ERP, a process that includes understanding the most impactful advancements in the field. These six trends are making a splash across the ERP environment, and here's how contractors can use them to gain an edge. 

1. Collaborative channels: As construction operations grow more complex and rely on a wider variety of business units to function optimally, ERP must be easily accessible by a range of end users within and outside of the organization. Since enterprise-level contractors are handling several projects, clients and subcontractors at any given time, ERP needs to function as a channel for collaboration as well as productivity. IT leaders should assess their deployments to ensure smooth and consistent communications from one team to the next. 

2. Predictive capabilities: Since ERP is a primary tool for financial decision-making, analytics that offer predictive insights will be invaluable as these systems develop over time. Next-gen platforms should be able to forecast materials and inventory needs in real-time, while providing a deeper understanding of the supply chain's strengths and weaknesses. An article from Enterprise Apps Today noted that analytics are a must for any new ERP deployment, and legacy solutions may require an upgrade if intelligence capabilities are lagging. 

"Business intelligence and analytics features are becoming more of a standard function in ERP systems," said Derek Hitchman, solution consultant at SCS Cloud, as quoted by the source. "This trend is being driven primarily by executives who are expecting intelligent data from their software that can be used to make decisions rather than simply the raw numbers." 

3. Mobile developments: Employees across the construction sector are already taking full advantage of the BYOD policies introduced by their employers, but many contractors still don't deliver a complete set of ERP functions to the mobile environment. This severely limits the flexibility and productivity of staff members on the job site, meaning that future deployments must feature a wider range of capabilities if mobile objectives remain a priority. Contractors should focus on bringing back-office ERP fully into the mobile environment. 

The types of devices expected to connect with ERP systems are also expanding in variety and scope, a recent article from ERP Software Blog pointed out. For instance, wearable technologies are just around the corner for the manufacturing sector, a field commonly linked to construction as far as tech developments are concerned. Additionally, the Internet of Things is bound to impact construction operations, introducing a plethora of sensors and equipment add-ons that feed continuous streams of data into unified systems.

4. Cross-platform integration: Standalone ERP deployments still offer value to an enterprise operation, but organizations miss out on several powerful advantages by keeping these platforms separated from project management and CRM systems. In other words, contractors need to integrate their resource planning tools with other software solutions early and often, ensuring that data can flow seamlessly from one domain to the next. Enterprise Apps Today noted that breaking down application barriers is a critical success factor for all firms. 

"Previously, many companies wasted a lot of time hunting for insights across siloed departmental databases," said Victoria Adesoba, BI Market research associate at Software Advice, according to the source. "So being able to aggregate CRM, accounting, and HR and conduct predictive analytics in one suite is highly convenient and efficient. It's a function that businesses want, and in most cases need."

5. Greater BIM functionality: More than four-fifths of construction and design firms have some form of Building Information Modeling system in their arsenals, according to Building Design Construction's 2014 BIM survey, and these software components are proving critical throughout the project lifecycle thanks to real-time guidance and quality control. Still, many of these deployments are underpowered, leaving much to be desired in the way of ERP enablement. 

The BIM platforms of the future will deliver ERP-based insights including cost and schedule functions, adding new dimensions of control where designers and construction teams need them most. 

6. Future-proof support: Business leaders can't rely exclusively on internal tech teams to navigate them toward ERP success, especially with so many developments to juggle at once. That's why, according to Deloitte analyst Bill Allison, the best systems will evolve using learning functions that optimize efficiency wherever possible. This "process automation based on scale and repetition," will ensure a company's "adaptable response to often-changing events," in the words of Allison. 

5 Tips to optimize CRM for your construction business

  
  
  

Client relationships are vital to any business, but given the long-term, contract-oriented nature of the construction industry, these partnerships are even more vital to the health and development of an organization. That's why firms in this sector need to place heavy emphasis on the optimization of their CRM platforms, enabling stronger marketing campaigns, accelerated sales cycles and stellar communications throughout the span of the project's execution. After all, these functions can make or break a company's competitive edge in a service-centric market. 

With so many software options available at the enterprise level, however, corporate leaders may struggle to pinpoint exactly what they need from a client management system, especially if an organization is looking to overhaul its deployment from the ground up. Take a look at these five tips to make the most of CRM investments for construction firms:

1. Identify end-user demands: In today's business world, every IT decision must be made with a richly informed knowledge base, and CRM strategy is no exception to this rule. But before scanning the market for the right fit, a company must determine what its ideal system looks like, down to the granular details. As CIO Magazine recommended, project leaders should gather feedback from a wide range of internal sources, gaining insight into the demands and expectations of sales, marketing and on-site teams to get a well-rounded vision of their new CRM parameters. 

