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The Ups & Downs of Using Multiple Construction Systems Vs. an All-In-One Solution

If you’re considering making a change to your construction software, you’re probably wondering if you should stay with your existing way of doing things (usually multiple systems for multiple functions) or if you should integrate all your software needs into one central system. All-in-one solutions, like Premier, can take the place of document management, accounting, and project management software.

To help you make this decision, we’ve listed some of the benefits of staying with multiple solutions (because there are some), as well as the benefits of moving to an all-in-one solution. While cost is, and should be, a part of this decision, there are many other things to consider before deciding.

Benefits of using multiple software systems

  • If you’re using multiple software systems, say one for field communication and one for accounting, and it’s time to make a change to one of those systems, either an update or a software change, fewer people are affected by the change. Only the field or accounting department has to be trained on the new system, change processes, and work out the bugs. This can be less frustrating than having the entire company learn a new program together.
  • Let’s talk cost. Generally, software systems targeted to just the field or the office are less expensive than all-in-one solutions. They usually offer simplified processes that are targeted at a few pain points, so the costs to implement and purchase them are lower. Of course, this means that their capacity is limited, and you may not have access to more advanced functions if you need them. For example, many construction companies use Quickbooks for accounting, even though it lacks many of the tools and workflows necessary for contractors. In order to tap into these advanced functions, you’ll have to invest in a software that is structured specifically for the construction industry.
  • Depending on the structure of your business, using multiple solutions may fit your needs better. Very small companies, with only 1-2 employees, may not require the robust features of an all-in-one, and investing in such a system would be a waste of money for a company that small. However, as the business grows, so will its needs, and soon it will outgrow the capacity of these solutions.
  • Probably the biggest perceived benefit of using multiple systems, if you’re currently doing so, is that you don’t have to change what you’re currently doing. The fear of change and the havoc it can create keeps many companies from growing and adopting new tools. Transitioning to new software doesn’t have to be stressful when you have the right team and the right software for your business.

Benefits of all-in-one software solutions

  • One of the benefits of using an all-in-one software solution is that there is one centralized location for all your data and files. No more searching desktops, laptops, and the cloud for the information you need. By making the information available through the internet, your team members can get the data and files they need no matter where they are and what type of hardware they’re using. No more lost data.
  • With an all-in-one system, entries made in one part of the software are automatically sent where they need to go to update the entire system. For example, an AP invoice will show up immediately on budget reports, open AP reports, and the project’s work-in-progress report. Double entry isn’t required. This ensures that everyone can see the same data at the same time, and you don’t have to worry about whether the cost data has been synced with the project management data. It’s all in one system.
  • Everyone has access to detailed cost data, allowing them to drill down to the transaction if necessary. Synced data in other systems may come across as a summary of costs, not allowing a project manager to see the detail of those costs. Of course, everyone can only see the records they’ve been given permission to see, ensuring privacy when necessary.
  • An all-in-one solution grows as your company grows. You can add users and functionality as the need arises. Taking on new types of work or responding to requests for new reports or cost data can easily be accommodated without having to change systems or upgrade software.
  • Automation allows your team to save time so they can work on more pressing tasks. Automated AP invoice entry, pay-when-paid payments, and notifications allow your team to spend their time doing the really important things, and not babysitting the software system. Automation can also reduce the need for double entry, saving you from countless errors and time searching for them.
  • Instead of spending time on processes you’ve developed to work around the limitations of the software systems you currently use, you can streamline those processes and save workers time and money. For example, a worker enters a change order into the project management system, then has to enter the same change order into the accounting system. While in the same time it took them to enter the CO twice, with an all-in-one system the CO would be entered in both accounting and project management, and a CO issued to the appropriate subcontractors, as well.
  • When information from the project management and accounting systems are combined into a dashboard managers can see the big picture of how the company is running. New synergies can be seen when the data is presented together, and management can act quickly based on trends. Without a central system, creating these dashboards requires combining the data by hand, which leaves room for errors and takes time.

If you’re looking for a single solution for your accounting, project management, and document control needs, look no further than Premier. Afraid of change? Our team will work closely with you to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.

See how we can help, schedule your demo today to get started!

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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The Importance of Employee Training for Construction Software

Software training is key during new software implementation. For workers, it helps them learn the software’s workflow, allows them to test drive the solution, ask specific questions and get more help when needed. For companies, it reduces the transition time, improves morale, and improves efficiency. For more on these benefits and some additional ones, see the list below.

