An intuitive setup process is one of cloud computing's most well-known and applauded advantages, affirming that this technology is truly the great equalizer of the IT era. Companies can leverage applications, platforms and entire infrastructures more quickly than ever before, bringing newcomers and veterans alike up to speed with cutting-edge tech assets. However, contractors must not overlook their own responsibilities when it comes to integrating next-gen construction management software - namely educating employees to get the most out of these solutions from the get-go.
Let cloud live up to its potential
Any contractor that has already made the leap to a cloud based IT blueprint knows how simple and fast the migration process can be if expert guidance is leveraged. But just because a system has been well-integrated with a company's operations, employees may not necessarily have the know-how to best use these solutions. For instance, legacy project management technology may have an entirely different layout and documentation process than a newly deployed suite. Decision-makers can't leave their workforces hanging when it comes to teaching them the ins and outs of these updated systems.
Security should be top of mind
Ecommerce Times recently emphasized the crucial role of employee training in any new cloud scenario, pointing out that most of today's workers aren't aware of the security risks that can come with a lack of user familiarity. While building construction project management skill sets is important to getting employees on board with recent upgrades, poor security practices can defeat the purpose of this hard work and heavy investment.
Why are fundamentals so essential when developing a training strategy? International Business Times pointed to research from the British Standards Institution revealing that a lack of security awareness is the biggest concern of 37 percent of survey respondents.
"Employees don't necessarily have to be malicious to put a company at risk; they may just not understand the possible risks associated with their actions," said Suzanne Fribbins, risk management expert at BSI, according to the source. "Research has shown that effective staff training can halve the number of insider breaches, by ensuring employees understand the importance of information security and their role in protecting businesses' critical information."
The source recommended that business leaders begin by teaching basic concepts and gradually introduce more user flexibility to ensure that policies are upheld throughout. A well-balanced training program will help employees master construction software tools while promoting air-tight security practices across the organization.
Contractors who have been around since long before the digital revolution know how tedious paper-based construction payment management can be. Not only is filling out and filing these documents tiresome, but countless hours are wasted when records need to be retrieved and updated for auditing purposes.
Luckily for today's industry competitors, new construction software solutions include powerful automated systems that handle the payment process from end to end. With these tasks taken care of, contractors can focus in on the objectives that will drive their business toward success.
Pull ahead with payment automation
When a company starts signing contracts left and right, it can be easy to get bogged down in the paperwork that comes with these agreements. Executives can only add so many accountants to their back office staff - to expedite the document organization and payment process, a software solution is the only answer.
A press release from Textura recently pointed out the many advantages of a next-gen payment system, suggesting that these solutions can differentiate a firm from the pack. By letting managers leave paper behind, this technology can help to build stronger partnerships with subcontractors and clients already attuned to the digital standard. In addition, revamped construction accounting systems make compliance concerns a thing of the past.
"Textura-CPM has helped us stand out from our competitors," said Mike Weber, president of Island Acoustics. "We are able to focus less on completing paperwork and more on our core business. We can stay on top of compliance and legal documents better using CPM."
Cut costs in unexpected places
Although the cost benefits of construction document management software may not be immediately apparent to contractors, savings can easily snowball over time. The price of a paper-based payment system is hidden behind the walls of convention - eliminating this extra overhead can be a major boost to company budgets.
"We've even saved some money since we started using Textura," said Tom Garcia, CFO at Safway Atlantic. "Not only do we spend less time filling out paperwork and are getting paid faster, we've also reduced costs by eliminating courier and document storage fees."
Safe and secure
Bank Info Security recently noted that 60 of organizations faced actual or attempted fraud loss in 2013. With a secure, streamlined construction payment management platform, contractors can mitigate the risk associated with unstructured paperwork floating around the office. With advantages from operational, financial and security standpoints, it's no wonder why companies are eager to adopt these solutions and gain an edge.
The words 'tall' and 'towering' are no longer sufficient to describe today's skyscrapers. According to CityLab, the construction industry has deemed 'supertall' the term now used to signify structures that exceed 984 feet in the air (anything over 1,968 feet high is categorized as 'megatall'). The sheer size of these towers represents an exciting future for city skylines worldwide, but things can get complicated for contractors that take on the task of building these modern architectural titans.
"Structurally, there are a lot of very unique challenges, especially for a building that wants a high degree of special views," said Vishaan Chakrabarti, a partner at SHoP Architects and the director of the Center for Urban Real Estate at Columbia University.
Overcoming contractors' fear of heights
Chakrabarti and his contemporaries may acknowledge the difficulties that accompany the development of supertall structures, but these innovators are not afraid to dive into this unexplored territory. This is where construction management software can push the boundaries of what is thought possible, according to a recent article from Tech Page One. The source highlighted the rapid adoption of modeling technology that provides builders with a fast, reliable way to test various designs in conjunction with specific materials.
