At the enterprise level, contractors handle multiple job sites like spinning plates, responsible for the uninterrupted progress of many projects occurring simultaneously. Because top-tier decision-makers are often not present on the construction site itself, it's critical that these leaders have the ability to orchestrate employees, subcontractors and other stakeholders from a distance. Technology that facilitates communication is the key that unlocks the ability to coordinate many contracts at once without losing a shred of productivity or precision.
Unfortunately, many companies suffer from a lack of control over these digital tools, and employees unaware of file sharing best practices put their organizations at risk of data breaches and the leakage of crucial information, especially when tapping into these resources remotely. Dedicated construction software solutions are necessary to steer employees away from vulnerable consumer-grade file sharing applications and keep them on the right track when it comes to upholding best practices in remote environments.
Finding a balance
One of the most persistent challenges for the enterprise in the digital age is finding a stable middle ground between dynamic file sharing capabilities, remote access convenience and the security of critical corporate data in transit. According to a recent article from Mobile Enterprise, the demand for all three of these elements is sky-high, pressuring IT teams to create a harmonious balance. Things aren't getting any easier, either - the source pointed to a recent report from Soonr revealing that 33 percent of tech professionals find it difficult to secure enterprise data, up from only 9 percent a few years ago.
"With 59 percent of respondents feeling it is 'important,' or 'very important,' to be able to download or edit work files from a mobile device outside the office, addressing these concerns is paramount," said Ahmet Tuncay, CEO of Soonr, as quoted by the source. "Solution providers can no longer rely on simple sync-and-share capabilities - employees need easy access to complete documents along with full editing capabilities under a range of conditions, even offline, in order to do their jobs efficiently."
All about the software
As suggested by the report itself, enterprise leaders can find the sweet spot between productivity, convenience and security by deploying stronger solutions for employees to rely upon, moving away from the consumer-grade tools that leave networks highly vulnerable. Construction project management software offers dedicated channels through which employees can communicate across job sites while keeping files safe from harm.
Business interactions are precious in the world of construction, as every checkpoint in the client or subcontractor journey is crucial to building strong connections, cultivating trust and creating a fruitful partnership between the two parties. This is why customer relationship management has become such a prominent component of the construction management software ecosystem - loyalty is an invaluable asset to any company, especially for contractors that rely on repeat business to survive.
CRM has seen some dramatic improvements in recent years, of course, and contractors must take these advancements into account when crafting their tech strategies for the future. To get an idea of where this crucial software is headed and how it should be implemented in the construction environment, here are three major CRM trends happening now:
1. Social enablement fuels expansion: There's no shortage of hype surrounding social media's impact on the business world, but contractors may not realize just how important these platforms can be to enrich their marketing outlooks and discover profitable connections. A recent article from Business 2 Community Apeksha Harihar revealed that with LinkedIn and Facebook integration, CRM can unlock an endless stream of opportunities for businesses seeking to open new doors. Social is especially powerful when embedded throughout the organization to deliver value to all departments.
"An integrated method within a business that brings together public relations, sales, marketing and HR to build together a simultaneous relationship with a social user," according to social media expert Apeksha Harihar, as quoted by the source.
2. Integrated applications close sales: Personal details are worth their weight in gold when it comes to CRM interactions - individual customers and big businesses alike are much more compelled to stick around when they feel like they are truly understood and appreciated. When competing for major contracts, sales teams should have access to a wealth of individualized preferences, past experiences and other unique points of knowledge that foster deeper connections and lead to deals.
"The much talked about customer-centric model and 360-degree customer view are possible when external data is mapped with internal customer data and combined in an integrated database," a statement from Cognizant's Moving Beyond Social CRM report said.
3. Analytics tools bolster partnerships: Mistakes happen, but contractors that can analyze their operations to pinpoint and eliminate inefficiencies will be much more quickly forgiven by business partners, leading to stronger customer relationships. Data analytics should empower every aspect of the construction software blueprint, especially CRM.
Today's construction leaders devote a great deal of time, attention and IT resources to streamlining and improving their operations on the job site and within office headquarters. Cutting out inefficiencies is challenging for even the most well-equipped enterprises, but identifying weak areas is a daunting task unto itself, requiring close analysis of every facet of the project footprint, not to mention a proactive plan to fix the issues discovered. Thankfully, analytics provides a powerful way to pinpoint these shortcomings and build a stronger strategy than ever before.
