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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

How to Manage your Remote Workforce for your Construction Business More Effectively

Construction has been one of the slowest industries to integrate technology into its workflow. Most of the on-site work is still done by hand, understandably, but even services that could be easily performed with the help of technology have been slow in transitioning. However, now that coronavirus has changed the workplace for everyone, construction companies are looking to grow their remote workforce and are seeking technology to help them manage the work.

Moving from on-site management to remote working presents several challenges for construction companies. Companies are scrambling to figure out how to manage remote staff, maintain project productivity, and keep the bottom line intact. Luckily, technology offers several solutions that can help construction companies maintain their productivity without affecting project quality, all while maintaining safety and health requirements.

Project management software

One of the best technologies available today is cloud-based construction project management software. It offers benefits to construction companies of all sizes and trades.

Because the software and its data are stored in the cloud, it’s easy for field staff and remote workers to access the information wherever they are. And since all that is needed for access is an internet connection, team members can review up-to-date project information from their phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. There’s no additional hardware investment for companies to worry about, nor do they have to maintain a server or perform software updates.

Since all the data is updated on the fly, team members have access to real-time information on their projects. Communication is simplified when everyone has access to the same documents, drawings, and other correspondence.

When project management software is integrated with accounting, cost information and budget reports can be made available for immediate access at any time. Team members don’t have to contact the office to get the information they need to make financial decisions about their project.

Document controlmanaging construction documents on the laptop with Premier Construction Software

Construction projects create a lot of paperwork, and that hasn’t slowed down during the pandemic. In fact, if anything, the amount of required documentation has only increased with the addition of safety and health checks. A software package that can keep everything organized is a must-have.

Documents such as submittals and RFIs are usually routed to several people before they are complete. Tracking who is responsible for the next step can be difficult when using a spreadsheet. Project management software can help by automatically routing documents and notifying responders when it’s their turn to review or respond. This helps keep the documents, and the project, moving forward.

With everyone working remotely, signatures are also difficult to get nowadays. Allowing contracts, change orders, and other documents to be signed electronically can improve efficiency and reduce the need for additional paperwork. Management software allows these documents to be completed and signed in minutes instead of days.

Time tracking software

supervisor using time entry app to approve field worker's time

Many companies still rely on paper timecards to track their employees’ work hours and appropriately code their time to the phase of the project. Handling paper timecards can cause delays in payroll processing, especially when working remotely, as well as create the potential for time theft and inaccurate reporting.

Recent technology developments have made time tracking software the most accurate and foolproof way to keep track of employee time and job costing. Wearable technology and cell phones allow employers to track the location of their employees at any time during the workday using GPS. Since the software knows when the employee enters the worksite and when they leave it, it’s much more difficult for employees to steal time. Timekeeping is also more accurate when logged by technology than by human hands.

Once time has been recorded by the software, the timesheets are approved and coded by the employee’s supervisor. This reduces the chance for time stealing as well as inaccurate cost reporting since all time entries are being reviewed before they are entered into the system.

Settings are available to force the cost codes for time entry to match those determined by the job, so only certain codes can have time applied to them. This improves the accuracy of job cost reports and ensures that costs are being categorized correctly.

Project reportingLaptop displaying a dashboard for a construction job

Cost reports and budget analyses are only as good as the information that they are based on. When accounting information is available and integrated with the project management software, cost reporting is more accurate and up to date.

Changes are often made throughout the project and communicating the information between the field and the office can be difficult. With project management and accounting software integration, changes entered in the field automatically update the accounting system without the need for double entry. This saves time and money on useless repeat work.

If cost information is available to project teams through a cloud-based system, everyone is able to stay informed about the progress on the job from wherever they are. Relying on this information, the team can make project decisions based on real-time information that includes up-to-date costs.

Manage construction projects with the job dashboard in Premier

Communication and check-in

When everyone is working remotely and in-person visits are discouraged, it can be difficult to stay in touch and know what everyone is working on. Setting time aside for daily or weekly check-ins with team members via phone or teleconference can help improve morale and offer a sense of connection when many are feeling disconnected.