These tools let contractors not only experiment with unconventional building styles - such as those required for many of today's supertall towers - but also gauge exactly how much these projects would cost upon execution. Now that enterprise resource planning solutions are integrated with BIM services, managers have a one-stop solution that grants them total visibility over their projects' physical and financial dimensions. Tech Page One spoke with Ross Wimer, AECOM's lead architect for the Americas, who designed the award-winning Cayan Tower in Dubai, a structure well over 1,000 feet tall.
"What we do now has to do with speed as well as design," explained Wimer, according to the source. "With parametric modeling we were able to test the costs of the building as we were designing it. You can save the client a lot of money by doing this in advance."
More data, better planning, bigger buildings
BIM isn't the only construction project management tool utilized by today's greatest designers and builders. The source revealed that Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture is aggregating unconventional forms of data in the development of its Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia, slated to be the firm's 3,000 foot masterpiece. Cultural patterns, wind speeds, soil temperatures, atmospheric temperature, humidity and sunlight are just a few data points being collected in an effort to perfect the structure's design.
Putting the finishing touches on a building or renovation project is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world of construction. Just because a structure appears ready for use, however, a contractor's job is far from done. In fact, construction firms are often responsible for check-ins and maintenance tasks long after the concrete has dried. For this reason, construction document management should continue to play a central role in a project's follow-up and remain a key resource throughout the lifecycle of a contract.
The work has only just begun
Even if a contractor completes all necessary tasks on a project and hands the keys over to the client once and for all, there are numerous liabilities and risks that come with failing to hold on to the materials associated with that contract. If a client demands that financial or schedule records be presented, a firm must have these documents at the ready no matter when or where the request is made. Construction project controls are therefore an instrumental asset for any company that wants to maintain quality rapport with its customers, building a reputation for accountability and trust.
Business partners such as subcontractors, materials vendors and specialty consultants also expect on-demand service with regard to the preservation and accessibility of relevant contract records. Today's construction project management procedures are highly interconnected, and it isn't uncommon to see several contractors collaborating on small projects to maximize the efficiency of their execution. A great deal of pressure is placed on construction firms to remain transparent in their practices and have full archives of their operational documents at the ready. The right software makes this storage a breeze.
Know how to finish strong
A recent article from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat highlighted the development of a California hospital on the cutting-edge of health care innovation. The source emphasized the close relationship that formed between project directors and the hospital decision-makers who orchestrated the construction. Without construction site management tools to coordinate communications and explain the ins and outs of the structure, the hospital's leaders would not have been able to hit the ground running once building was complete.
While resilient, quality construction is traditionally the first thing that defines a contractor's reputation, things are a bit different in the digital age. Technical competency and a willingness to embrace IT trends are often major factors in a firm's success. This isn't only because construction management software ensures on-site best practices, but also due to client expectations aligning with new criteria for tech-based efficiency. From start to finish, the right software solutions are essential for success in the construction space today.
Contractors throughout the construction industry are well aware of the importance of proper document management, especially as subcontractor and client parties come into more frequent contact with a firm over the course of a project. While a company may have its internal information-sharing practices secure and streamlined, things can become dicey once data is distributed and tracked outside the walls of a business' private network. Decision-makers need a reliable and safe way to ensure that construction document management remains in line with best practices no matter where data is directed.
Circulate and protect construction content
From project timelines to budget estimations and architectural blueprints, construction firms have a lot of digital and physical documentation to collect and organize on any given contract. Most construction management software solutions can process and secure this information effectively, but what about when this data travels beyond office walls and into the hands (and hard drives) of third-party affiliates? Today's industry requires that data be made readily available at all times without sacrificing security. However, most legacy construction software systems are not built with these complex demands in mind.
Just how important is safe and streamlined construction document management in contemporary practice? According to online file sharing service provider Box, the construction industry is a top producer of digital content and ranks as one of the most collaborative sectors in terms of information sharing. The source explained that the intra-organizational distribution of content is especially prevalent in this field, suggesting that construction project controls must be optimized for access across multiple locations and platforms in order for companies to maximize the efficiency of workflow and productivity.
Data makes its way to the job site
Unlike other industries highlighted in Box's research, construction is unique in its on-site data requirements, demanding that information be quickly and reliably transferred from office to project zone and vice versa. In fact, the sector was cited by the source as facilitating external collaboration more than the software, media and entertainment, financial services and manufacturing industries. Not only do construction firms team up with subcontractors and clients to develop worksite strategies, but they also bring in outside collaborators to handle back-office tasks such as billing, payroll and progress reports.
Since this standard of 'information decentralization' is so prevalent in the world of construction document management, it isn't surprising that business leaders are seeking more secure and efficient ways to collaborate both on and off the work site. With such a wide range of stakeholders factoring into the success of a project, a team-based approach to content creation and distribution is essential.
Why the right software is critical
Whether a firm will be able to keep up with quickening pace of the industry will depend on its willingness to embrace construction software that features collaborative and secure sharing solutions. With advancements in private cloud networks and real-time document management, a company can safely access and manipulate documents without compromising the integrity of its data or reputation.
It's hard to beat the feeling of locking down a big contract that took months to finally close, especially in a construction industry that has grown increasingly competitive in recent years. But while it may be hugely rewarding to add another contact into the books, a mismanaged client retention strategy can result in that new business leaving after the first project. Truly successful firms know how to retain their best clients for the long haul, and the right construction project management software can help a company ensure that it builds a strong foundation of repeat business for the future.
A solution tailored for construction
Contractors are known for their ability to execute projects on time and within budget - sales, marketing and customer relations are not necessarily the strong points of many firms. This is why integrating construction management software can be such a powerful strategy for firms struggling with issues such as retention. These solutions provide streamlined ways for employees to instantly access relevant client information regarding past interactions and future objectives, cultivating a richer customer experience and an overall happier clientele.
This emphasis on service has caught on in many industries, as the benefits of software such as CRM have been discussed widely. However, tailoring these solutions to fit a company's specific needs and preferences is not so simple, especially when taking into account the unique aspects of construction project controls. CIO recently explained that the best customer relationship tools are designed with an organization's mission objectives and industry parameters in mind, as one-size-fits-all solutions rarely deliver the results that executives desire.
A helping hand in sales and marketing
Besides offering a central resource for client data, today's construction software solutions integrate features such as analytics to provide firms with even greater insight into customer interactions. According to a recent article from Destination CRM, the 2014 CMO Insights Survey conducted by Accenture Interactive revealed that 86 percent of top-tier firms use data analytics to boost their marketing and retention efforts.
"Moving to digital is about a larger business transformation where data is the foundation," Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research, told the news source. "Most CMOs are aware that digital is going to happen; they just need sponsorship at the executive level."
With the right tools in its technology arsenal, a company can track interactive touchpoints down to granular detail, sharpening up weak points and highlighting strengths for further improvement. Destination CRM reminded executives to put their data to good use rather than letting it gather dust on hard disks. This also means constantly evaluating client relationship processes to identify how policies and operations can be bettered.
"Remember that the customer is not a transaction but an ongoing dialogue, a continuous engagement," Glen Hartman, managing director for digital transformation at Accenture Interactive, told the news provider. "It is a relationship that covers the whole spectrum of sales, service, retention and loyalty."
Construction document management can be a critical element of the client experience when utilized properly. Executives must be willing to adopt the right technology to make it happen.
While every contractor offers a unique perspective on client management and contract execution, the technology underlying construction project controls often reveals trends that hint at the direction of the industry at large. Keeping a pulse on where the world of construction is headed in the digital realm is key to business leaders' understanding of best practices with regard to construction management software, as well as looking for areas in which their companies can get ahead of the curve. Awareness of competitor strategy is a key aspect of business of success in any industry.
Evaluating contractor tech intentions
To get a complete conception of how technology is affecting and transforming the construction sector, decision-makers typically look to industry market research reports that aggregate a wide array of relevant information in one place. JBKnowledge, an IT services and products provider, recently announced its plans to conduct a large scale survey of leading organizations in an effort to gauge how firms are approaching the arena of construction management software and related technologies.
The third annual Construction Technology Report will be conducted in a fitting manner - online in a short, 30 minute questionnaire format. Texas A&M University's Department of Construction Science and the Construction Financial Management Association, organizations teaming up with JBKnowledge to coordinate the survey, expect more than 1,000 respondents to participate in the 2014 study. Questions will address topics such as IT investment strategy, cloud and network security, wearable technology, integrated solutions and augmented and virtual reality for the job site.
"Every year, this survey gives the construction industry valuable insight into how their peers are employing technology on build projects. It reveals trends in budgeting, BIM adoption, mobile integration and more that we are able to share with the industry for benchmarking and forecasting the 2015 construction technology landscape. We designed the survey to take only five minutes - we know that the more builders that participate, the more accurate and valuable the data to everyone who receives it when the Construction Technology Report is published," stated James Benham, President of JBKnowledge.
Last year's survey offered insight
Business leaders in every corner of the sector will be anticipating how this year's survey results stack up against 2013 - JBKnowledge has added more than 300 firms to the mix since its last report and expects some major shifts to have taken place in the the construction management software and tech world. Last year's findings offered some surprising data on topics such as IT security - according to that report, 47.3 percent of firms had some form of cloud solution in place but no additional measures to protect their networks.
"I was excited to see cloud and mobile adoption increasing, disappointed to see Excel and manual/paper processes still prevalent, and alarmed to know most companies have no cloud security policies in place," said Benham.
