Executives in the construction industry spend years defining their companies' unique value propositions and making those ideals a reality by following through on their mission statements. It's this type of integrity that sets the winners apart from the losers in a cutthroat sector, and tends to be the determining factor in whether a company even gets off the ground. Why, then, do so many firms neglect to implement an ERP system that reflects the distinct operational and cultural factors that differentiate them from their competitors?
Whether decision-makers simply aren't aware of the specialized solutions available on the market today or firmly believe that their current software deployments suffice, there's no denying that a more tailored ERP system is always the optimal choice when weighing out options in this vital component of IT. Contractors must view their construction project management software as an extension of their companies' unique competitive edge, and embrace the idea that an ERP system should fit the business's needs - not the other way around.
Taking a vertical approach
The correlation is clear - the larger and more complex a construction firm's operations become, the less effective generic ERP deployments will be in promoting efficient, streamlined processes. This is especially true for companies that embark on long-term, multi-tier projects and rely on many distinct subcontractors to deliver on niche material and labor demands. This is where the value of vertically-integrated ERP comes to light, offering construction project controls built specifically for the management of operations only found in a high-pressure job site situation.
A recent article from Manufacturing Business Technology echoed this point by drawing parallels across other industries, including industrial manufacturers, the auto industry and consumer goods producers. Each sector has its own distinct supply chain structures, business partnership hierarchies and internal operational standards that simply don't hold up from one arena to the next. Recognizing that a company's industry presents its own challenges, as well as the firm's responsibility to overcome them in unique ways, is pivotal in the ERP conversation.
Keeping it flexible
While construction software will ideally be implemented in close alignment with the operations and functions of the contractor in question, these solutions must retain some malleability in order for firms to navigate the changes that will inevitably affect their processes down the line. As Manufacturing Business Technology noted, flexibility is a virtue when it comes to vertical ERP, as the ability to further tailor these systems with agility is often a make-or-break factor in the long run.
"If the ERP system is not easily and quickly customizable it will become the oxen yoke around the company's neck; ever restricting business expansion and its ability to quickly respond to market demands," noted Tim Blair White, Consulting CIO at L.N. Curtis and Sons, according to the source.
ERP is a must-have in any construction project management software suite. Contractors must make sure they leverage the tools that are right for their industry and distinct objectives.
Enterprise organizations are still discovering what powerful advantages they can reap with the deployment of BYOD mobile solutions - as well as the dangers they face when navigate this risk-heavy area of modern IT. Companies must ensure that they leverage BYOD to maximize value and minimize the hazards of personal device use, and that this balance is built upon a strong mobile policy understood and upheld by every employee within the organization. Teaming up with a dedicated construction management software provider is a surefire way to develop this roadmap and execute it confidently.
Legal woes burden BYOD
While so many decision-makers focus in on the cost-saving, productivity-boosting power of mobile devices on and off the job site, it's important that they also recognize where these deployments can go awry and construct a BYOD policy that addresses these potential pitfalls. According to a recent article from FierceMobileIT, Houston construction firm Design Tech ran into legal trouble when an employee gave his two weeks' notice, only to find that his mobile device had been wiped of nearly $100,000 in valuable business and personal content. The issue was taken all the way to federal court in Texas.
The employee, Saman Rajaee, had filed a lawsuit against Design Tech following the deletion of what he claimed to be critical information pertaining to his business contacts and side projects involving detailed construction documents. FierceMobileIT explained that Rajaee cited a number of Texas state laws, as well as the United States' Stored Communications Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in his argument, asserting that his rights and property had been violated by his employer. Design Tech's passive approach to BYOD ended up proving riskier than its decision-makers had ever thought.
"Employers using a BYOD environment really need to put a BYOD policy in place," said Brian Hall, an attorney with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, according to the news source. "Had Design Tech had such a policy, it could have - and indeed, should have told its employees, including Rajaee, that upon separation of employment (or, for instance, also if the device is lost or stolen), any device used to access the employer's network would be wiped."
Key policy clarifications
Luckily for this construction company, its unhappy employee was unable to produce sufficient evidence to support his case, FierceMobileIT explained. Although Design Tech wiggled its way out of this courtroom situation without a scratch, however, decision-makers certainly learned their lesson, recognizing firsthand the importance of a crystal clear mobile device policy, especially those involving personal phones and laptops. However tempting it may be to approach BYOD with a hands-off attitude, the risks associated with these possible repercussions are simply not worth the convenience.
