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Uncertain Times May Require Hard Questions

Conley Smith

Uncertain Times May Require Hard Questions

Posted: May 15, 2020 | Tradewinds, Project Management

Finding and evaluating new sof tware for your construction business isn’t easy on a good day. But discovering your estimating tools are lacking in the middle of a crisis can be overwhelming.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, many construction firms have struggled to maintain business as usual while working remotely—whether from the kitchen table or from small teams in the office. There are plenty of potential technology issues to go around—either you discovered you were lacking software seat licenses for all your estimators or your VPN could not support the entire remote workforce.

Is It Time for New Tools?

No doubt, many in the construction industry are grappling with the fallout and determining lessons learned from the COVID-19 emergency. Was your entire team able to work remotely? Were bids late? Was your construction business unable to stay up-to-date on projects in the pipeline?

As you would at any time, if you’re in the market for new estimating software, you are likely looking for tools that are fast and can help you more accurately calculate labor and materials. However, there is no one-size-fits-all tool for all in construction.

Whether you are dealing with a virus or just bumpy economic times, you will want to double-check technical features and requirements when evaluating and selecting new tools. When you do your research and homework, you can ensure that you will not run into speed bumps and issues when you deploy the new software.

5 Tech Questions to Ask

If you’ve decided that this latest crisis exposed issues with your takeoff and estimating tools, here are five critical questions to consider. You should first answer these questions to determine your requirements:

1. What are the system requirements and dependencies? This means whether software is web-server-, or desktop-based or cloud. You should also look at the number of users allowed and whether you can export/input and share data and whether the software has accounting integration.

2. What are the software functions and capabilities? Consider whether it offers overlay for recognizing changes and addendums or if you can share and send plans. You may need the ability to pre-populate bid sheets and annotate.

3. What kind of technical support does the system offer? You should weigh whether you want U.S.-based or offshore support and 24-hour, business-day support. Also, if online or phone line is acceptable.

4. Does the software company provide subject matter experts? Knowing the provider has construction expertise may mean the company is more attuned to your business needs.

5. How are product updates and maintenance handled? Some companies will automatically update your software or require you to opt-in. You must determine whether you prefer scheduled maintenance or a less disruptive method for updates.

Once the decision to purchase new software is made, your construction business will need to have a plan in place to ensure that your implementation goes smoothly. This will, no doubt, pay off the next time your construction business is struggling with an unforeseen emergency—whether it is a hurricane or a health crisis.

Next Steps for Adding Software

Most importantly, you never want to purchase new digital takeoff and estimating tools that end up being under-utilized because of a failure of training or how the tools were deployed.

For takeoff software, most implementations are quick and easy—just install, train, and go.

However, for estimating software, you’ll need to carve out a bit more time as it will typically require some customization based on database integration.

Here are five best practices to keep in mind when implementing new software for your construction business:

1. Go back and communicate your plans to all the stakeholders who will be impacted. This could include estimators, project managers, owners, GMs, field supervisors, accounting, and IT.

2. Make sure to create a checklist with a timeline. This would include a go-live date and any additional steps for install, customization, data migration and/or integration, and training.

3. Test the new software to verify it is working. Make sure everything is working properly by specifying the first project to be completed using the new software.

4. Allow enough time for training based on the recommendation of your software provider. Be sure to set hours aside for staff and remember that training will take time. You should have realistic expectations.

5. Connect and integrate with your accounting department. This allows you to communicate to further simplify your process. You can also build and customize cost databases for accuracy.

Taking the Next Step

Now that you’ve modernized your estimating department with new software, don’t forget to conduct post-installation reviews at regular intervals. This is a great way to justify your investment and ROI to management. Even better, you can gather feedback on a quarterly and yearly basis to ensure your software is meeting the needs of your construction business.

No doubt, the coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on construction as projects are halted or delayed. Making sure your construction business can stay open for business while working remotely is critical—in both good times and bad.

If you’re not sure what type of takeoff tool you need, be sure to check out this great selector to find the right software for your construction business.

Conley Smith is a senior business writer with ConstructConnect. She has been writing about technology and its impact on business for more than 20 years.

Image courtesy of Image by krzysztof-m from Pixabay

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