Use these calls to set goals for the team, assign tasks to members, and report on the status of current items. It’s important to keep in mind that many tasks and duties may take longer due to the communication constraints of working remotely. Employees have a harder time concentrating and have many distractions when they aren’t working at the office. Keeping this in mind will help the team set realistic expectations.

For on-site project progress updates, video and photos can be used to accurately reflect the progress of work. These can be shared with team members, including project owners, who may not be able to visit the site like they are used to. Sharing these updates through a cloud-based system allows everyone access to see the progress, ask questions, and answer them if needed.

Technology improves efficiency and productivity

Transitioning from on-site to remote project management is easier thanks to recent advances in technology, including construction project management software, electronic document control, time tracking, project reporting, and online communication. When companies take advantage of these tools, their projects will become more efficient and productive, saving them time and money.

To learn more about how Premier Construction Software can help your team work more efficiently, get in touch with us 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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Tips & Advice

5 Ways Construction Software Can Help You Save Money

You’ve reached a point where you’re wondering — “Is investing in construction software really worth it? Can it really save me time and money? How?” 

Whether it was caused by a project delay or miscommunication resulting in costly mistakes, something prompted you to start researching and considering the potential benefits and savings construction software can offer. 

Who Can Benefit from Construction Software?

Well, the short and simple answer is: everyone. But for our purposes, we’ll focus on the benefits to project members and project managers (with the inherent understanding that any time and money saved at the project level will ultimately benefit the company owner, too). 

When you start to consider savings, here’s an easy way to think about it: direct cost/monetary savings, and “everything else” (meaning, everything else that may indirectly save you money). 

So, what are some ways construction software can help you save money? Below are five examples:

1. Construction software improves communication and collaboration between all project members.

According to The 2020 National Construction Payment Report: Spring Spotlight on Jobsite Coordination, “nearly 70% of contractors surveyed said that poor jobsite coordination often causes projects to run over budget or past deadlines” and “over half of contractors (54%) blame delays on poor coordination between subcontractors.” Another key finding from the report, which is arguably the most important: “Survey answers reveal that most of the time, delays on a construction project are entirely preventable.”

You read that right. Most of the time, these costly mistakes (that are happening frequently) can be avoided with improved communication. Construction software offers a centralized location where critical project information can be saved, stored, accessed and updated—in real-time, and anywhere, by everyone who needs it.

2. Construction software puts the project managers (PMs) back in control.

An all-in-one, cloud-based construction software that offers both accounting and job costing solutions is the crème de la crème for project managers. With accounting and job costing in sync, project managers know they can trust the data to make informed decisions. 

Here are a few key ways an all-in-one solution puts PMs in control: 

  • Detailed Reports: Project managers can get the reports they need to make faster and smarter decisions in seconds. This means PMs can spend more time analyzing the numbers instead of preparing them. Additionally, PMs can easily view their jobs and drill down into the accounting information to view invoice or payment details. 
  • Dashboards: Consolidated dashboards make it easy to digest and consume multiple reports at once by displaying high level KPIs, at-risk items, an approval section, pending items and summarized cost and revenue summary with full drill-down capability. In seconds, PMs can view a high-level overview across all jobs, and then quickly drill down into any of the details to view the contract details, what has been billed and if payment has been released.
  • Change Order Management: PMs can send, track, and approve of change orders all from one place—and, best of all, approved change orders will automatically be reflected in reports.

Manage construction projects with the job dashboard in Premier

3. Construction software reduces risk by ensuring data is saved safely and securely.

One reason that construction companies may be reluctant to switch to a cloud-based solution is because of security concerns. For some, the idea of maintaining physical control over documents somehow seems safer than having everything stored on a server. However, reliable cloud-based applications will have strong safeguards in place to ensure your information stays protected. 

Additionally, document controls can be set up to restrict company, job and menu access to individual users or by group/role. Administrators can also set read or write access for each module, as well as restrictions on who can post, approve, edit, delete, upload, or revise documents.