As construction firms find themselves under increasing pressure to deliver mobile functionality to end users, it is critical that they employ stringent BYOD protocols to complement their construction project management software applications. Teaming up with a dedicated service provider can address both sides of the coin, ensuring that team members remain productive and employers actively neutralize the risks of enterprise mobility.
The expression "time is money" takes on a whole new meaning in the world of construction, and clients won't hesitate to fork over a significantly larger capital sum if they can be guaranteed a shorter time horizon for their contracts without sacrificing quality or control. Time savings is a powerfully compelling reason why Building Information Modeling software is such as vital component of any organization's construction project management software suite, and an integral part of any enterprise contractor operation overall.
When integrated properly with ERP and scheduling tools, BIM can shave precious hours off the design, build and maintenance cycles that prolong traditional construction processes, offering value to contractors, stakeholders and employees alike. It's a next-gen tool that truly makes a difference on and off the job-site, serving to separate a contractor from its competition for the long haul.
How exactly does BIM expedite project checkpoints without compromising precision or building quality? According to a recent article from Prairie Business Magazine, an expansion project on Essentia Health's Fargo, North Dakota headquarters, was fast-tracked with the help of Moorhead Electric's BIM construction software, which virtually built the entire project before any ground was broken. This removed any schedule-hampering risks that tend to hold projects back from swift completion, including materials shortages and labor oversights.
In addition, MEI was able to speed up the prefabrication process, which typically takes a significant allotment of time and collaborative coordination without digital enablement. The source explained that this helped bridge the time-consuming gaps between design and construction teams, further accelerating the overall momentum of the project.
"The headwalls are just one of the areas that BIM and prefab are being used," said Marty Ekren, senior project manager at MEI, according to Prairie Business Magazine. "We also took the model and used it to build our room racks, multi-trade racks, electrical rooms, distribution conduits and all of our room kits."
Leverage BIM in full
The example highlighted by the source shows the power of BIM in its full time-saving potential, noting the speed and precision that contractors can harness using these solutions. When leveraging any type of BIM suite, however, contractors must ensure that they are prepared to fully integrate the software with the rest of their applications and databases for maximum impact. Guidance and implementation assistance from a leading BIM provider can help a company develop the ideal digital ecosystem, complete with ERP and scheduling enablement.
Highly detailed and fully transparent construction financial management is a pivotal component of a contractor's risk mitigation strategy, especially for large enterprise organizations with huge portfolios and international footprints. As supply chains increase in length and complexity, subcontractor relationships become more involved and client contracts deepen in detail, precise financial record-keeping and reporting turn into a vital requisite for success. More business leaders are recognizing the link between risk aversion and powerful construction software, driving adoption across the industry.
The war on error
A recent report published by global consulting firm Protiviti highlighted the top priorities of today's financial executives, revealing that a substantial component of enterprise risk is generated by everyday end user mistakes and a lack of oversight necessary to right these wrongs. Given the disparate IT layouts utilized by today's financial teams, it's no surprise that error is a rampant concern. Enhancing the integration of ERP applications in construction software suites is a powerful driver of transparency and a way to develop resilience against this common form of risk.
"ERP, general ledger and consolidation systems have dramatically reduced human errors and processing delays, but the processes of reconciling and closing a company's books at local and group levels continue to burden the finance function," explained Bill Sinnett, senior director of research for the Financial Executives Research Foundation, as quoted by the source.
The report also cited a number of related objectives for CFOs and other financial leaders, including strategic planning, forecasting, business intelligence and general performance improvements. While these goals may be diverse in scope, the deployment of specialized capital project management software can drive results for any enterprise construction operation, offering a suite of applications designed to work in harmony with one another rather than individually.
Another common thread that runs the spectrum of financial risk is a lack of alignment between finance teams and the rest of the business. In other words, keeping construction financial management tools locked away in a silo is bound to lead to problems. The source explained that this department should be treated as an ally, and this partnership reflected with integrated IT solutions.
"Our survey results reinforce the continued challenge for CFOs: how to make finance a strategic partner to the business to enable profitable growth, whether it's through strategic acquisitions or market expansion," Peter Firestone, a managing director with Protiviti's Business Performance Improvement practice, told the source.
Construction software is a must for financial acuity, and coordination with other departments can serve to strengthen these essential connections that fight risk head on.
It's easy to get stuck in the same old patterns with legacy IT systems of any kind. Familiarity with construction software interfaces, high levels of end user adoption and solidified compatibility across the organization are just a few of the reasons why tech leaders are apprehensive when weighing their options for an upgrade. When it comes to a core solution such as ERP, however, decision-makers don't have much of a choice for leaping into the next generation - updates must be leveraged to ensure that contractors don't fall behind the competition.
With this realization comes a great deal of pressure, of course, and many executives will find themselves scrambling blindly to bring their ERP suites up to speed with the cutting edge. To promote a stable and effective transition into a new construction software environment, business leaders may want to heed the advice of these three tips to future-proof key ERP assets:
1. Partner with an industry pro: Relying on generic enterprise software is not wise for any participant in the highly differentiated construction landscape, and this is especially apparent to contractors who have tried to upgrade their systems from one generation to the next. That's why adopting a construction-specific solution is such a valuable strategic move for the long term. Not only is the initial integration period simplified by customized workflows and intuitive tools, but the business's inevitable twists and turns will be much more easily managed down the line.
2. Keep an eye on the horizon: According to Unit4 Software, 96 percent of today's organizations must make significant changes to their ERP setups to keep up with the pace of change. To mitigate the risks of these constant and unpredictable shifts, business leaders should keep a close watch on industry trends and developments that may necessitate an adjustment to their construction project management software. This includes client demands, competitor maneuvers and any tweaks made by supply chain partners.
3. Brace for unexpected change: Weathering the evolving ERP landscape is a costly affair - Unit4 Software pointed out that the typical enterprise spends $1.2 million every year to ensure their systems are capable of handling new demands. To keep these inevitable costs at a minimum, business leaders should prepare their organizations with training and support that shortens adoption periods and troubleshoots in a timely manner. Again, a dedicated construction software provider can be an invaluable asset in this regard.
The bigger a construction company gets, the more challenging it becomes for IT teams to lock down a secure yet flexible BYOD policy for remote employees. Orchestrating the deployment of construction software across a heavily dispersed workforce is tough enough, but mitigating the risks associated with end users' personal devices is unexplored terrain for even the most seasoned tech veterans. According to a recent Fox Business article, however, there's no getting around the BYOD revolution, and contractors must come up with an answer to their conundrum sooner rather than later.
"The BYOD trend is here to stay, with employers increasingly embracing its benefits, such as lower hardware costs, extended customer access to employees and staff satisfaction," said Gerald Hetrick, chief operations officer at Vox Mobile, according to the news source.
Luckily for leaders in the construction industry, dedicated mobile solutions are available for implementation on a large scale, combating many of the risks commonly associated with the BYOD arena. Here are four of the biggest ways in which construction management software gives companies the control they need to master their mobile outlooks:
1. Construction-ready applications: Piecing together a mobile software environment from disparate sets of applications and databases is a recipe for disaster when dealing with a variety of end user devices. Having access to a designated set of digital tools to be included in every mobile loadout is a huge boost to the adoption and integration process.
2. No more policy problems: Designing mobile policies is a burden on executive leaders, IT teams and the end users who must wade through the fine print. The best construction software is optimized with strong authorization measures and protocols built in, leaving nothing up to interpretation or confusion.
3. Support from industry pros: Troubleshooting and pain point mitigation are inherent to the world of mobile, especially BYOD. That's why a software vendor with construction industry expertise is so valuable. Support from a knowledgeable service team that speaks the language of the trade can offer endless value to a mobile implementation program requiring a high level of customization and guidance down the line.
4. Dedicated, secure ecosystems: Shadow IT is one of the biggest threats to mobile security in the construction world, and BYOD only perpetuates the trend of unauthorized application downloads. With construction software designed to work in a close-knit manner, end users won't feel the need to look elsewhere for their document sharing and communication needs, dramatically improving security across the IT environment.
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.