Employee Benefits

1. Learn the software’s workflow

One of the reasons many companies upgrade their software is to gain efficiencies. If you use the same process or workflow in new software, you won’t gain anything. However, through training, you’ll learn how the new software handles data entry, processing, and reporting. Without training, you may spend more time trying to make it do something the way you want it to work, and this wastes time, and money, and reduces your ROI.

2. Concentrate on learning

If you’re trying to implement new software while keeping up with your other duties, it can get stressful fast. The strain of juggling your existing work can make it more difficult for you to learn how to use the new system. By setting aside training time, you can fully concentrate on learning new processes and workflows without the added stress of your other duties.

3. Test drive the software

Training gives you the time to work with real-world examples in the new system. During training, you’ll enter transactions, process data, and run reports, just as you would in your daily work. By “test driving” the software with real data you get a chance to not only see how the software works, but also learn by actively performing the work. Once you go live, you’ll have the data you worked with during training to remind you how each process is performed.

4. Ask specific questions

Every company has situations that are handled differently in that company, and training gives you a chance to ask questions about these situations and work out what needs to be done with an instructor. In addition, you’ll get a chance to learn from questions that others ask during the training, and you’ll receive direct feedback from the instructor.

5. Get added help when needed

Your training time is the time to ask for help. If you’re having difficulty performing a process or knowing what to do next, it’s time to ask for and get the added assistance you need so you can be fully confident using the software. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s during a class or one-on-one. Our team is here to make sure you get the training and information you need to make the most of our solution.

Company Benefits

1. Reduce transition time

Anytime you change or update a software solution, there’s going to be a learning curve and it’s going to take time to get the new system up and running. However, when employees aren’t trained properly, this transition time can be extended as they use trial and error to figure things out. But with training and assistance from the software team, this time can be reduced, as well as the number of headaches.

2. Get the most from software efficiencies

You probably didn’t buy new software because it was going to take just as much time to do things as your current solution. You’re probably looking for some efficiencies or cost savings to justify your purchase. In order to take advantage of the efficiencies and improved reporting promised, you’ll need to learn how the developers intend the software to work. Training will walk you through each process and show you exactly how you can save time using the new system.

3. Save time on trial and error

Some teams will work diligently using trial and error to figure things out. This takes a lot of time, as data is entered, deleted, and reentered in a different way. Workers may be trying to use an old system with new software, and that just isn’t going to cut it. Why waste time with trial and error when training can give you the answers you need, allow you to practice using the new system, and get you up and running faster?

4. Improve morale

Software transitions are stressful. Team members can get frustrated with delays and time spent fixing errors and reentering data. When everyone gets trained on how to use the system properly, there’s reduced stress and employee turnover. Workers develop a sense of teamwork as they work together to implement the new system. They help each other solve problems and work through the process more quickly.

5. Track training progress

Employers can quantify and track the training progress of their employees, so they know at a glance who has practiced what skills. This can help with cross-training and job shadowing. If an employee is going to be changing positions, make sure they have time to review their training and refresh their knowledge about the new process.

Buying new software and not providing training is like throwing a person in the water and telling them to swim. They’ll figure it out, but it’s going to take a while and they won’t be very good at it. Software training provides an opportunity for workers to learn new skills, practice them, and see how the new system works. Employers benefit from reduced transition time, improved team morale, and the ability to quantify and track each worker’s skills.

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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Is Construction Software Worth the Investment?

Construction software isn’t cheap, and when it comes to calculating the ROI, it can be difficult to see the upside. Even though it may not be obvious, there are some real, hard benefits to purchasing a construction-specific software solution.

The importance of investing in construction software

Many construction companies start out using general accounting software, like QuickBooks, to manage their finances. Usually, these solutions are effective for a while, but then the business gets busy, hires more workers, and soon outgrows the tool. During this phase, important job and budget cost tracking is often done using spreadsheets, which are prone to errors and don’t always have the most up-to-date information.

As a company continues to grow, they often look to invest in construction-specific software that will help them manage finances and projects within the same software. Investing in all-in-one construction software is important because it:

  • Provides one source for information, data, and project file storage, both in the field and in the office. This improves communication and increases collaboration.
  • Connects the field to the office, eliminating costly data silos, where information isn’t shared across teams.
  • Improves data accuracy by eliminating error-prone spreadsheets.
  • Improves accessibility by providing information for multiple hardware options, from laptops, smartphones, tablets, and desktops.
  • Allows teams to know what resources they have and when – which helps with forecasting.

Why you might not want to purchase software

There are many reasons contractors and suppliers don’t want to purchase new software. It can be difficult to make a change, especially when the current system is “working.” Many workers fear change, even if it will make their jobs easier or quicker. Fear of the unknown keeps many from making any kind of change, even a good one.