For contractors who may not know their way around the analytics landscape, there is a lot to be learned. First, decision-makers must know where, when and why they should leverage these data-crunching resources to evaluate and fortify their operational efficiency. Here are the three best ways construction companies can utilize analytics and break through bothersome plateaus:
1. Give ERP an intelligent edge: Enterprise resource planning software is a central feature of any comprehensive construction software deployment, but these tools need to be fine-tuned to deliver optimal results in every area of its functionality. From inventory management to project budgeting and procurement needs, ERP is a prime candidate for analytics enablement. According to a recent article from Enterprise Apps Today, the integration of business intelligence and ERP is the first step toward maximally efficient workflows and optimal productivity.
"There will always be a need for sophisticated BI tools that are utilized by data warehouse and BI specialists," said Frank Scavo, president of IT research firm Computer Economics, according to the source. "Rather than have them toggle out to a separate reporting tool, leading ERP systems are providing that reporting right within the ERP application."
2. Bolster CRM for better alliances: Client and business partner relationships are vital for every contractor, and analytics-enabled CRM solutions are a powerful differentiator in any construction project management software. From sales to marketing and in-the-moment communications, CRM proves valuable - analytics brings it to the next level by connecting these previously disparate environments and generating insights that improve the accessibility of key data. CRM that reveals behavioral and preference patterns can make all the difference when it comes to closing a sale or completing a project.
"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."
3. Simplify workflows on the job: While ERP and CRM may play a major role in the back office, analytics can also pack a punch on the construction site itself. Whether supervisors are looking to improve the flow of communication down to trade professionals or need to better coordinate game plans with subcontractors on the fly, analytics can provide a snapshot of how fast and frequent these connections are being made. These insights also give supervisors leverage in their day to day leadership roles, allowing them to direct their teams with strategies backed by hard facts.
The financial outlook of an enterprise construction company is a living, breathing organism - countless external and internal influences affect its well-being and a constant state of evolution requires granular attention on every aspect of its development. To navigate multiple projects simultaneously while ensuring accurate and effective budgeting across the board, organizations must leverage fully modernized digital tools and stay ahead of client and stakeholder reporting schedules. Here are three essential features that should be part of any construction financial management solution:
1. Visibility and clarity of all assets: Successful construction organizations rely on smooth procurement, inventory, and deployment processes for all necessary materials and labor components. This requires an unmistakably clear view of every asset within a company's domain, ensuring that not a single dollar goes to waste at any stage of the construction process. A typical spreadsheet can only take a team so far - organizations need dynamic planning solutions that deliver continuously updated information wherever and whenever it is required, according to TechTarget.
The source pointed out that traditional budget strategies were mapped out on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, limiting the agility of an organization and locking down finances unnecessarily. Real-time financial processes offer live monitoring and reporting that minimizes risk with consistent monitoring capabilities.
"The new budgeting process is a more integrated process where the organization provides new data on a continuous basis," said Dave Murray, director of thought leadership at the Business Performance Network, according to the source.
2. Dedicated partner communications: Today's contract budgets are informed by many disparate sources, from internal procurement plans to subcontractor demands and regulatory compliance measures. To ensure that all of these parties are kept in the loop and satisfied with the financial trajectory of the project, business leaders must make their capital project management outlooks conducive to collaboration and open access. Dedicating channels of communication to these partnerships is essential for any multi-stage contract built on interconnected business relationships.
3. Analytics capabilities for the future: The best financial management tools not only allow companies to provide accurate and timely reports to stakeholders, but they also offer insight into the direction of the organization by analyzing past patterns for inefficiencies and problem areas. Integrated analytics solutions are a powerful asset for any company with wide-ranging financial footprints, as many minor performance tweaks can add up to major savings in the long run. TechTarget pointed out that data analysis is becoming critical to agile demand responsiveness and preemptive adjustment.
"[Businesses focus on] creating much more alignment between the financial group and the business units, and in some cases doing away with the annual budgeting process as it has been known for many, many years, just because they had found it to be unresponsive to the business' needs," Murray told the news source.
No two contractors will approach their finances in the same way, but visibility, communications and analytics should remain at the core of any digital construction accounting environment.
As the digital age barrels along, decision-makers across the private sector are finding it more difficult to track and protect the channels through which employees are sharing key business information. From financial records to blueprints and private employee details, company networks house and transmit a wealth of sensitive data that must be protected with greater precision and control. If contractors want to rise to the top of their sectors, they'll need to promote strong construction document management methods and reduce the risks commonly associated with these practices.
