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Tips & Advice

Supporting and Encouraging Women in Construction

In 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women made up 10% of construction industry workers. Up until now, the industry has done a poor job of reaching out to women and minorities and encouraging them to pursue a career in construction. And with a severe labor shortage in the industry, now is the time to act.

In 2021, Levelset, a mechanics lien processing company, surveyed 1,001 women in the construction industry about their experiences. One of the biggest frustrations for women is the lack of opportunity for advancement. “The glass ceiling is very real for smart women in technical positions,” said a manager for a California general contractor.

Women also feel that they aren’t respected as much as their male counterparts, especially in the field. “I am very good at my job and I do it well,” said one office administrator who works for a general contractor in Minnesota, “but in this industry, I am spoken to like a child a lot of the time. It’s assumed I don’t know what I’m doing and that is very frustrating. I love this industry and I see potential for so much growth and I really want to be a part of that, but it’s going to take a long time to shift the thinking that this is just a man’s industry.”

According to the survey, 59% said fewer than 1 in 20 women are in leadership roles where they work. That translates to less than 5% of leaders in the construction industry being women. “At all the jobs I have held in construction the opportunity to advance has been limited because the CFO has always been married to or has been somehow related to the owner of the company,” said an administrative assistant for a subcontractor in South Carolina. “It limits growth in the traditionally women-held jobs in construction.”

The events of the past year and a half brought the subject of inclusion and diversity to the forefront for the nation. Looking at the statistics above, it’s clear we still have a long way to go before we can claim to have a diverse workforce. The good news is, there are concrete steps that we can take today to encourage women to become a part of the industry.

Encourage diversity in contracts

In federal and state-funded projects, minority and women-owned businesses are given preference over other contractors and suppliers. Contractors are encouraged to reach out to minority-owned businesses to solicit bids. Some projects even have quotas that have to be met when it comes to contracting with minority companies. Some companies, like McDonald’s, are asking contractors to report their use of minority-owned companies on construction projects.

Expanding these requirements to use minority contractors and suppliers for private projects would encourage contractors to hire more minority companies. Some project owners, like the City of Portland, also track the gender and ethnicity of workers on site, encouraging diversity in field crews as well.

Support professional development

To encourage women to advance in their positions, companies should offer professional development opportunities to expand their skill sets. These opportunities could include workshops, classes, or on-the-job training. There are many organizations that provide professional development for women, like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). With chapters across the nation, women can participate in local, regional, and national conferences to learn more about the industry and the latest trends.

Mortenson’s Business Development Manager – Community Engagement, Alejandra Spray says, “We start identifying those people who show potential and want to keep growing. We identify people not based on their present title, but how hard they are working, how they rally the troops, how they inspire others, and if they have the desire to be more.” By identifying good workers early, they can be encouraged and taught the skills they need to continue moving up to positions with more responsibility.

Support networking opportunities

Meeting other women in the industry is beneficial for women at all levels. Networking allows them to learn more about the possibilities in their field and about how other companies handle issues and their processes. The key to getting the most out of these groups is to participate. When workers get involved in events, fundraisers, and other activities, they learn new skills, such as public speaking and leadership. They also benefit from getting involved in their community.

There are many professional organizations for workers in different skill sets, like engineers and architects, construction financial managers, women in trades, and unions. Other networking groups include local marketing groups, chambers of commerce, charity boards, and other volunteer opportunities.

Support mentoring programs

Mentorship is key for women who wish to advance their careers. It offers the opportunity for support and someone to challenge them to meet their career goals. “Mentorship is really a key part of the success of women in the industry,” said Anne Pfleger, President of the National Association of Women in Construction. “[Mentoring] can rejuvenate your career at any stage, it improves your personal productivity, it strengthens leadership skills, and it also increases career satisfaction.”

If women are unable to find suitable mentors within their company, management should help them locate groups or individuals that could help them along their career path. Companies should support regular mentor meetings and provide professional opportunities to help them meet their career goals.

Keep making progress

Above all, construction companies need to continue moving the needle when it comes to encouraging a diverse workforce. We need to continue to look for ways to attract and engage women in the industry.

“We are all human and we all want to succeed,” says Mortensen’s Spray. “I hope we can get to that place because I just love this industry. I love driving downtown and telling my kids I was part of that project, or when one of my mentees gets a promotion. There are so many rewards in the industry, and I’m going to keep fighting for more people to be given the opportunity to see the benefits of those rewards.”

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Tips & Advice Uncategorized

Leveraging AI, Machine Learning, and Automation in 2021

Contractors collect a lot of data in the process of building a project. It comes from the field, office, and outside sources. Successful contractors are using this project data to improve the efficiency of their production and save admin time. Technology tools like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation are driving this focus and providing valuable insights that contractors can use to increase profitability.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than robots and droids. It describes all the ways that machines are able to mimic human thinking, like problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning. It is now being programmed into powerful software packages that are being used by contractors to analyze and assess their projects. This intelligence is a powerful way to coordinate with team members and provide project monitoring.

AI is being used to create predictive models based on past project data. These models can be used to analyze projects for cost overruns, schedule delays, and other onsite issues. The software reviews past projects and compares them to current work to determine the similarities. From there it can predict potential problems and bring them to contractors’ attention before they become issues.

IoT devices are increasingly being used on-site to assist with safety and health monitoring. Smartwatches, cameras, and drones are able to detect worker proximity to other workers and potential hazards. These devices became more popular in the past year and a half due to the pandemic and the need to keep workers spaced out. The software was able to monitor who workers were close to, allowing for quick and easy contact tracing. It’s also possible to track where workers are on-site and to analyze work patterns to help improve productivity and efficiency.
Some contractors are using AI to better analyze their project schedules so they can more efficiently perform work and meet deadlines. ALICE is a schedule analysis algorithm, started by ALICE Technologies, that many contractors are using to assess and predict delays. It analyzes schedules by extrapolating thousands of possible outcomes and running simulations of a project’s 4D schedule and BIM. By adjusting the inputs, contractors can quickly see what effect it will have on the schedule.

Machine learning

Machine learning is a subset of AI and has to do with using statistical technology and calculations to understand project data and gain insights. As more data is added to the machine learning model, the software is able to assimilate the information and refine its predictions in current situations.

Contractors are using machine learning and predictive analysis to assess projects ahead of time so they know the risks and can proactively manage them from the beginning of the project. This type of analysis can monitor RFIs, project issues, and potential change orders and alert contractors to critical issues.

This learning is also being used to take real-time measurements of completed work on-site and compare them to the scheduled work to determine if a project is on schedule or not. Based on the result of the analysis, the software alerts contractors to direct their resources to address the delay. This analysis can be done across a project portfolio, allowing contractors to be more effective in their crew and equipment resource use.

One application of machine learning uses visual and audio data to identify people in photos and videos and recognize if they are using the correct safety equipment, including PPE. This information is then used to notify safety officers, superintendents, and others who can act to correct the issue.

Selecting which projects to bid on and improving the accuracy and success of bids is another way that machine learning is being used to make contractors more successful. The software can analyze the results to predict which projects contractors will be most successful on and provide insight on bid successes.

Automation

Automation, or the use of technology to perform tasks, is gaining in popularity in construction. Contractors who can eliminate unnecessary work improve efficiency, saving time and money, which leads to more profits.

Construction management and accounting software uses automation to speed up data entry tasks and help prevent typing mistakes. For example, automated invoice entry in accounts payable allows workers to pull amounts and codes from commitment records and receive notifications when budget line items are over their limits. These automations help ensure data is entered accurately and cost overruns are detected and managed.

For recurring invoice entries, where the amounts and codes don’t change, automating these entries speeds up the process and ensures that costs are coded and allocated correctly. Using a template saves time by reducing the amount of data that needs to be entered, reducing the chance for errors.

When mistakes are made in invoice entry, or an invoice allocation needs to be changed, simple invoice correction helps workers quickly make the necessary changes and move on with the rest of their work. There’s no need to worry about debits and credits, as the system takes care of those entries on the backend. The goal is to make changing invoices quick and easy while maintaining the proper audit trail.

Get the right software

If you’re looking to leverage the latest in automation, AI, and machine learning to improve efficiency and increase profits, you’ll need software that can gather and analyze data quickly. Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Click here to schedule a personalized product tour.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101

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Tips & Advice

Why Tracking Progress is Essential in Construction

Tracking construction project progress in real-time is one of the biggest challenges many project managers face, largely due to using disjointed systems that don’t sync with one another to provide accurate, up-to-date information. Without having reliable data available and accessible whenever it’s needed, effective project management becomes nearly impossible. Because of this, a growing number of construction companies are shifting to cloud-based construction software due to its ability to prevent costly errors, schedule delays and budget overruns by providing a holistic overview of projects in real-time with just a few clicks.  

If you’re interested in implementing cloud-based construction software to manage your project needs, it’s important to develop a game plan that outlines your primary areas of focus so you know where to begin. 

Here are some tips to help:

Determine a central source of data

One of the major reasons real-time project tracking is so difficult is because there are multiple parties involved—e.g., internal team members, external stakeholders, subcontractors and more—who are typically all using different systems. This creates a disjointed workflow where communication is siloed, and data is lagging and inaccurate. 

Before a project begins, it’s important that project managers invest the time up front to establish a digital ecosystem where all project-related information can be stored and accessible. Using cloud-based construction software, project managers can establish a single source of truth for all project needs. This allows everyone on the project to access the most up-to-date information and to communicate back-and-forth seamlessly, providing both confidence and accountability for everyone involved.

Clearly define workflow

With so many different parties involved, it can be easy to lose track of a project’s status if the workflow isn’t clearly defined. Cloud-based construction software gives project managers more peace of mind by providing the ability to establish—and customize—workflows. Complex projects may have hundreds of steps with multiples teams involved, and most of the tasks will have dependencies that make organization and automation critical to project success. 

With cloud construction software, project managers can break out large tasks into smaller pieces to create a workflow chart that outlines deliverables and milestones required to get the project done. Having clearly defined expectations, dependencies and due dates helps get everyone on the same page to reduce confusion, mistakes and errors.

Set up task tracking

Project managers need to know the status of a project at any given moment, which is one reason why task tracking is so important. In addition to that, task tracking provides project managers with insight into how much time each team member is spending on each task to help them determine if time is being managed appropriately and efficiently. Not only does this lend to greater accountability on current projects, it also provides critical insight needed to improve forecasting on future projects.

Document everything

Documenting everything that happens during the course of a project is necessary to mitigate risk and to avoid claims should any problems arise during or post-construction. Photo documentation is becoming a standard part of the reporting and monitoring processes, which means there also needs to be a system in place as well as a central hub to store all supporting documentation. Fortunately, many cloud-based software providers offer unlimited storage options, so you can store as much as you want without having to worry about running out of space or deleting older files should any claims arise in the future. 

Integrate your systems

Managing a construction project from ideation to completion entails the use of multiple different technologies—for example, BIM, drone footage, CCTVs, and more. In order to create project synergy, it’s important to utilize a platform that can integrate multiple systems and provide a centralized hub to store all information. Not only does this help expedite and streamline some of the administrative tasks, it creates a more efficient and reliable system for project tracking. 

Conclusion

Keeping track of a construction project is extremely difficult if you don’t have the right tools to do so, and any delays or mistakes ultimately impact the project’s bottomline. If you’re interested in learning how a cloud-based solution like Premier Construction Software can help meet your project tracking needs, click here to schedule a personalized product tour. 

Author Biography:

Kathryn Dressler is a content strategist with more than 10 years of experience across the spectrum of marketing services, including blogging, social media, public relations, copywriting and editorial services.

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

5 Tips for Successfully Implementing New Software

Implementing new software can be difficult, time-consuming, and stressful. Planning ahead with the employees that will be affected by the change will help everyone feel more comfortable with the process.

The keys to successful implementation of software are listening to your team and maintaining an open line of communication. From there, it’s a matter of being realistic with your goals, starting slowly, and not being afraid to change course when problems occur.

1. Listen to your team

Listening to your team members, especially those that will be most affected by the new software, is vitally important to the implementation process. You’ll want to get feedback regularly from everyone about how the process is going and any concerns they have.

When starting software implementation, listen to your teams concerns and even fears about the process. They may wonder how it will affect them individually, how much additional work they will be expected to do, and who they should go to for help. Listening to these concerns and addressing them in your implementation plan will help build trust and teamwork.

Work with your team to develop goals for the process as well as a timeline for when implementation will be completed. There are several steps involved in implementing a new software program, and you want to make sure you have enough time for each one. Also take into consideration the fact that everyday work needs to continue throughout the implementation process. This may mean that you will need to hire additional help on a temporary basis to keep things running.

Throughout the implementation process and once the software has been rolled out, make sure that you encourage your team to provide feedback. This feedback will let you know how successful the process has been, as well as directing any changes that may need to be made.

2. Provide consistent communication

Be open in your communications to your team. Let them know the good and the bad about the implementation process. Keeping everyone informed will help to dispel rumors and prevent incorrect information from being broadcast throughout the company.

Provide regular updates to your team on the progress of implementation, how you are doing in regard to reaching your goals and the proposed timeline, any setbacks, and any changes that have been made. Being completely honest with your team will continue to build trust and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

3. Be realistic

When setting the timeline for the implementation process, be sure to include time for training and testing the software, reacting to setbacks, and addressing how the day-to-day work will be done while the team is working on the implementation process. Training and testing often take longer than expected, so be sure to include some additional time here. Planning for setbacks and how you will address them will help your team feel more prepared to deal with potential problems.

Goals for the process should be realistic as well. Be sure to start with a small group of employees who will get trained on the software and begin implementing it. Once you see if the test was successful, then you can roll it out to the rest of the company. This testing phase allows you to work out the bugs and develop standard procedures that everyone will follow once it is rolled out company-wide.

Include time for changes or potential setbacks. Not everything will run smoothly the first time you do it. You may find that you need additional resources or need to revise how you’re doing things in order to match the software’s workflow. Building time for changes into your schedule will reduce the stress on the team.

4. Don’t be afraid to change course

During the testing phase, if you find that something is not working the way you expect it to, address it as soon as possible. Start by contacting tech support or your customer service representative to see if there is an answer. If the software can’t address your problem, brainstorm with your team about how you want to handle it. Be open to all potential solutions.

Once the team has provided ideas on how to solve the problem, make a team decision on what your next step will be. If everyone buys in to the next step, it will avoid miscommunication and keep the team more cohesive.

5. Start slowly

When implementing new software, it’s best to start with a small group or one department within your organization. This will allow you to test the processes of the software and learn how to best perform the work. During this testing phase you can make changes to your workflow to improve efficiency.

The test group should work to develop standard operating procedures for the rest of the team. This will help with training the additional members of the team and providing structure for the work.

Don’t roll out software too quickly. Make sure the test group feels comfortable with the processes and the performance of the software, then invite everyone to use the new procedures. The test group can then be the experts that everyone can rely on when they have questions.

Continue to improve

Once the software has been rolled out and everyone is using it, keep the lines of communication open so you can receive feedback from your team about the performance. This feedback will allow you to make changes to your processes, upgrade services, and address potential problems before they become widespread. Continuous improvement in your processes will improve efficiency and accuracy, saving you more time and money.

Change can be scary which is why with Premier Construction Software, our implementation team will be there to hand-hold you throughout the 6-week implementation process. We’ll schedule a business process meeting prior to the start of your training sessions to ensure we fully understand your business needs at the start of the process. When your team is ready to go-live, your team will receive a copy of their personalized business playbook to refer to anytime.

To learn more about how to get started, schedule a call with our sales team today.

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Tips & Advice

How General Contractors Can Stay Organized and Generate More Leads in 2021

With the new year brings time for professionals in the construction industry to review business processes and efficiencies. That being said, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of room for reflection as a result of unprecedented challenges faced in 2020 that have impacted the way we all work. In particular, for general contractors, it is a time to analyze what worked and what didn’t to ensure best practices are in place moving forward. Much like every transition from year to year, contractors should reflect to revamp their organization and lead generation techniques. Using these tips will help contractors start the new year off with not only peace of mind, but also with a plan to confidently move ahead in 2021.