Changing software costs money. There’s no way around it, there’s a financial cost to any software system. While it’s important to know how much the software will cost, it’s also important to assess the potential benefits of a new system. These benefits aren’t always obvious and can be difficult to measure. They include reduced stress levels, more accurate information, and increased productivity.

In the short run, employees will be less efficient than they have been. This can be attributed to the training time needed to educate employees and decreased efficiency due to learning a new skill. However, employees will get better as time progresses, continuing to improve their efficiency, and changes in your processes can add to that efficiency.

Why you should invest in construction software

Investing in an all-in-one, project management and accounting, software solution will provide several benefits:

It will streamline and improve your current processes.

When a company is using general accounting software that isn’t specific to the construction industry, employees must often create new processes to track and report on data in the way that project managers or management want it reported. However, by using a solution specific to the industry, many of these processes can be streamlined or even eliminated. This increases employee efficiency and saves time and money.

It will increase productivity.

Employees have only one place to look for the information and documents they need, reducing lost time. Also, with increased accuracy, employees can rely on the information they receive, reducing time spent checking for errors. Data entry errors have cost companies millions of dollars.

Companies will need to hire fewer employees.

With improved efficiency and productivity, workers can be reassigned to other tasks, or a company may find there’s no need to hire additional workers to handle additional workflow. This saves time searching for, hiring, and onboarding new employees.

It improves industry compliance.

Construction companies have additional compliance requirements that other companies don’t. They must comply with hiring standards, contractor insurance requirements, safety requirements, as well as federal and state government pay requirements. An all-in-one construction software solution provides these companies with the tools they need to ensure compliance in all their activities.

It connects the field to the office.

One of the biggest communication breakdowns occurs between the job site and the office. Sharing data between workers in these two locations is key to completing projects in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By purchasing one software that integrates both field and office communication and data, you can save the time and headaches that occur because of miscommunication.

Helps you save more time by providing you with the latest tools.

It provides new tools, like automation and artificial intelligence, to help project teams streamline their projects and mitigate risks before they happen. Automation reduces workload by performing common tasks without human intervention. Artificial intelligence, or AI, helps project teams to predict costs and other risks before they occur so they can address them and potentially prevent them. For example, it can analyze activities and learn which ones cause the most delay or create the most risk and remind users when these tasks will be performed.

An all-in-one construction software solution, like Premier, allows companies to streamline their processes, quickly share information between the field and office, ensure compliance with industry and government standards, and take advantage of new tools like automation and artificial intelligence. To learn more about how Premier can take your construction company to the next level, schedule a demo today.

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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Features Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Forecasting in Construction Software

Knowing your numbers is critical in the construction industry. Understanding how much a previous job truly cost is part of accurately estimating and landing new, profitable projects. But, just as vital is knowing how a current project is running and where it will end up, allowing for adjustments and planning. For this type of nimbleness, construction contractors need to understand forecasting.

What is forecasting? How does it help? And how can a firm perform forecasting properly? Keep reading to learn more about this important tactic (and feature) in this ultimate guide to forecasting in construction. 

What is Forecasting?

Forecasting is the process of analyzing and interpreting the current trajectory of a construction project. This process takes into account the budget, actual costs, upcoming or projected costs, current and expected change orders, and other values that will determine the final cost of the project at completion. 

Among others, the forecasting process yields two important data points: the estimate at completion (EAC) and the estimate to completion (ETC). 

Estimate at Completion (EAC)

The estimate at completion for any project details how much the project will cost the contractor or developer when the project wraps. This estimate includes all of the values involved in the project, including actual costs, projected costs, expected change orders, and other fees. 

This is a report that should be run and reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure there are no surprises or significant changes to waylay the project’s success.

Estimate to Completion (ETC)

The estimate to completion is a forecasting data point that explains how much money is expected to be left over from the project’s budget at completion. This value is essentially the difference between the budget and the EAC. 

While subtracting the EAC from the budget may appear to be a simple equation, that’s not the case. If the EAC isn’t as precise as possible and accounts for all of the commitments moving forward through the project (actual and proposed), the ETC may be useless. At this point, the contractor is opening themselves up to expensive overruns and shrunken profit margins, and they might not even know these expenses are coming. 

Why is Forecasting Important?

The ways that accurate forecasting is important are many, but let’s use an analogy. Consider you have a flight to make and you’ve budgeted enough time to get to the airport. And although you know the way, you set your GPS to track your progress. The GPS details what time you’ll arrive at your current pace and route, allowing you to determine how much time you’ll have left once you arrive. If a traffic jam or detour is in the future, the GPS adjusts the route and gives you the newest data, helping you to ensure you remain on time.

