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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

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. 

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Go Mobile: 5 Reasons to Transition to Mobile Devices for Construction Reporting

Construction is a unique industry, where most of the work takes place off-site. This can lead to unique communication challenges, many of which have been reduced thanks to mobile technology. 

In the 2021 Construction Technology Report, the annual survey found that every year since 2018 over 90% of respondents is using smartphones daily. During the same period, tablet use has been increasing. Construction companies are increasingly recognizing the value of going mobile.  

Here are the top five reasons construction companies use mobile devices on the job, according to the survey: 

  • Daily reports 
  • Photos and video
  • Time management 
  • Safety management 
  • Drawing management 

While most companies are actively adopting mobile technology, some still rely on tried-and-true paper documentation. Due to the nature of the work, this can lead to project delays and added costs due to rework. Adopting mobile technology has several benefits for construction companies. 

Benefits of going mobile

  1. Better communication

Construction projects require almost constant communication between team members and the office. A lapse in communication can lead to errors and rework. Using mobile devices allows workers to communicate with the office and other team members while still in the field. There’s less wasted time in meetings and going to the office. Improved communication leads to better outcomes in the field, reducing errors and rework. Team members’ questions get answered quickly and efficiently without downtime. 

  1. Access real-time information

Many mobile apps allow field workers to provide input to and pull up reports, drawings, and emails without leaving the field. Project managers can see budget reports at any time, so they know where the project is. Supervisors can access productivity reports and compare them to past reports. Team members don’t have to wait for reports to be generated, they can access them when they need them. This allows them to make better project decisions quickly, avoiding schedule delays. 

  1. Improve productivity

With access to data at their fingertips, workers spend less time in meetings, going to the office, and on phone calls. They can spend their time actively working on the project, instead of looking for lost documents, timecards, or other paperwork. Productivity is maintained and efficiency is improved through the use of mobile technology. 

  1. Improve organization

Mobile apps provide document management, helping workers find the information they need when they need it. Workers no longer have to spend time looking through multiple folders on a shared drive or combing through files in a truck. Drawings are automatically marked with revisions, making it easy to know when you’re working with the current version. This helps prevent mistakes due to lack of communication and reduces rework. 

  1. Integration

Integrating information between the field and the office improves productivity, prevents mistakes, and improves organization. Workers spend less time reentering data into multiple systems and are able to be more productive in their work. Data entry mistakes are reduced, and information is available at the touch of a button, instead of waiting for lengthy reports. 

Premier Construction Software allows teams to communicate in real-time, from the field and the office. This improves communication, gives teams access to real-time data, improves productivity and organization, and is completely integrated. The mobile connection saves companies time and money on slow paper processes. It helps ensure that everyone is working from the same data at the same time. 

If your company is ready to go mobile with your project management and accounting software, contact us for a demo or to answer any questions. 

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

Construction Forecasting: Developing and Maintaining a Project Budget

In 2015, KPMG reported that 31% of construction projects come within 10% of the budget. And it seems the bigger the project, the worse the financial uncertainty. In 2016, McKinsey reported that 80% of large projects go over budget. The research shows that contractors and owners are struggling to maintain their budgets throughout their projects. Forecasting costs has only become even more difficult in the last couple of years, due to the global pandemic and supply chain issues. 

Knowing how to build a project budget and manage it over the life of a project is a skill that can be learned.

Here are some tips we have gathered to help.  

Developing a project budget 

Developing a project budget begins with a clear and complete scope of work. You must have a clear picture of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done before you can price the work. Talk to the owner about their project and get as many details as possible about the work and their schedule. 

Using the description gathered from the project owner, develop a breakdown of the work that needs to be completed, also called a work breakdown structure or WBS. A WBS breaks the work down into small, manageable, quantifiable scopes of work. For example, installing drywall. A WBS helps in both budgeting and scheduling work because each task and can be quantified for cost and time. 

Based on your conversations with the project owner, you should be able to establish milestones in the schedule that have to be met. These may include equipment delivery dates or occupancy. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that let you know if you are meeting both the owner’s and your own milestones. For example, you may have profit goals or productivity targets that you must meet for the project to be successful. Defining these ahead of time will help you assess the project’s success as it progresses, not just at the end. 

