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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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Company News Industry Insight Resources Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

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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Company News Features Industry Insight Tips & Advice

The Top 5 Features to Look For in Drawing Management

Every journey needs a roadmap to take it from start to finish. This couldn’t be more true in construction, except that a project’s journey typically requires an entire atlas: a collection of drawings for every stage. But, keeping that collection organized, up-to-date, and accessible is a serious challenge. And, the more folks who need the drawings, the more confusing it gets.

Luckily, there are ways to simplify the drawing management process. Instead of working from paper plans and printing new revisions at every turn, digitized drawing management programs keep everything saved (and updated) in one database. And while adopting a digital future might be the right move, not all drawing management programs are equal, so it’s important to know what to look for. The five features below are a good start. 

What is Drawing Management?

Before discussing its most critical features, it’s important to understand exactly what drawing management is. Drawing management is a digitized, cloud-based system that collects and organizes architectural plans, structural drawings, mechanical schematics, elevations, and other drawings related to construction projects.

As a cloud-based database, the drawings are available from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. Users can log into the system, peruse the appropriate drawings, and review them or send them without going back to the home office. 

The Importance of Drawing Management

Drawing management has become one of the most influential forms of technology for construction companies. These online-accessible databases allow for better collaboration, less waste both environmentally and monetarily, and smoother-running projects.

When a construction company uses a drawing management program, they’re able to give instant access to drawings to whoever may need to see them. This includes designers and engineers, subcontractors, material suppliers, inspectors, and owners. This type of instant access ensures everyone is always on the same page and working toward the same goal.

Let’s also look at this from an environmental perspective: Digital drawing management means that there is less paper being printed every day. Revisions performed on a computer can be saved directly to the database, meaning users won’t have to travel back and forth to the shop and site for the latest prints, saving gasoline at the same time. 

Drawing management can also help make well-informed decisions faster. Any time there is a design change, the design or contractor can send the proposed change to the customer with the drawing attached. They’ll be able to review the proposed change and the drawing, allowing them to make an informed decision and approve or deny the request.

Drawing management also ensures that the folks actually building the structure are working from the correct plans at all times. With instant access to the latest revisions, users are less likely to be working off of old drawings, ensuring that the project is completed according to schedule the first time. 

The Top 5 Features To Look For in Drawing Management

Choosing a drawing management system goes beyond understanding its importance and role in a modern construction company’s day-to-day operations. The following are some of the best features to look for when shopping for a drawing management system.

1. Add Comments

Traditional paper management systems involve several copies of the same drawings. Management typically makes individual comments on these copies and hands them to the folks who need to see them. This is a lot to manage and there’s no guarantee that everyone will receive their plans along with the notes. But with the ability to add comments for each person who needs to see them to one electronic copy of the drawing, everyone stays in the loop. 

2. Modify and Mark-up Drawings

Just as the ability to make comments is important, so is the ability to modify or mark up plans and drawings. Changes on traditional paper need to be distributed to individual team members while making a change on a cloud-based drawing allows everyone to see the most up-to-date revision without missing the changes. 

But even more important than the ability to mark up the plans is the system’s ability to make those new sketches available for everyone on the job. If an engineer marks up the plan and saves it to the database, the subcontractor who opens those plans will see the marks and be able to act accordingly.

3. Link to RFIs and Change Orders

Drawing management is all about efficiency, and this couldn’t be more true than it is with RFIs, change orders, and other requests. When a user sends an RFI for clarity on a material or design, they’re able to link directly to the drawing in question. This is essentially like the electronic version of stuffing a drawing in an envelope and sending it directly to the customer, only faster. The designer can open the ROI, better understand the question, and answer in a more efficient process.

The same applies to change orders: Any proposed change that might require a CO can be accompanied by a link to the exact drawing in question. This allows users to review the change order, see how it will affect the plan, and make a decision that works for the project in a fast and efficient process. 

4. Track Revisions

Managing revised plans and drawings in a paper system can be a nightmare. First, all of the copies need to be accounted for, and they need to be kept in revision order. They need to be easier to sort through, and to ensure the project goes off without a hitch, the most recent approved drawing needs to be on top. With a drawing management system, this doesn’t need to be so hard.

Digital drawing management systems make tracking revisions a breeze. With the click of a mouse, users can look at older drawings based on dates and revision numbers, or jump ahead to the latest approved version. 

5. Choose Layers

Construction drawings contain a lot of information. But not all of that information applies to everyone who uses those drawings. Comments, notes, and sketches on those drawings can get confusing, but with a drawing management system that allows users to create private layers, users can hide all of the peripheral information and get down to the heart of their job.