Forecasting is essentially the same as using a GPS with the exception that you get to choose the route when a roadblock occurs. Still, accurate forecasting can explain how much that detail may cost, and where the budget will land.

Other Benefits of Forecasting

Beyond being able to remain nimble and informed as described above, there are other significant benefits to accurate forecasting. 

Forecasting Creates Accountability

Firms should be running and reviewing forecasting reports on a monthly basis. Upon review and comparison to past months, major changes that have taken place in the budget or proposed changes moving forward will be apparent. Senior staff can then ask project managers why these changes occurred or why they may be necessary.

While this might seem like punishment, it’s anything but. Understanding how a project management team thinks allows the firm to implement training or protocols that may enrich their management team moving forward, helping keep future projects on budget. On the other hand, it also gives management the ability to recognize their staff for their foresight, allowing them to place employees in roles that best play to their strengths.

Forecasting Allows for Contingency Conservation

Every project has contingencies built into the budget for unforeseeable or unavoidable events. Generally speaking, those contingencies are around 10 percent of the total estimated cost. And while this is money meant for “emergencies,” managing the project allows the contractor to conserve their contingency budget.

Early and Frequent Communication

One of the most beneficial aspects of forecasting for contractors is the ability to clearly communicate early and often. With accurate forecasting reports, contractors are often able to see issues with the budget—or timeline, to some degree—well before the problem comes to fruition rather than that problem springing up at the last second when the contractors’ backs are against the wall.

With this understanding of the budget and its projected health, contractors are able to discuss issues with the customer. This may give the customer enough time to make a change and adjust the budget or scope accordingly, keeping the project on track and allowing for a timely delivery. 

Better Budgeting and Estimating

Very few successful construction firms handle one job at a time. They’re typically running multiple projects, all at different stages. Some are wrapping up, some are in process, and some may only be in the estimating or proposal stage. While the traditional use for forecasting is to keep the current project on track by staying ahead, it can also help with other projects in the pipeline.

The proper use of forecasting keeps contractors and developers up to date on the latest data on a monthly basis. If they’re reviewing how their current projects are doing, they’ll be able to plan and estimate other similar projects more accurately and efficiently. In use with job costing reports, being aware of trends in forecasting will ensure the contractor is able to provide the best estimate possible for their business and allow for better, more accurate budgeting for their customers. 

How Construction Management Software Can Help with Forecasting

Let’s be honest: the reason that most contractors that don’t forecast choose not to use this tool is that it’s hard. There is a lot of data entry, updating, reviewing, and corroboration that has to occur to forecast properly. And, should one data point be a bit out of line, the report’s credibility becomes suspect, meaning it’s not as helpful as a tool as one might think.

Just think of all the items that a forecasting report might require:

  • Actual costs of each line item
  • Data from the correct fiscal period
  • Which invoices apply to each cost item (and invoices that have multiple cost items)
  • Actual, pending, and outstanding commitment amounts
  • Unforeseen or unaccounted items

Luckily, construction management software can help ease this incredibly complex burden. 

Premier Construction Software automates the forecasting process. The system automatically populates most of the critical data that accurate forecasting requires, meaning users don’t need to transfer budget items, double-check accuracy, or even collect all of the data required. The system will automatically pluck items from individual reports and integrate them into the forecasting report.

Premier will automatically enter, track, or calculate values such as:

  • Original budget
  • Change orders (both actual and proposed)
  • Commitments (actual, proposed, projected, outstanding, and uncommitted actuals)
  • The budget utilized and project budgets

Along with those values, Premier allows users to update or input data that might not currently exist within the system. Items like anticipated costs for which the system does not account are easy to add, with customizable categories for simple organization. Also, any actions that need to occur such as budget transfers or internal change orders (workflows implemented for accountability when transferring budget items) are incredibly simple to add and track. 

Premier users also have the benefit of customizing third-party access. Users can allow customers, lenders, bonding partners, or subcontractors to access the system for up-to-date forecasting information. 

Forecasting Automation is a Powerful Tool That Every Firm Needs

The automation and customization make Premier Construction Software’s forecasting feature incredibly powerful. Users can make more informed decisions that keep projects on track and on budget by using the latest information available. This type of informed, nimble decision-making will lead to better profitability, growth, and happier customers—the goals of any construction firm. 

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

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The Pains of Data Entry and How To Solve Them

Few industries can rival the construction industry’s reliance on data. With so many moving parts in the form of contractors, subs, materials, inspectors, compliances, and accounting, having accurate data to work from is critical to keeping the job on track. However, the industry’s approach to data entry is antiquated at best.