Unfortunately, many business leaders in this industry don't recognize the importance of secure, dedicated file sharing channels for their employees, subcontractors and external stakeholders. Here are four reasons why contractors should prioritize the protection of key documents as they make their way across networks and onto their destinations:
1. Employees are cutting corners: It's only natural for workers to seek the path of least resistance when it comes to sharing key files across the construction environment, but internal tech teams everywhere have watched the shadow IT epidemic spiral out of control in recent years, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The source pointed to findings from a recent 451 Research survey revealing that employees in close to 70 percent of polled organizations are leveraging apps behind the backs of network strategists, suggesting that deceit is becoming the norm in the IT department. Dedicated construction management software can bring these efforts back on track, but decision-makers must be careful not to employ such strict policies that employees feel caged in by their software options.
"Many times we think we know what people are doing, but they're really creative around ways of using services that for the most part are free," Larry Biagini, chief technology officer at General Electric, told the news source. "It's a really finely adjusted slider. If you exercise too much control, the populace goes elsewhere."
2. Leaders are turning their heads: While some IT decision-makers are genuinely out of the loop on shadow initiatives, a handful of leaders are fully aware of the stealthy file sharing habits of their employees, according to CSO Online. Uncovering details from a recent Ponemon Institute survey, the source revealed that half of the 1,100 tech professionals polled admitted to engaging in poor behavior regarding file protection and associated policies.
"Management often turns a blind eye to the risks because these applications often make employees more productive," Larry Ponemon, Chairman and Founder of the Ponemon Institute, told the source. "Data leakage and loss from negligent file sharing and information collaboration practices is becoming just as significant a risk as data theft."
To reduce risk while ensuring workers retain their collaborative potential, contractors should open their eyes and ears to the trends occurring behind closed doors and adjust the trajectories of their approaches accordingly.
3. IT lacks visibility and control: While enterprise leaders are responsible for managing the overarching reputational and operational risk of the construction site, it's up to IT administrators to handle the more granular aspects of the secure file transfer ecosystem. As CSO Online revealed, however, there is an alarming absence of visibility into the networks facilitating most data transmissions across the enterprise, largely due to the rise of shadow IT and disparate applications. Aside from these trends, audit and reporting measures aren't keeping up with security best practices.
The Ponemon survey pointed out that less than half (49 percent) of respondents had adequate visibility into the file sharing and synchronization applications used by their employees. Even if decision-makers vow to bolster their security practices, the survey noted that 50 percent of organizations don't have the ability to manage the authorization of individual end users and prioritize the protection of particular applications. Dedicated construction project management software solutions ensure that these controls are readily available to administrators in need of visibility.
4. Productivity is being sacrificed: Construction document management tools aren't just about diminishing security and control risks, they're also needed to promote optimal business practices and create ideal conditions for collaboration across teams. The more time and effort staff members spend on downloading and testing unauthorized apps, the less focused they'll be on the tasks at hand. Decision-makers owe it to their employees and stakeholders to provide dedicated, streamlined channels through which to team up and tackle objectives head-on.
"Employees' ability to work across groups and with partners, suppliers and customers in real-time can be a competitive advantage for organizations," Ponemon continued in his statement, according to CSO Online.
Contractors that want to reduce the risks of shadow IT while boosting the collaborative potential of the workforce and external stakeholders must deploy file sharing tools specialized for the construction environment. Employees given access to top-tier solutions won't want to go elsewhere for their document management needs, and internal IT can secure these channels within the enterprise and beyond.
It's impossible to find a contractor that has a perfect track record with all of its business partners and clients. Even the smoothest projects tend to encounter some bumps in the road as a result of partnership challenges, and a seemingly minor dispute can become a full-blown feud if not managed quickly and effectively.
In order to prevent these blowouts from marring a company's reputation, contractors must deploy construction management software that bolsters bonds between collaborative parties. According to Construction Global, technology is one of the most effective peacemakers and risk reducers. Here are 5 ways in which these solutions can strengthen contractor partnerships for long-term success:
1. Access documents from anywhere: Without fast and easy access to vital financial and planning documents, there are plenty of opportunities for contract partners to point fingers at one another. Design flaws or budget miscalculations can lead to some nasty accusations if decision-makers aren't able to swiftly access the definitive resources that reveal the truth of the matter.