Mobile devices were also a key talking point in the survey, with 78.2 percent of respondents revealing that they allowed the use of personal smartphones and laptops on the job site. Only around half of these efforts were initiated with secure approval processes, however. Hopefully, companies will have their security priorities better aligned with their construction software goals.
Construction practices have advanced to the point at which small design and materials improvements are almost negligible. Perhaps a new piece of building equipment will expedite a project by a few hours or an architectural tweak will help a building to last another year, but true technical leaps are hard to come by. However, the construction project management software space is proving that true innovation is still advancing the industry in a powerful, lasting way.
Eliminating coordination issues on the job site
Contractors in every corner of the sector share similar woes when it comes to the topic of project execution: A lack of team coordination remains one of the most frustrating setbacks in the construction world at large. A recent article from BSM explored the potential of digital construction project controls, including the integration of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and ERP solutions.
The source explained that in the context of particularly sensitive contracts, these construction technologies are bringing a level of precision to the building process never before seen. Such advancements have been utilized in projects such as the construction of health care facilities, a notably demanding endeavor due to strict design and compliance requirements. BSM also pointed to the enhancements in job site safety that construction project management solutions have brought to the table.
"Focus on safety is the inspiration for many improvements in health care construction," Steve Whitcraft, a director of commercial and health care segment groups with Turner Construction. "We are challenging our project teams to produce the same (or better) result, eliminating risk to the patient, the worker and adjacent objects, people or buildings."
A new era of efficiency
While construction management software may not make concrete mix any faster, it can certainly cut down on the inefficiencies caused by poorly coordinated project objectives. This is a promising leap for the industry and a sign of more advancements to come.
Knowledge gaps and skills shortages are major barriers to success in any industry, but construction projects in particular can come to a complete standstill if workers don't have the know-how to move forward on a contract. While experience clearly counts for a lot on the job site, it won't solve problems that only construction software can crack.
Contractors balance training with technology
Business leaders in this fast-paced sector need to make sure their employees are not only enriched with the right training and expertise, but also provided with the construction project controls necessary to put those skills to good use. A well-rounded approach consists of leveraging powerful construction site management tools as well as educating workers to get the most out of the software.
Ensuring end user expertise is absolutely critical when it comes maximizing the potential of construction project controls, but contractors simply do not take this concept seriously enough. According to CN Plus, too few employers in the field provide adequate training for their workforces, leading to internal crises that leave decision-makers scrambling for support. The source pointed to a survey by Hays Construction revealing that 60 percent of contractors expect skills shortages to have a negative impact on their business results in the upcoming year.
"While many employers are investing in training their existing staff, transferring skills within their organization or widening their recruitment approach, a fifth claimed to have taken no action on immediate skill shortages," Hays Construction managing director Andrew Bredin told the news provider.
Let the software guide employee education
Contractors at a loss regarding their companies' skills gaps and training woes can turn to their construction software deployments for direction. Building worker skill sets around these solutions will ensure that a business targets these shortcomings effectively and prepares staff members for action. When it comes to project execution, they'll be ready - both mentally and technologically.
When adopting any new construction tool, contractors must take a leap of faith in order to reap the rewards of innovation. This goes for traditional equipment as well as construction management software. But while business leaders in this sector have typically been eager to invest in new machinery and vehicles for their teams, many decision-makers long put off the integration of digital solutions. Whether this resistance to IT change is in an effort to keep companies closer to their traditional roots or results from simple misinformation, there is no longer any excuse to fall behind on construction software tools.
Precision and accuracy demands inspire overhauls
Top-tier contractors pride themselves on delivering quality construction work that exceeds client expectations. However, what customers want has been ramped up significantly over the years. Precise budgeting, scheduling and procurement records must be readily and regularly available throughout the contract process if a company is to ensure repeat business. According to a recent article from The Greenwich Post, many firms are boosting this intense standard of planning to an even greater level with the incorporation of prefabricated components and capital project management solutions to piece them together.
The source revealed that contractors in North America are looking to industry leaders in other continents to see how construction software tools are being used around the world, highlighting the burgeoning prefabrication movement as a trend spearheading innovation overseas. Such technology is utilized to increase project efficiency while moving construction toward a more sustainable future.
"I started finding really amazing things going on in the world in Europe and Australia, and thought we had a lot to learn in this country from what was being done around the world," Connecticut-based author Sheri Koones told the news source. "I think prefabrication is becoming more popular around the world just because it makes more sense and it's a better way to build. Many of the European countries in particular have amazingly efficient homes. It's a growing phenomenon."
Selecting the right solutions for the job
Although prefabrication methods may not be ideal for contractors with niche focuses and specializations such as design and renovation, the tools utilized are diverse enough to apply to a wide range of construction project management tasks. It is up to the business leaders of today to adopt cutting-edge software that will revolutionize the construction industry in years to come.