But when someone does something long enough, they may struggle to realize inefficiencies or that there are better ways to do things. This couldn’t be more true for the construction industry, as many contractors have simply accepted the pains of data entry. But, there is a better way to get the job done with more speed, accuracy, and corroboration.

The Challenges of Data Entry

Data entry gets a bad reputation, and it’s usually for good reason (or several, for that matter). The following are some of the challenges that contractors face with data entry, and they certainly contribute to data entry’s bad name.

1. It Can Be Slow

Data entry is a painfully slow process. First, someone has to record the data—something that is often done manually in construction. Then, someone needs to sit down and enter the data into the system, piece by piece. Finally, that data is then used to form different reports and values, helping the contractor make informed decisions.

All of this takes valuable time from at least one of the contractor’s staff members, but likely three or four. This time spent can quickly equate to money lost, especially if those reports don’t contain the latest data or an error renders them useless.

2. It Can Be Inaccurate

Any time a human is responsible for data entry, that data is susceptible to errors or inaccuracies. Whether it’s that a decibel is in the wrong spot, the person entering the data can’t read the handwriting of the person who recorded it, or they’re inputting the data in the wrong place, mistakes will abound.

One small error extrapolated over several reports can be a serious issue. Not only can this cost the contractor all of the value they could’ve hoped for from the reporting process, but they might make critical decisions based on data they believed to be correct or up to date, only to find out it’s not.

3. Storing and Organization Can Be a Pain

Getting data into a system is one thing. Storing it and organizing it is an entirely different animal. With the amount of data that a typical project creates, file cabinets full of reports and data points just won’t cut it anymore. But, electronic reports saved individually to a local storage system aren’t much better.

Contractors that aren’t using a platform to sort and store their data are wasting time and potentially money. It can take longer to compile a report, make decisions, or avoid mistakes. Conversely, when that important information is readily at-hand, contractors can be more nimble and make better decisions.

4. It Can Be Hard to Access

Accurate, well-organized data and the reports that it comprises are great, but accessing them can be a nightmare. A report stored on a localized system back at the office won’t help with game-time decision-making, leading to contractors choosing between wasting time or flying blind, both of which can be very costly mistakes.

Also, poorly organized data can affect the way business is handled. Investors, executives, and partners rarely enjoy waiting for reports just to see how the latest project is stacking up. And, they want to know if things are on track with the very latest data. This situation can get even worse when the contractor, their clients, and the other parties are using different systems to access their reports.

Construction Management Software: Data Entry Solution

Luckily, construction data entry and many of the issues that go along with it are easily solved with Premier Construction Management Software.

1. Automated Workflows Reduce the Opportunity for Errors

One of the best ways to reduce data entry errors is to simply reduce data entry. Premier Construction Software provides automated workflows that allow users to input data and automatically distribute it to the folks that need to review, approve, or deny it. Since the staff isn’t re-entering the same data on several reports, there are fewer opportunities to introduce errors.

2. Gain Access from Anywhere

Premier’s all-in-one software solves data access issues, as well. By using cloud-based storage, Premier allows users to review data, reports, and even drawings from anywhere in the world. All they need is a web-enabled device. Contractors, clients, and decision-makers can quickly check the documents to make better decisions at the moment.

3. Standardized Systems

One of the most important aspects of all-in-one construction software is standardizing the systems which everyone uses. Rather than using four or five software platforms in-house to store and view documents, or potentially more across several clients and subcontractors, Premier provides access to several parties to the same platform. Again, this reduces the opportunity for error but also ensures everyone has access to the same data.

4. Automatic, Real-Time Updates

Data is only accurate if it’s up to date, and that’s one of the most significant hurdles that Premier’s all-in-one software handles best. Every time a change occurs within the system, whether it be a budget item, a schedule change, a compliance expiry, or a materials change, a whole-system update is triggered.

Any report affected by these changes will automatically reflect the new value. Anyone accessing those reports will see the most up-to-date data, allowing them to make the best decision possible with real-time information.

Simple Process

The biggest benefit of streamlining the data entry and management process with Premier Construction Software is how easy it is to implement. Premier’s team will help contractors implement their software, training their staff to use each of the features seamlessly. And, if any issues arise or staff has questions, each company will have one account manager to help them navigate the challenge.

Contractors using Premier software will be able to set up their own customized workflows, allowing them to use real-time data to create forecasting reports, job costing, and accurate billing. This translates to less time spent entering data, and fewer mistakes—something all construction companies should strive for.

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes.