Does Your Software Think Like You Do?
By Cecilia Padilla
The construction industry is well-populated by software that meets about 80
percent of usersí workflow needs. Companies leverage that last 20 percent by
using software from construction experts who develop integrated software
that thinks just like a contractor. The workflow of software should square
nicely with the workflow of contractors. Itís not rocket science: Software
must be intuitive to the userís day-to-day processes.
In reality, though, some software on the market isnít created by
construction professionals. Developers may have years of software
development experience under their belts and a knowledgeable support team on
hand, but without on-the-job construction experience, theyíll fail to
address some of the nuances that are crucial to contractor performance.
Construction software must focus on a contractorís specific business
needs, not the latest technological buzz. The industryís best software
providers donít look to the company boardroom for product development
experts. They know when software executives drive product development;
practical application can take a backseat to the hype.
Some of the best software enhancement ideas emerge when the software
provider and the customer consider each other as colleagues. That only comes
with shared experience.
Only a consultation managed by an experienced construction professional
determines whether a product will actually meet the userís needs and if the
people behind the product can be counted on as reliable advisers. A sales
representative who has never worked for a construction company usually can
answer questions as they relate to the software, but will probably need to
get back to the customer before addressing more complex, industry-specific
Without a solid implementation plan executed by an experienced team, even
good software will probably fail to meet expectations. Only when the
implementation team has gone through a similar process within a construction
company will the experience be complete.
First-hand familiarity with the general workflow requirements of a
construction business prepares the team to better guide the customer through
a phased implementation process designed to save the company time and money.
A system rollout with software that is not set up the way a business
operates is risky when the implementation team does not have construction
Overall corporate structure is another factor that can be a challenge for
the implementation team. A corporation with multiple locations across the
globe needs an implementation team and a software package that can be
successfully deployed across these sites. Data integrity and consistency is
a must when it comes to generating accurate bids. An estimator/project
manager in the United States should have access to the same data that
his/her counterpart has access to across the world in the United Kingdom for
example. If any changes are made to the data in the United States, the
changes should be easily communicated and reflected in the data across the
world. Office personnel regardless of geographic location should have access
to the implementation team for guidance and resolution of any issues that
may arise during regular business dealings.
Effective collaboration is an important and essential ingredient in the
success of any construction company regardless of its size. The
implementation team must keep this in the forefront of their minds when
deploying a solution. Proper documentation should be provided by the
implementation team to all parties involved to ensure the optimal journey
for collaboration. Lack of clear cut instructions and detailed guidelines
results in confusion that is detrimental to the success of an otherwise
Training is another aspect that the implementation team is often involved
in. When implementing a new software solution, it is vital that the
workforce is trained from the very beginning. Contractor lack of training
results in costly mistakes that impact the overall bottom line. A companyís
most prized possession is its human capital, investing in the education of
the workforce will determine the overall success of the implementation plan.
Training has to be consistent in conveying the same message across all
locations to avoid obstacles down the line; this can only be accomplished by
utilizing an implementation team that has firsthand knowledge of the
intricacies of the construction business.
Questions to Consider
Purchasing software is about buying a business solution and service. No
software program guarantees a company will win every contract, but a quality
program helps contractors manage day-to-day functions, increase productivity
and raise profit margins.
Following are a few tips to consider when shopping for a construction
Donít hesitate to ask about the developerís industry experience, including
how many of the vendorís employees came from a construction company. Be wary
of an indirect response that touts the educational credentials of the
companyís leaders. Titles are nice, but nothing outweighs the benefit of
on-the-job construction experience.
Does the company representative ask intelligent questions? Being asked
realistic questions will give contractors immediate clues about the depth
and breadth of a software providerís construction industry knowledge.
Does the vendor understand contractor lingo? Whether providing a
demonstration, completing training or offering phone support, a software
provider should easily speak the language of construction.
Does the solution offer means of managing the bottom line after the contract
is won? Winning the contract is just the first step in an overall
complicated process of ensuring that the project is profitable to the
company. The solution should provide means of managing the project in the
office or on the construction site resulting in on-time delivery. Software
solutions should be easy to learn and navigate regardless of the technical
expertise of the user. This is only achievable when the software is created
by a company that has on-the-job construction experience.
Does the company have the recommendation of industry peers? Ask around; see
what others in the construction industry are using to meet their business
needs. A successful software provider should have the respect of industry
peers and associations as a trusted name in the construction market.
In the end, itís all about dealing with software developers who have stood
in a contractorís boots. Anything else and construction companies are likely
to get software that thinks like they do 80 percent of the time. Thatís
simply not good enough in this economy.
About the author: Cecilia Padilla, President of On Center
Software, Inc. is an internationally known expert in the construction
industry. Under the leadership of Mrs. Padilla, On Center Software
introduced Digital Production Controlô patented labor control technology,
increased customer support accessibility, and launched On Center University
to better educate and train customers and partners. She serves on the firmís
executive Vision Team, a think tank for the future of construction
Mrs. Padilla is a respected estimator and project manager in the drywall
industry. Like many professionals in construction, she is a second
generation construction professional. Mrs. Padillaís expertise spans 25
years in drywall, light- and heavy-gauge framing, lath and plaster, EIFS,
fireproofing-themed facades, and acoustical ceilings. Prior to joining On
Center Software in 2008, she worked for Marek Brothers Systems in Houston,
Texas (where she was a power user of On Center Software solutions) and for
Raymond Interior Systems in both Las Vegas, Nevada and Orange County,
Her passion for the industry is best observed during her numerous speaking
engagements around the world. Mrs. Padilla speaks with owners, architects,
general contractors, estimators and project managers in the industry to
understand their challenges and issues. This first-hand knowledge of
construction is the foundation for On Center Softwareís customer focused