4. Construction software saves time and money by reducing employee wages and training costs. 

In the business world, time is money—and construction software can save time in a number of ways. Training new team members can come at a great cost, but construction software can cut down on training time by providing one place where new team members can easily access and view all the pertinent project information, as well as the project timeline and details about next steps. This allows them to become familiar with the project in a fraction of the time, and serves as a very valuable training device. Using a software solution to train new team members translates into savings by reducing the cost of paying another team member or employee to do it.  

5. Construction software saves money with lower upfront cost structure.

On-premise systems tend to cost more upfront because of the required software and server installation, cost of software licenses, as well as the cost of an IT team to configure the system and provide ongoing maintenance. Additional cost considerations include physical space to store an on-premise system, monthly maintenance fees, backup software systems, and electricity consumption. With a cloud-based, SaaS solution, all you need is an internet connection and a device. 

Why Doesn’t Everyone Use Construction Software? 

Despite the many benefits and savings, there are still companies that haven’t gotten onboard with a construction software solution? Why, you may ask?

The answer usually falls into two categories: 

  1. It’s hard to change. Implementing a comprehensive software solution requires time investment upfront in order to save down the road. Many construction company owners are so strapped for time and resources they simply feel they don’t have the ability or willingness to change the way things are done. 
  2. Not everyone has felt the urgency to implement a construction software solution. Sure, maybe you (the project member or project manager) have recognized the need for a new solution to an ongoing problem, but maybe the company owner hasn’t. Or perhaps there isn’t someone on the team who’s willing to be a team advocate to rally for change.  

What Can You Do?

The good news is: anyone can become a successful advocate for change! While you may feel nervous to propose the implementation of a construction software solution, you may be surprised at how well received the idea is if you provide sufficient information to support your proposal that construction software can—and will—save time and money. 

It’s pretty safe to assume all company owners want to reduce costs and save money, they just need to understand how. So if you’re looking for ideas about how to approach this conversation with your boss or company owner, you can use this blog as a guide for which key points to include in your discussion, or click here to contact us for more information. 

 

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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Industry Insight Resources

Best Practices For Software Implementation

Beginnings are always messy and this is often true in the Construction Industry. Especially at the start of a new project, which can make the entire project messy from day one. Through proper planning, possible pitfalls can most definitely be avoided.

The same can be said for implementing new construction software. Contractors often hesitate investing in a more efficient system – typically not due to the cost, but rather the anticipated stress associated with change management.

By applying your skills and know-how of running a successful and profitable construction project, you can avoid these common missteps when implementing a new construction software. Below are some of the most common roadblocks and related best practices to curb them.

1. Begin with a Plan

When you purchase a new construction software package, approach the implementation process the same way you would approach a new job – with a solid plan. Tap into the resources of your software provider in order to develop a logical and effective implementation strategy in order to be successful. They have helped thousands of clients before you, so with an open mind, allow them to be your trusted partner throughout the process.

2.  Define Success

Success is more than simply having the system up and running. Look deeper into defining what success is. What procedures have you found that haven’t worked with your current software and how can those procedures be improved? Identify these measurements of success at the onset of implementing new software.

3.  Assign a Project Manager Lead

Typically, you wouldn’t begin a new job without a Project Manager, so do not start a software transition without one. Ensure you have a dedicated Project Manager on board from your company and ensure they play a substantial role during the implementation process. Ultimately, the Project Manager will be one of the champions during start to finish of implementation and further on.

4.  Review Old Procedures

The main reason for changing software packages is to increase productivity and profitability. In order to increase this, it is important to review old procedures in order to make the necessary adjustments. Spend the time up front to establish a more standardized structure for all of your jobs and overall operations within your company.

5.  Review Outdated Information

Before switching over to your new software provider, review all of your records. By eliminating duplicate vendors, evaluating outstanding items and updating employee information – you can start with a clean set of data, which will help you when developing new procedures or tweaking existing ones.

6.  Approach Implementation in Phases

Transitioning over to a new software package should be approached in phases, just like a job. Map out each phase along with your software provider and share this with your team leads. By approaching this in phases, it will keep your staff from feeling overwhelmed as you move throughout implementation because you are giving them time to learn the basics before adding more complex functionality.