2. Ensure all files are synchronized: Even with instant-access capabilities, documents won't be of much use unless they are automatically synced up across the construction software suite. Subcontractors and clients that have the latest updates to critical files won't raise any fingers when it comes time to make a key decision moving forward.
3. Open channels of communication: Construction document management tools make sure that key information is always on hand, especially when coupled with mobile technology. Communications can fire up and down the chain of command at a rapid clip when fortified by collaborative and dedicated channels. This speeds up the decision making process and diminishes crossed signals.
4. Reduce margin of error with BIM: A botched materials order or schedule misalignment is a sure way to flare tensions on a job site between partners and even internal team members. Traditional procurement and supply chain communications are subject to error from a number of different areas. Thankfully, modernized solutions such as BIM ensure that everything happens on time, within budget and according to plan with subcontractors and clients. Crystal-clear 3D models and integrated ERP support transparent operations from the planning stage through completion and maintenance.
5. Remember client details with CRM: Today's clients expect that their chosen contractors know their preferences and parameters inside and out, meaning construction companies must have relevant information on hand when conducting communications with these parties. CRM should be included in the construction software lineup to build client trust and loyalty.
Contractors have more than enough components to their risk management profiles, factoring in the safety of employees, subcontractor relationships and the legal ramifications of their construction parameters. These job-site concerns are only the tip of the iceberg, however, as the impact of IT on enterprise operations has opened up several new avenues of risk for the average organization to identify, gauge and control. Because the digital arena is still a relatively new environment for many contractors, the pressures of these assets and agreements may seem disproportionately concerning.
To get a grip on enterprise IT risk and develop a strategy to effectively mitigate its reach, here are three areas that contractors can focus on as they adopt new hardware and construction project management software assets:
1. Develop partnerships based on trust: As construction project management relies more heavily on the coordination of disparate teams and organizations, decision-makers will have to view their IT service providers as an integral part of their missions, just as they would include a subcontractor or external construction consultant. A recent article from CIO Magazine recommended that companies strengthen relationships with their vendors to effectively target and dissolve risk.
"This is paramount if we are to bridge the gap between realizing the business drivers to its adoption, balanced by the risk introduced from a security perspective," said Marc Vael, international VP at the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, according to the news source.
2. Educate the masses on next-gen IT: Even the simplest solutions come with a learning curve, and failing to properly train end users on the ins and outs of new construction software can result an extended adoption period and a major loss of momentum. Since the integration of these services is so central to operational efficiency at large, any hitches in deployment can have negative repercussions across the job site and the back office. Education and awareness promotion are paramount to risk control.
3. Patch up any gaps in mobile security: With the saturation of mobile devices on the construction worksite, a variety of newfound risk elements have been unveiled. In light of the past year's data breach epidemic, it has become imperative that decision-makers secure their remote access points, especially if they contain construction financial management details. Addressing and eliminating network vulnerabilities must be a core feature of any modern risk mitigation strategy.
It may be hard to believe, but construction organizations are still struggling to push past legacy systems and into the next generation of IT. Despite their best efforts, many decision-makers simply don't have the internal resources necessary to create the integrated construction management software suites that end users and stakeholders demand. For those boardrooms that need to jumpstart their initiatives, here are three steps leaders can follow to bring their systems up to speed with the digital age.
1. Get the full value of ERP: A main reason why contractors fail to effectively leverage next-gen tools is that they enter the IT procurement process without a clear vision of what they want from their construction software deployments. According to an article from Works Management, modernization projects should begin with enterprise resource planning systems, offering financial insight and inventory tools that will streamline the core processes of the construction operation.
"Ultimately, the purpose of the exercise is better control and not simply to undertake ERP integration for its own sake," EMS operations director Chris Mulvihill told the source. "Capturing the data and integrating it with other systems is pointless if it doesn't actually add value."
2. Fully integrate CRM: Standalone solutions such as CRM are powerful on their own, but when they can receive, generate and sync data across other elements of the infrastructure, contractors can realize a new level of value from their investments. Works Management suggested that by consolidating the features of CRM and scheduling within the ERP environment, companies can reduce their software spend while synchronizing data and resources more effectively across applications.
"Just because you use a 'point solution' now - be it finite capacity scheduling, CRM , or quality management - doesn't mean that you necessarily need that same point solution going forward," said Nick Castellina of the Aberdeen Group, according to the source.