"Research the potential CRM ROI for every concerned employee and department before CRM purchase," said Nikolaus Kimla, CEO of Pipelinersales, according to the source. "Find out what each of them really wants from CRM, and what it needs to do for them."

2. Start with a strong foundation: Once an executive team has a clear game plan, it's time to proceed with the CRM selection process, in which a number of vendors and systems must be compared side-by-side. When weighing these options, a firm should keep its unique objectives firmly in mind, not wavering from its course or compromising its values for flashy features and gimmicks. For instance, a construction company will want to team up with a vendor that knows the nuances of the industry, making the installation process pain-free and minimizing time-consuming alterations. 

3. Train or remain the same: Whether a long-standing CRM system is undergoing some minor tweaks or a company is opting for a forklift upgrade, end users will need to be educated on the details of these changes in order to maximize the return on these software investments. Ideally, the CRM vendor will develop and distribute its own training modules to support adoption, but if this isn't the case, the tech department may need to take things into its own hands. A firm should also tweak its educational resources based on CRM's intended use within the organization. 

"Companies need to focus on training employees to consistently utilize the CRM effectively," said Miranda Palmer, business consultant with ZynnyMe business coaching. "Schedule regular mastermind sessions to [teach] employees [how to] train their colleagues how to best utilize the CRM for maximum results."

4. Step into the mobile arena: Countless examples have come forth in recent years highlighting the power of enterprise mobility, and while most construction firms have embraced the use of these devices in their daily operations, many CRM systems still fall short of mobile functionality. Construction firms should recognize the impact of mobile on the quality of the client experience, empowering customer-facing teams with these tools to promote strong interactions regardless of the context. As CIO pointed out, there should be no limit the to functionality of these on-the-go systems. 

"Mobile capabilities allow users to easily keep track of customer interactions and manage leads, proposals, opportunities, projects and files from any device, at any time," said Anthony Smith, the founder and CEO of Insightly, as quoted by the source. "For companies with employees that are consistently in and out of the office, this can improve effectiveness and productivity."

5. Brace for the future of CRM: Just like any other core enterprise software component, CRM systems are constantly evolving and changing with the times, meaning a company should prioritize flexibility when teaming up with a vendor. As SuperOffice recently pointed out, freedom of choice should be top of mind in the CRM selection process, considering an organization's objectives and priorities will shift significantly over time. A partnership based on communication and collaboration can help ensure the long-term relevance of a CRM deployment. 

For example, social CRM is a groundbreaking trend that many organizations are only just becoming familiar with, and few CRM systems are designed to integrate with networks that generate leads and connections. A future-proofed platform can easily integrate with third-party add-ons that bring these features to the table in a fast, user-friendly manner. This type of flexibility is invaluable in a digital world moving at such a rapid pace of innovation. 

Do your stakeholder groups have the ECM tools they demand?

  
  
  

While certain construction software solutions are designed for particular use cases and special circumstances, enterprise content management impacts nearly every area of the organization, from the orderly environment of the back office to the hectic atmosphere of the job site. While various stakeholders will approach these systems with different intentions and expectations, IT leaders have to ensure that each group of end users is given the support they need to accomplish their unique tasks. This requires an all-encompassing approach to ECM, rather than a series of fragmented solutions. 

That's why decision-makers should account for a wide range of ECM objectives and opportunities when crafting their strategies, maintaining a big-picture view of the organization's content demands and allowing for top-down visibility into each area of its operations. Here are three distinct stakeholder groups that utilize different functions, but ultimately demand a cohesive ECM strategy:

1. Financial teams in the back office
From overseeing transactions and budgets to tracking payrolls and supply chain processes, the finance department of a construction organization is responsible for ensuring smooth and efficient capital management. Now that so many offices are transitioning to the paperless standard, digital content is becoming the norm in these operations, requiring quality ECM tools across the financial domain of an organization. After all, the ability to access relevant, accurate information in a fast and reliable manner is the big difference-maker when it comes to sound financial management. 

Unfortunately, too many contractors fall victim to an overly complex and sprawling structure of ECM platforms, leaving end users confused and frustrated as they face critical deadlines. CMS Wire pointed out that most organizations have more than five separate repositories of information for employees to navigate - far from an efficient strategy. Despite their efforts to consolidate content on a single platform, companies often find themselves with more systems than they bargained for, leading to an overwhelming array of disparate ECM environments.