7.  Stay Positive and take Advantage!

Implementing new software can come with a bag of changing emotions – excitement, dread, frustration and impatience. Change can be difficult but remaining positive and taking advantage of the support your software provider is arming you with, will make all the difference! Keep an open line of communication between yourself and your team, as well as the software provider. Increase your knowledge base and overall efficiency by taking advantage of any additional resources, webinars and much more. Most importantly, take a hands on approach to training in order to utilize the software to is maximum ability.

Change is necessary for growth. Set expectations early on and approach the brand new implementation process with a solid strategy!

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Trends & Technology

The Truth About True Cloud

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What is the difference between cloud and a hosted environment?

With typical hosting, you’re offloading your servers to a third party hosting company who then looks after server management on your behalf. While at first glance this seems like a positive step in the right direction to reducing your overall IT costs, you’re still limited by the capacity of these servers and the network capacity of the provider. If you need more capacity, the hosting provider may not be able to provide it. If you need a faster server – get ready for a ‘planned migration’ that can potentially leave you and your customers with either heavily degraded service, or worse, no service at all. Requiring more capacity is known in the industry as ‘Scaling’, and with traditional hosting this remains difficult and costly. In addition to issues with Scalability, you’re also putting your full confidence in your hosting provider to take complete backups, ensure that both your backups and live environment are secure, and that the software you are hosting remains available, even during catastrophic failures.

With Cloud Technology, servers typically operate in a virtualized cluster of many machines, all working together to provide you with the resources and capacity you need. Scaling up, then, is simply a quick configuration change. No downtime. No servers to order. No issues with parts being on back-order. Virtually no downtime. With Cloud technology, companies can scale on-demand to the requirements of the business to ensure that the resources you need are available when you need it. And backups are not an afterthought – they’re typically baked into the core of the service. In the case of a hosting provider such as Microsoft Azure, backups are constantly being taken, allowing you access to to-the-minute point-in-time backups from any time in the last 14 days. And catastrophic failures need not be a concern – with a 99.95% guaranteed uptime and failover zones that are provisioned on the opposite location of the main data centre, you can be sure your data remains safe and your software remains available.

What do you mean by ‘true cloud’, then?

 Many software companies, in an attempt to appear modern and up-to-date dedicate their budgets to masquerading the underlying server dependency with Hosting Environment solutions, rather than investing in their customers and the future of their product. Those that approach the problem in this way are looking at the problem from a short term gain perspective, meaning, long term pains. Jonas Premier, on the other hand, was engineered from the ground up using modern technology, leveraging Microsoft Azure, the #1 global provider for cloud hosting. With more than 66% of Fortune 500 companies relying on Microsoft Azure as their cloud service provider, combined with their 99.95% enterprise grade SLA on services, support, and monitoring, you can be sure that your data remains safe, available, and that Premier can scale to even the most demanding businesses.

So, not all Software Solutions that claim to be ‘cloud’ are ‘true cloud’ based solutions?!

Unfortunately, not. Many companies practice deceptive marketing strategies as a short term solution solely to prop up their financials and appear to position themselves in the market in a way that isn’t reflective of their true solution. They spend their resources on this deception, rather than investing in their infrastructure, and thus, their customers.

That can’t be right. I just got a trial, and was able to run the software without installing it!

Most hosted software solutions require you to operate the software using Remote Desktop Technology such as RDP or Citrix. Sometimes, in addition to this, they also require you establish a VPN connection to their network! Typically, all of these solutions are costly, slow and inconvenient. In these situations, they are effectively having you connect to a workstation which already has the software installed, whether that be to run your day to day business, or to provide you with a demo or trial. In today’s world, people demand the convenience of access, speed, high availability, and a low cost. With a true cloud solution such as Jonas Premier, you don’t need to worry about how you will connect to the software, you don’t need to worry about whether it can scale to meet the demands of your growing business, and you don’t need to worry about maintaining servers, backups, or any of the associated IT overhead.