Organize Your Office Space

With every project, making sure your business has a solid foundation from which to expand is the key to success. Perhaps your construction team has moved to a semi-remote or flexible arrangement, and ensuring everyone is on the same page and project management practices are being upheld is key. You and your assistants should set up your home offices appropriately so that you have a dedicated space away from distractions. If your home is not suited for an effective office space, you may want to consider a mini-renovation. When renovating a room in your home, it could be beneficial to invest in a home warranty to preserve the most essential home appliances amidst the renovation process. Investing in a home office is well worth the benefits. Your team might even feel more comfortable and more productive while working out of their home.

Once you have your home office set up to your liking, keep it organized and clutter-free. To stay even more organized, opt for an electronic cloud platform to keep everyone on the same page and save headaches. It is also essential that distributed teams are not working in silos and have access to vital job resources such as business purchases, invoices, and job site information at all times.

Use the Most Efficient Software

Laptop displaying a dashboard for a construction job

Having the most efficient construction software at your disposal will help your business stay more organized in comparison to your competitors. Having an organized office space is just half of what it takes to be as efficient as possible. Without the right software, itemized data can get lost in the mix, leading to hardships that are easily avoidable. Certain construction software systems provide a diverse range of organizational features from accounting all the way to time and compliance tracking.

The best construction software systems have all of their features in a cloud-based solution. Such software provides a wide range of different industry practices such as reporting, document management, time entry, forecasting and more, all in one solution. Some handy specific features include job costing and accounting. A job dashboard feature displays real-time KPIs for project managers to assess the status of projects, instead of developing a report. With built-in accounting features, accountants can create live financial reports for multiple groups while saving time and energy. Leveraging the advanced features of construction software gives you vital time back into your schedule to work on more customer-facing responsibilities.

Manage construction projects with the job dashboard in Premier

Be Attentive to Customers

A crucial aspect of generating leads in the construction industry is being as attentive as possible. To simplify, this means always answering your phone. Answer with a purpose and show the caller that you truly care about them and what they have to offer. Doing this will make the customer feel like a priority and will be a step in the right direction in how your business is perceived.

Another way to show your customers that you care is by returning quotes in a timely manner. Understandably, contractors are very busy and ultimately, the client is waiting for you, and all they can think about is their job. Being honest with quote prices and being rapid in response can not only help the client with a quick turnaround, but can also lead to potential referrals down the road. Lastly, to show your appreciation for the customer, consider sending a thank you note showing your appreciation for the business opportunity. Hopefully, over time this will lead to impressive reviews and meaningful relationships.

Stay Busy and Keep Your Costs Down

An important part of being a contractor is to stay busy with the right jobs for the right money. Some contractors tend to overshoot when going about their business. This can often lead to an overwhelming feeling and missed opportunities. Although taking on large, lucrative projects is desirable, it can cause you to be burned out, and smaller guaranteed opportunities can slip away.

Keeping your schedule full for a reasonable rate will not only lead to consistent income but will also lead to an improvement in production. Fundamentally, smaller jobs can often lead to larger jobs. If you show consistent communication skills and honesty about the project, clients will remember that. There are a variety of ways for contractors to save money, but the most effective ways are using a cost-efficient fleet, buying quality equipment, and renting your most expensive gear.

Be Open to New Ideas

It seems that almost every year social media grows much faster and larger than in previous years. Social media can be a great way to strengthen the community and can also be a landscape of learning and can lead to new project opportunities. Be open to new ideas and find more innovative ways to do your job. Finding innovative ways to do your job can help separate yourself from some of the more traditional contractors.

Use social media to your advantage; it can be a great way to learn new ideas about the business, but can also help market your business. Creating a social media presence that is constantly up-to-date, attractive, and shows previous customer reviews can be the most influential. Having established social media pages that customers and clients can easily access will drive more revenue by creating a space that is organized, reliable, and known for quality work.

Conclusion

To conclude, 2020 was a challenging year full of twists and turns that forced contractors to do things they’ve never had to do. Having the ability to plan out ways to generate revenue and gain new clientele is one way to prepare for what 2021 throws your way. Use these tips to attack 2021 with a sense of purpose.