"What in fact ends up happening is that you had four repositories before you started [implementing a new system]. When you finish you have five or six. Ultimately you end up with more and more content sprawl across all these places," said Alex Gorbansky, CEO of Docurated, as quoted by the news source.

That's why construction leaders should seek out an ECM solution built specifically for the unique financial needs of their industries rather than selecting generic platforms. Software engineered for contractors has the workflows and functions necessary to take control of budgets and maintain a firm grip on content of all types. 

2. Sales and marketing representatives
Business development programs have their own ECM needs, but according to CMS Wire, sales and marketing staff spend a great deal of time rummaging through poorly organized content systems to find the information they need to craft campaigns and close new deals. In fact, the source noted that due to poor ECM strategies, these business units can waste up to 70 percent of their time in non-revenue generating activities. In such a fast-paced setting, sales and marketing reps have minimal margin for error, and need quick-acting solutions that deliver data on the fly.

A recent report from APQC and the St. Charles Consulting Group revealed that 43 percent of survey respondents claim their organizations are minimally or not at all effective at managing enterprise content. Contractors can tackle this problem head-on by deploying ECM solutions specific to the marketing and sales demands of the construction industry, simplifying and strengthening these processes for representatives. 

"Stakeholders are pleading for real-time, on-demand access to the content that is 'right' for them in order to do their work effectively. While technology is an enabler, the bulk of best-practice attributes focus on people- and process-related tactics to engage employees, solicit content, and link people to available resources," said Phil Davis, managing partner with St. Charles Consulting Group.

3. End users on the construction site
Finally, content is crucial to the job-site operation, and this arena brings a varied range of demands to the table. From pictures to blueprints and 3D models, on-site end users aren't only looking at the standard spreadsheets and reports that typify ECM deployments - they expect a multimedia experience to flesh out their project visions and guide them toward their goals. Contractors must consider the unique needs of their on-site stakeholders and integrate an ECM system that reflects these requirements. 

"Effective content teams are attuned to the needs of content stakeholders and end users inside their organizations," explained Lauren Trees, Knowledge Management research program manager for APQC. "They understand their audiences and provide tools and processes that align with how people want to contribute, access, share and reuse organizational knowledge."

With such a varied operational landscape, large construction firms have an especially dire need for consolidated, transparent ECM solutions. Decision-makers who deploy industry-specific solutions will stand to benefit across the organization - and all of its stakeholder groups. 

CRM for construction: 3 must-have features

  
  
  

The modern construction site is a balancing act of materials, equipment and most importantly, people. The world's best contractors know that to execute a multi-tiered project on time, within budget and up to exceptional standards of quality, they need to manage stakeholder relationships with the utmost precision and professionalism. That's why so many construction organizations are deploying CRM-style software solutions to support their connections with the multiple business partners they rely on from one project to the next.

Of course, the unique nature of the construction industry makes CRM implementation a challenge, especially if a company is operating at the enterprise level with a multitude of parallel contracts and commitments. Have a look at these three essential features for construction CRM platform that business leaders must make sure are prioritized in their next deployment:

1. Cross-platform connections: The most powerful CRM systems are able to draw from a wide variety of digital resources and aggregate this information for quick, easy end-user access. The fewer barriers between platforms such as ERP and project management exist within the architecture, the faster and more effective the CRM module will be - simple as that. Organizations that deploy dedicated construction software suites can avoid the hassles of cross-platform integration thanks to an environment readymade with unified data sets and app structures. 

2. Automated analytics tools: Manual analytics programs are valuable, but it's hard to justify the tedious, task-heavy process required to derive value from these systems. That's why automated analysis functions are so important in a modernized CRM setup, eliminating the burdens of manual data-entry and number-crunching to deliver immediate, relevant insights into construction operations. Tien Anh Nguyen, director of market insights at venture investment firm OpenView, recently told Enterprise Apps Today that the data within CRM can be overwhelming, demanding automated analytics. 

"When we dug deeper into the datasets, the skeletons kept coming out and forcing us to review and revise our analyses, or even redo them to ensure that our insights were still true," Nguyen explained, according to the source. "Often, the insights and data you uncover point toward conducting new analyses, which will require even more data preparation work."