 Where is my data and who does it belong to?

This is a great question. You want to ensure that you are teaming up with a reputable hosting provider as they are responsible for the security and safety of your data. With Jonas Premier, your data always remains your data. You always have access to real-time data on demand which can be queried through the software, or externally from the software. You can even extract your data using your favorite tools such as Microsoft Excel! Backed by Constellation Software Inc (CSU.TO) and hosted on the Microsoft Azure Cloud, you can be confident that your data is safe and secure. In addition, we have escrow agreements in place to ensure that you have access to your data no matter what the future has in store.

 Why are businesses moving to cloud?

The answer is simple. Lower Total-Cost-of-Ownership (TCO), higher convenience, reduced overall risk, high availability, and access to real-time information from anywhere at any time. Information and reporting are the heart of any organization, and with cloud, it makes it easy for employees to get information from the field into the software to improve cash flow and enhance decision-making capabilities. With over 80% of companies saving money since implementing cloud, it is no surprise that so many companies are making the choice to move to the cloud.

What are the risks with cloud?

Life is fraught with risk, and in this case, the main risk associated with Cloud solutions is internet connectivity and availability. As more and more of the world is looking to the Internet as the universal-backbone-of-things, we’ve seen significant investments in communication technologies, such as fibre to the door, higher speeds, increased cell tower coverage, etc. Today, those internet challenges are quickly becoming a non-issue.

But my server is working great. Why would I want to change?

While traditional servers are still an option, servers have to be maintained and upgraded regularly, which is not only time consuming, but also costly as well. Your business requires IT personnel to manage this and you will incur the costs for backing up your data and storing information. For example, the typical cost to back up data is approximately $80/month for businesses, and most companies’ ultimately back-up to tape, larger in scale and more advanced, but fundamentally the same technology used back in the day of the 8-track tape or audio tapes you might have had in your car to listen to music. Over time, these tapes become unreliable and can be easily damaged. Also, businesses are storing more documents and trying to share them with customers and vendors, which include photos, drawings, and videos. Businesses end up leveraging public online services such as Dropbox. Dropbox is good when you want to share files with your friends, but do you want to make it the information sharing cornerstone of your business? These types of solutions make it increasingly difficult for employees to collaborate and access real-time information.

What about Security? Surely a server solution is more secure than a Cloud Solution.

Most companies have a tendency to believe their servers are safe. And then, something actually happens. Only at this point, with their data lost or stolen and their whole business now at risk, do they quickly realize they lacked the proper infrastructure to protect their most valuable assets. Businesses have had their servers stolen, suffered data corruption, and sometimes lose their data entirely due to natural disasters. Also, many businesses simply do not have the funding to hire and maintain the IT personnel, nor the infrastructure, and when corners get cut you increase the risk of viruses, corruption, or worse. If you partner with a reputable cloud provider such as Microsoft Azure, your data is being protected by one of the top software companies in the world. With Jonas Premier, we have a 14-day point-in-time backup recovery, redundant backups on top of the point-in-time backups, and we leverage multiple data centres within Azure which ensure we have disaster recovery, failover and redundancy capabilities in place. To put it simply, without a proper IT infrastructure in place and a large budget, choosing a server solution is like keeping your money under your mattress. With Jonas Premier, you get to keep your money in the bank, and you can rest easy at night knowing your money is safe.

 

“As a company, we’re not typically in the office all day, every day. Having a cloud-based construction software like Jonas Premier allows us to perform our jobs wherever we may be and fits in well with our business model.”

-Bill Knauss, Land Development & Construction[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Uncategorized

AGC Conference 2016 San Antonio!

On behalf of the Jonas Premier Team, we would like to thank all of the amazing men and woman who came to visit our booth. Every year it truly amazes us how incredible an industry that we have the pleasure of working in! Thank you all so much for your valuable time and the amazing conversations.

 

Don’t forget to wear your Hard Hats when on site….SAFETY FIRST!!!

We’ll see all you lovely people next year at AGC 2017.

 

With Great Respect,

The Premier Team.