When developing the project schedule and budget, provide an optimistic view, a pessimistic view, and a most likely scenario. Leave some room for changes and added work. By analyzing these three schedules and budgets, you can assess the probability that you will meet your goals ahead of time and start to plan for potential issues before they come up. 

Maintaining the project budget 

A project budget should be a living document that changes as the project progresses. Added work, scope changes, and schedule delays often affect the schedule as a project moves on. Project managers can use several methods to forecast costs to complete the work. They include using a work breakdown structure, using Excel formats, third-party templates, and construction software. 

Some contractors use the list or work breakdown structure method to estimate their projects and forecast future costs. This technique involves listing all the work that needs to be performed and breaking it down into manageable tasks, like WBS. Then each of these tasks is budgeted, scheduled, and tracked throughout the project. While this technique may work for smaller simpler projects, it can easily get unmanageable on larger construction projects. 

The next step up from a written list is using Excel templates to manage costs, schedules, and other information. Excel spreadsheets have been used to track costs, schedules, daily reports, budgets, and much more. If you have not developed your own forms, many are available on the internet. The problem with excel spreadsheets is that they are not connected, and not tailored to construction. 

Some companies rely on templates and use them to track all correspondence and data for their projects. These templates are created by third-party companies and not customized for a specific project or scope. Again, they are not connected, and the data is not centrally located. 

The most modern way to track and maintain a project budget is using construction software. Today’s software is available in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and all-in-one solutions that combine project management, actual costs, commitments, unanticipated costs, budgets, and communication together, where everything is in one place. They tie together estimating, job costing, timekeeping, communication, and financials. Using this information, project managers can more effectively forecast productivity and costs, providing a more accurate picture of where they will finish on the job and ensuring they are not caught with any surprises. They can review historical information and easily dive into the month-to-month variances to better understand the current budget and estimate at completion. 

Keys to better forecasting

  1. Get real-time data

When project managers try to forecast monthly, they often make mistakes if the accounting and job costing is not integrated into one software solution. Working with multiple software applications makes it difficult to compile the data taking several days or even weeks, leaving the Project Manager no choice but to base their forecasts on lagging information. Worst of all, they cannot trust the data to make accurate and informed decisions.  

Today’s financial construction software offers real-time data that automatically calculates the estimate at completion. This way you can easily compare your original estimate, current estimate, and estimate at completion. Software solutions offer great lock features allowing you to freeze the original estimate and forecasting period, forcing your team to properly enter any change orders in the correct period to record any movement on the job. This way, each month you can easily review the variances and see why the budget has moved.  

  1. Communicate

There is no substitute for continuous communication between contractors, owners, and design team members. When everyone is on the same page there are fewer hidden costs. Software solutions offer simple, integrated ways for team members to communicate in real-time about issues, change orders, and any concerns. With software introducing new and faster ways to approve and electronically sign off on commitments, ap invoices, and change orders, it ensures the estimate at completion is up to date and accurate. Members can easily approve, mark-up, decline, or reject key documents instantly. The ability to see what is outstanding and ensure you have your internal processes optimized to provide open, instant feedback, makes forecasting much simpler and more accurate. 

  1. Integrate systems

It’s time to say goodbye to disconnected excel spreadsheets. With real-time data, it makes it easy for a project manager to easily adjust the EAC using anticipated costs and make more informed decisions as to where the budget will end up. 

When systems are separated from each other due to the lack of software integration, time can be lost spent pulling information from multiple sources and compiling it into comprehensive reports. Teams need integrated data at their fingertips so they can act proactively view actual costs, commitments, change orders, pending items, etc. Using an ERP or all-in-one software financial construction solution provides project managers a macro and micro-overview of the budget as they can easily drill down into all the details waiting for other departments to provide information or for spreadsheets to be updated. 

  1. Automate

Saving time saves money. The more teams can automate daily data-entry tasks, the more time they can spend actively managing the work and proactively reviewing the high-risk itemsSo much time is being wasted on chasing down subcontractors, manually approving AP invoices, trying to collect signatures, and rekeying data from emails. An inefficient system makes it difficult for PMs to find the time to properly forecast. With proper construction financial software, the most time-consuming and complex tasks can be automated to save you valuable time and ensure you can scale the business without having to add more overhead. Best of all, you can start trusting your data and gain better financial control of your jobs and business.  

If you are ready to step up your forecasting game, look no further than Premier Construction Software. We have an easy-to-use financial construction software solution that will help manage your project from beginning to completion.  Get in touch with our team to 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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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Building Green: Top Trends

Green building has been around for several decades now, and the technology that goes with it continues to grow. Many new inventions, and some repurposed older ones, are helping building owners and homeowners meet their commitments to a better environment, both inside and out. We’ve come up with a list of six green building technology trends that are shaping the future of green construction. Some have been around for a while, and some are fairly new.

Smart glass

Windows aren’t just for looking at anymore, they can help heat or cool your home or building. Smart glass protects buildings from solar heat gain during the summer months. Solar heat gain is caused by radiation from the sun. Windows are rated on a scale of 0 to 1 showing how much energy passes through the window. Smart glass uses a small electric charge to control both the tinting and solar heat gain, reducing the temperature inside. And the glass is well insulated to protect from cold weather during the winter.

The smartglass allows building owners to have control and flexibility when it comes to how much heat gain they want at any particular time. Reports say smart glass can save up to 25% on HVAC costs.

Smart appliances

Today’s appliances connect to the internet and to each other to allow you more control. For example, washers and dryers tie into your home’s smart meter, so they can run when electricity is the cheapest. And the refrigerator comes with a touch screen so you can connect to the internet and watch TV or videos demoing a new recipe. It can also check your shopping needs, as well as your current food inventory. And all this information is available on your phone, too, allowing you to control your lights and appliances even away from home.

Smart appliances can also tie into a home management system like Alexa. These management systems allow you to control your lights, heating and cooling, and other appliances from a central hub or app on your phone.

Biodegradable materials

Landfills are quickly filling up with building materials, either from building scraps or demolition debris. Many of these materials will have a long life sitting in the landfill before they break down. One trend that seeks to reduce the amount of trash in our landfills is biodegradable materials. Selecting natural materials like bamboo, timber, and linoleum, which all break down easily, helps reduce the amount of trash sitting in landfills. Other options include organic paint and insulation made from recycled denim and newspaper, instead of fiberglass.

Low emitting materials

Many building materials off-gas dangerous chemicals into the air during installation and after they are installed. This off-gassing of chemicals results in what most call the “new building” smell. Many materials are now available in low or no emitting versions. This makes it safer for those installing the materials, as well as people living and working in the building after it’s installed. Products available in low emitting versions include adhesives and glues, paints and coatings, composite wood, and flooring.

Net-zero energy

The goal of many building owners is to be net-zero energy. This means their building produces as much energy as it uses. Achieving this goal requires a combination of energy efficiency measures and renewable power. Efficiency measures often include additional insulation in walls, insulated windows, point-of-use water heating, and efficient HVAC equipment. Electrical power can be generated by solar or wind energy, depending on which is most prevalent. To store power until it is needed, the building can use battery storage or be connected to the grid. If it’s connected to the grid, it sells power back to the utility when it creates too much and takes power from the grid when it’s needed.

Net-zero energy is a lofty goal for any building or home. Owners can use alternatives, like purchasing renewable energy from their utility, to help offset the lack of renewable energy on-site. Or they may develop a renewable energy plant on a separate piece of land if that makes sense financially.

Carbon neutral

This trend is on the cutting edge as many building teams are working to design ways to reduce the amount of carbon needed to build and operate a building. Current trends include planting trees, using materials that trap carbon throughout their life, like carbon-eating concrete, providing the most efficient HVAC equipment to help reduce the need for power, and using renewable power sources, thus reducing emissions. Building owners can purchase carbon offsets to reduce their footprint. These offsets help support carbon sinks, like forests and the ocean.

Conclusion

The popularity of green construction continues to grow, and with it so does the technology. The goal of any green building technology is to make our buildings healthier and improve our natural environment. Inventions such as smart glass and smart appliances also make our lives easier and more comfortable. While biodegradable and low emitting materials make our inner and outer environments healthier. And net zero and carbon neutral are goals that many building owners are making a reality with their commitment to a better environment.