3. Total mobile enablement: High-priority subcontractor and client communications must be maintained at all times, and urgent messages can't be put on the back burner when deadlines are looming overhead. That's why mobile capabilities are such a vital part of today's CRM setups, allowing end users to participate in key conversations and functions no matter where they may be. According to a blog post from Forrester analyst Kate Leggett, mobile CRM is one of the biggest trends to sweep the IT arena in 2015.

"[Connected devices] offer deeply personalized engagement delivered in context, better planning and anticipation of future customer needs, proactive, and even preemptive service with faster resolution, lower costs in times of failure and better customer satisfaction," explained Leggett.

Construction CRM is a must-have tool for all contractors, but these features will bring an organization's deployment to the next level of performance and productivity. 

Making the leap to mobile: 6 tips to transition ERP

  
  
  

Enterprise resource planning software is easily one of the most vital components in the modern contractor's IT arsenal, allowing decision-makers to organize their financials and capital assets in a clear and efficient manner. With the quickening pace of job site operations, however, business leaders miss out on a lot of value by keeping their ERP systems restricted to desktop workstations in the back office. Simply put, contractors that are able to bridge the gap to the mobile domain and equip on-site employees with powerful ERP functions stand to realize massive performance and productivity boosts. 

Of course, many obstacles stand in the way of IT teams looking to go mobile with their ERP systems, and even with a robust set of capabilities in their current construction software suites, achieving a mobile standard is not so easily done. Contractors must address the roadblocks in their paths and create a migration strategy that brings flexibility and functionality to the mobile environment. Here are six tips that business leaders can follow as they transition their ERP systems into the world of mobile:

1. Start with the right software: A contractor can't expect to be satisfied with a mobile deployment if it doesn't already have the best possible ERP software in place for its particular needs. In fact, an industry-specific solution is especially important for navigating the mobile landscape, as employees will have less time to sort through extraneous features and functions when hard at work on the job site. As a recent article from Enterprise Apps Today pointed out, having a strong core ERP program is crucial to ensuring a smooth transition to mobile, emphasizing the importance of the user experience. 

"I cannot overestimate the criticality of the user interface," said Adam Cheatham, an ERP consultant for Panorama Consulting, according to the source. "There is an expectation that mobile will be easy to use. If it isn't, there will be issues with adoption and your mobile strategy will suffer."

2. Develop BYOD policies: When it comes to executing on the migration phase of the mobile strategy, IT teams want to provide a painless, straightforward process for all end users. This means overcoming barriers such as hardware compatibility and operating system integration, as well as building a strong bring-your-own-device policy that allows all employees to easily hop on the mobile bandwagon. Companies that can swiftly add new users to their mobile ERP system regardless of their device type avoid many of the roadblocks that typically slow down mobility strategies. 

3. Prioritize data security: Contractors can become so preoccupied with creating high-performance mobile strategies that they often neglect the protection of the data that flows throughout their infrastructures, a grave oversight in a world that has become rife with digital threats and other privacy hazards. Employees should feel that their personal information is protected when using their own devices, and private data of clients and subcontractors should also be secure at all times. Strong access controls and authentication practices are a big part of creating a safe IT environment. 

"Basically setting employees up to have access to whatever data they have access to in the office on their mobile devices," Cheatham continued, according to Enterprise Apps Today. "This could create both audit and security issues if data is stored directly on devices."

4. Train and educate end users: Even if end users are very familiar with an ERP's desktop deployment, there are bound to be some adoption hiccups when transitioning to the mobile domain, especially if a contractor is taking the leap for the first time. IT teams must set up structures of feedback, support and training to ensure that employees can quickly and comfortably pick up on the nuances of the mobile software and accelerate the value a company expects from its investment. This requires a deep understanding of the tools and the unique elements of its mobile version. 

5. Be able to work offline: While many mobile strategies hold their own when connected to Wi-Fi networks, they lose their value when the connection is lost, leaving employees high and dry when they need the software most. Decision-makers deploying a mobile ERP strategy should make sure that their system allows end users to remain productive even without direct connectivity. The best construction software solutions can be used regardless of a local Wi-Fi presence, letting employees create reports and edit blueprints at all times - everything will be synchronized later when a connection is found. 

6. Ensure total app integration: ERP is indeed a central component of a contractor's software arsenal, but other tools such as project management and content creation modules must be integrated with this core feature set if contractors are to realize the full potential of their mobile deployment. Leveraging a dedicated construction management software suite allows companies to enjoy a complete range of functionality on the go, avoiding data silos and other inconveniences. 

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