3. Mobilize all end users: Requiring that employees return to a desktop workstation to complete even the most minor tasks is a sure way to waste precious time, money and talent. When construction project controls are standardized for mobile functionality, contractors can take the power of their software on the go, eliminating the need for tedious manual recording processes and updates back at headquarters. This not only saves a great deal of strain for employees, it also expedites nearly every aspect of the construction process and reduces waste and error.
Mobile device integration is the latest holy grail of construction site efficiency, with contractors in every corner of the industry striving to make the most of the mobility revolution. While every forward-thinking business leader has a clear idea of what they want from these strategies, the details of achieving these goals may not be so cut-and-dried. Even the most experienced IT veterans may need a bit of guidance as they attempt to revitalize operations with mobile construction management software. Here are 3 keys to executing an optimal enterprise mobility integration:
1. Recognize current weak points: Like any IT solution, mobile must address specific problems within a company's operations to yield tangible results. The boardroom must ask themselves what pain points they're looking to alleviate with mobility. Do on-site employees lack channels of communication with superiors? Are subcontractors not being kept in the loop on key project checkpoints? Identifying these shortcomings and targeting a mobile solution for those exact purposes is a powerful strategy.
2. Look at the big picture of IT: While mobile has been the subject of an endless stream of hype and excitement, it's important to remember that this technology is only a small component of the construction project management equation at large. RCR Wireless Network suggested that taking a macro approach to IT development is crucial to supporting mobile, as honing in exclusively on device integration may result in a lack of balance.
"Addressing the full spectrum of enterprise mobility management is often overlooked in favor of focusing on the immediate pain point of having to manage the plethora of personal mobile devices and applications that continue to flood the workplace," said Tracy Crowe, director of product marketing for NetMotion, according to the news source.
Decision-makers should consider making high-level construction software overhauls if they're behind the times.
3. Develop sufficient user support: RCR Wireless Network explained that with trends such as BYOD flooding the enterprise environment, internal IT must be prepared to deliver quick, dependable service whenever end users encounter roadblocks. Whether connectivity issues block communications or employees are struggling with software learning curves, support networks must be in place to help work out the kinks of a mobile integration.
"[Bring-your-own-device] and the 'consumerization of IT' continue to challenge many IT organizations but this doesn't mean there isn't relief," continued Crowe, as quoted by the source.
If these demands grow to be too much for in-house teams, it will be vital for companies to be able to rely on third-party service providers to step up and handle trouble tickets.
The benefits of building information modeling software have been illuminated in nearly every aspect of the construction process, but decision-makers overlooking enterprise contractor operations may want a bit more evidence that BIM actually delivers cost savings for the bottom line. Without the ability to connect tangible efficiency gains directly to the technology, business leaders won't be convinced about any IT investment, let alone a next-generation solution such as integrated BIM. Here are three rock-solid ways in which BIM software brings real, sustainable cost saving opportunities to the enterprise.
1. Precise design diminishes error: Every contractor has had to deal with lost time, energy and money as a result of the misalignment of materials procurement or coordination mishaps on the job site. With BIM, these errors can finally be a thing of the past - according to Construction Manager, the organization behind England's HS2 project has already attributed upwards of $400 million in cost savings to the accuracy of BIM's design and financial planning mechanisms.
"We don't want to see redesign, reworking, man-marking. We want to see efficiencies from methods and materials used in other countries and other industries," HS2 Ltd strategy director Alastair Kirk told the news source.
2. Automation closes skills gaps: On-site professionals are already tasked with enough responsibilities, so putting complex software expertise demands on their shoulders rarely bodes well for productivity and morale. That's why integrated BIM software is such a powerful tool for streamlining operations. With ERP and schedules embedded into the design interface, tedious tasks can be eliminated and allow for increased focus on the task at hand.
3. An ally for the whole supply chain: On a massive project such as HS2, the supply chain can become a tangled mess of complex contracts, change orders and delivery dates. Luckily for stakeholders, 94 percent of the supply chain uses BIM, and more than 60 percent have clear financial and scheduling goals integrated with the software. This boosts collaboration and communication across the many checkpoints of the chain.
"BIM offers a unique opportunity for our whole supply chain to work collaboratively and to share crucial information on design data, stakeholder interactions and asset information before, during and after construction," Jon Kerbey, HS2 Ltd head of management systems, told Construction Manager.
Whether a company is building the next high-speed railroad or renovating a house, BIM offers compelling cost saving opportunities from end to end.