Premier Construction Software is a true cloud, all-in-one accounting, job cost, project, document, and drawing management solution designed to meet the needs of GCs, Developers, Design-Build, and Homebuilders. Trusted by thousands of companies, Premier partners with forward-thinking, progressive construction companies to provide a fully integrated solution for office and field staff operating on Mac, PC, and any mobile device. Premier operates in North America as well as Australia, providing a true cloud solution that meets the needs of both markets today.

Check out Premier Construction Software system to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. Schedule a demo by contacting 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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How Construction Is Moving Toward an Automated World

Experts have long criticized the construction industry’s unwillingness to get with the times. As one of the oldest industries in the world, it would rather stick to the status quo than try new things. That is until recently when some of the largest construction companies in the world started to recognize the benefits that technology and automation have to offer. And the reason for this change makes a lot of sense.

Construction has some of the tightest profit margins of any industry. Not only that, inefficiencies and errors shrink those margins even more. Automation aims to fix that by taking mundane, error-prone tasks and utilizing a system to handle them. The result is more efficient processes and fewer mistakes. Let’s take a look at a few ways construction is moving toward this automated world.

Automation in Construction

Construction automation conjures thoughts of robots and machines erecting buildings. While there are some machines that can lay bricks or pour concrete, construction automation is more about the processes behind the scenes, as a contract, documents, and invoice management. These processes take up a lot of time inputting data, double-checking documents, checking for compliance, and finding (and fixing) errors.

Smart Contracts

Many construction companies are moving toward smart contracts to help streamline and automate certain processes. These contracts work by utilizing “if/then” scenarios, recognizing that once one action takes place, another action needs to occur. 

For instance, some smart contracts will recognize that once a certain stage of a project is complete (say, the contractor gets paid) that more materials will be necessary. The program can then trigger an order to a supplier, making sure there is enough material to continue the job.

This type of automation keeps the construction vehicle rolling, minimizing downtime and maximizing efficiency.

Compliance Automation

Manual compliance management and tracking take a lot of time. Someone needs to check to ensure that each contractor is meeting the requirements set forth but the contract. This could be keeping licenses on file, meeting bond requirements, updating insurance information, sending lien waivers, or many other scenarios. And, should some of those compliances expire, someone needs to know—this sounds like a job for automation.

Automated compliance tracking and management is a significant help to construction companies. Not only will the system track and log compliances as they come in, but it will also notify the project management team if any are missing. They can also prevent expired compliances from going unnoticed by automatically sending a warning to the team.

Document Management

As much as the industry relies on raw materials to build structures, it also relies on documents (and lots of them) to keep the job on track. Between drawings, contracts, compliances, change orders, RFIs, and other construction documents, physically sorting and storing them all is mundane and time-consuming. Manual entry might reduce storage, but it’s also time heavy and prone to mistakes. Automated document management has the answer.

Some document management programs allow a user to upload a document into the system. The system then automatically reviews the document, pulls the important data, and stores it in such a way that’s easy to find and accessible for the whole team.

Automated Payments

Payment problems are always an issue in the construction industry, but automation can help. By giving subcontractors and suppliers an automated system to upload invoices and compliances, you reduce the time it takes for them to get paid. You also limit your risk of multiple payments or paying more than the budget allows.

Invoice Management

Beyond automated payment management, automated invoice management simplifies the entire process. Automated invoice systems will scan an invoice, pull the important data, cross-reference it with other documents, and assess the validity of the invoice. It will also recognize who sent the invoice, which job it’s attached to, and which contract it falls under. 

Automated invoice management can go quite a bit further, as well. The more invoices these systems see, the more proficient they become at recognizing job numbers, vendor codes, cost types, and more, pulling these values and ID numbers straight from the page. 

Possibly most important of all, automated invoice management systems reduce errors and oversights. The system will automatically check to ensure the amount is correct, as well as check that the document in question isn’t a duplicate or fraudulent invoice. This reduces lost money due to errors and mistakes, allowing automated invoice management to pay for itself.

Premier partnered with Smart Ui to offer services just like these. This system offers automated invoice management that only gets smarter the more you use it, helping you improve your company’s efficiency and accounts payable and receivable processes.

Automation Is the Future

Clearly, automation will play a big role in the construction industry’s future. From bots and machines to the way the industry handles data entry tasks, automating tasks allows for growth, increased profits, and better project management.

Check out Premier Construction Software’s automated systems to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

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.