There’s a new term gaining ground in the tech world: ConTech. Just like “FinTech” and “MarTech,” it indicates that a certain industry has passed the tipping point when it comes to adopting technology. While the construction industry has typically lagged, the fact that people are now talking about ConTech should serve as a warning that, if you haven’t already adopted construction software, you’d better do it quickly if you don’t want to fall behind the competition.
But before you start shopping, it’s important to decide which construction software features are mandatory as well as which ones would be “nice to have.” This article will discuss some common construction management software features so you can make an informed decision.
Common Construction Software Features
Every construction company has different needs, depending on things like the scope of the projects they work on, how many jobs they have going at the same time, etc. you should have a list of features to serve as your starting point.
Daily communication and “housekeeping” tasks
One of the challenges construction companies face is that they often have multiple crews scattered across several sites. It can be challenging to keep up with what’s going on: what’s on track, projects behind schedule, which workers aren’t showing up, and which are collecting overtime, etc.
Traditionally, at the end of each day, the site manager would go back to the office to deliver daily reports. But that’s too slow for the pace of business today: You need to know what’s happening now. When you’re looking at various construction software options, check to see whether they can take some of these daily tasks off of your back and give you constant visibility into what’s happening on the ground:
- Time tracking: Can workers clock in and out digitally from the site? Is GPS location tracking being leveraged?
- Communication: Can changes or other important information be communicated to everyone in real-time through their mobile devices? Can questions sent by on-site workers trigger an alert to the right person so that crews don’t waste time waiting on an answer? Can the system handle photos and videos as well as text messages?
- Visibility: Does the system allow people to configure personal dashboards that always display the information they rely on the most?
- Reporting: Can the system be configured to automatically generate daily reports based on progress at each site? Can users configure their custom reports?
Any construction management software should have the ability to grow and change as your business evolves. The last thing you want is a closed system that can’t accommodate new business processes. Whether you do it by developing and incorporating new custom software or by utilizing integrations to bridge the gap, any construction management system should have the ability to grow and adapt.
Some construction management software solutions help you develop bids, and some even automate the process. They accomplish that by using data stored in your system -- things like labor costs, cost of materials, etc. -- to come up with an estimated cost and then apply a percentage that will reach the margin you need from the project.
Most construction management software has some kind of scheduling feature, but they can vary tremendously in complexity. Some assign workers to projects based on their skills, certifications, etc. But truly comprehensive scheduling features can also schedule equipment, materials, tools, and safety gear. Some can even incorporate change orders and adjust the scheduling accordingly, notifying workers on their mobile devices.
Asset management works right alongside scheduling. When you’re running multiple crews at multiple locations, it can become almost impossible to keep track of where all of your equipment and materials are. Not only does that put you at risk for losing valuable assets, but not having the right equipment on site at the right time can bring work to a halt.
Some construction management software solutions keep track of where all of your assets are at any given time. Tracking becomes even more important under certain circumstances, such as when a project requires sustainable materials. Using those materials on the wrong project could result in rework and increased costs.
Asset management is also important for construction companies adopting one of the biggest industry trends: modular construction and/or prefabricated components. It’s a trend expected to grow into a $157 billion market by 2023.
This trend adds another layer of complexity in tracking and scheduling assets. The ability to track these components and send them to the right project at the right time should be a key feature for any construction company that is moving toward modular construction and/or prefabricated components.
Anyone with experience in the construction industry can tell you that it generates a lot of paperwork: worker certifications (and when they expire), proof of compliance with OSHA regulations, any union-required documents, results of environmental impact testing, etc. And then there are the typical business documents, like bids, contracts, change orders, progress reports, and milestones, etc. Construction management software can store all of that documentation and, if needed, attach it to a specific project.
Another benefit of construction management software that provides visibility into project documentation is that it allows crews to review plans on-site if they have questions, eliminating lengthy work stoppages while they wait for answers.
Financial management and forecasting
Contractors often find themselves in a cash-flow bind: All of their assets are tied up in equipment and materials, so they have no room to maneuver if clients don’t pay their bills on time or if projects end up costing more than they estimated. When coupled with poor accounting practices, contractors can wind up in trouble before they realize it. Construction software that includes financial management and forecasting features can analyze data from estimates and bids and send alerts if spots a trend (like repeatedly underestimating time lost to weather delays). It can also automate cash-flow and other reports and push them out to organizational leaders so that everyone has up-to-date visibility into the company’s financial well-being.
Incorporating data from high-tech devices
Many construction companies are already using drones for site surveys. To get the most value from investing in drones, the data they generate needs to be entered into the construction management system and associated with that particular project. The same is true for data generated by robotic rovers that take measurements or test air quality in areas too small or dangerous for human workers.
And, since the construction industry has one of the highest injury and death rates (one out of every ten construction workers are injured each year), and 20% of all worker deaths each year occur in construction), it should be no surprise that construction companies are embracing wearables and other high-tech devices that can help ensure worker safety. When that data is incorporated into construction management software, a device that monitors heart rate and temperature, for example, could send the site supervisor an alert that the worker needs a break.
Choose Construction Software That Will Serve as the Foundation for Your Future
Thanks to several external factors, the construction industry has finally embraced technology, especially construction management software. It’s a move that was long overdue, and some developers seem to have taken a “kitchen sink” approach, throwing every feature imaginable into their software. Others have taken a “bare bones” approach, building only those features they think are most important.
That leaves construction companies faced with making a tough decision: Either buying a product with features they’ll never use or one that answers only some of their needs, leading them to search for integrations or workarounds. And some companies decide they need custom software and work with a development company to build a solution from the ground up.
SPARK developers have worked hand-in-hand with both construction management teams and field crews to develop exactly the construction software features they need. We’re also proud of Select, our modular program that lets construction companies pick what they need and configure each module to work the way their business works.