With the ability to create layers, designers and project managers can give specific details to subcontractors and other job site personnel. This streamlines the transfer of information, hiding all of the data, notes, comments, and sketches that the sub doesn’t need to see, resulting in a better understanding of the project. 

Why Drawing Management Solutions Are Worth it

Drawing management solutions make a lot of sense, but they’re often an investment that construction companies aren’t sure they want to make. What makes these solutions worth it? 

Realistically, effective drawing management software will begin to pay for itself immediately. Every time that project manager doesn’t have to drive back to the office for a paper drawing, or every time a decision is made faster because drawings are readily available, they’re saving money. 

Consider the cost of performing a few days of work with old drawings and the expense of correcting the mistake. These costs alone could pay for a drawing management solution.

Ultimately, drawing management solutions save construction companies by maximizing efficiency. Companies looking to streamline their processes and protect their profit margins should adopt a solution that fits their needs, and with the features listed above, they’ll know exactly what to look for. To learn more on how Premier can help streamline your business process with this magical tool, contact our industry pros and request your demo today!

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Customer Support: How Support Impacts the Health of Construction Operations

So, your company is thinking of upgrading to a new, streamlined construction software program and ditching that old, generic software. But, one of your biggest qualms is that the new software may be hard to use, or confusing, or maybe integrating into your day-to-day business activities will be impossible. Maybe you’re worried about something going wrong with the software down the road.

What would you do then?

You’re right for taking this transition seriously, as it’s a big change for your company. However, with the right customer support, you won’t have to face these challenges alone. Customer support and account management in construction software are one of the most important features to look for before choosing a product. This guide will explain why.

The Importance of Customer Support in Construction Software

The construction industry thrives on building structures and renovating spaces. Time spent ironing out the wrinkles in a software program or transitioning to new technology can slow that down. For those reasons and more, construction software support is incredibly important.

1. It Helps During the Launch Phase

Transitioning from simple, stand-alone, and feature-limited software to a fully-functional software program may seem overwhelming for your construction company. Teaching employees that are used to old-school spreadsheets and programs designed over 40 years ago won’t be easy to do on your own, despite knowing the value it will bring in the end.

Customer support is at its most important during this stage of the game. The best construction software companies will offer one-on-one and group training to prepare key employees for the role, allowing them to lead the way for other employees. This training can last from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the company.

For example, Premier Construction Software’s initial training program lasts six weeks. During that time, employees learn how to run a fictional business using the software program. By the end of the six-week period, the business goes live and is fully functional with trained employees who know how the software works. Whichever construction software you choose should come with a similar level of start-up support.

2. Issues Happen Along the Way

Even the most well-oiled software might experience a snag every now and then. Most often, it’s a user error and the user doesn’t even realize it. Sometimes, there’s a hardware issue that needs to be identified. It’s rarely an issue with the software or an update, but it can be a possibility.

The problem is your company can’t come to a screeching halt because the software decided to take a nap. Your team needs that software back up and running as soon as possible in order to focus their efforts on other important functions.

For those situations, there is no replacement for expert customer support teams. These professionals should have the knowledge and ability to get your company’s data entry, drawing organization, storage, and accounts payable or receivable back up and running.

But what does solving this business emergency look like? Will your representative have to spend hours on hold, or wait for a response to an email? That’s the case in some situations. Other construction software programs assign an Account Manager to each client, giving them a point of contact to reach out to in any situation. They’ll get the ball rolling and ensure that the customer is receiving the attention they require.

3. It Avoids Growing Pains

Like most companies, the goal is most likely to grow and take on more, bigger, or more valuable projects. But, with that expansion comes growing pains (especially with some software companies). Creating new users, tracking changes, and ensuring everyone see the documents and data they need can be a challenge during this phase of growth.

Streamlined and automated construction software equipped with top-of-the-line customer support can minimize the impact of these growing pains. Customer support can help with managing new and old user accounts in and out of your organization, integrating expansions or updates, and tracking changes or adjusting workflows to ensure everyone is accountable and involved.

It can’t be overstated how important an expert customer support service team is to a construction company at this phase. Rather than users chasing their tails and making more work for themselves, a customer support representative can help the user identify the correct feature to use, how to track an error, or which update they need. The user can then learn how to avoid this mistake in the future, making the time spent working with the support professional well worth it.

Make Sure Your Construction Software Includes Customer Support

If you’re shopping for new construction management software, don’t overlook customer support. This is one of the most critical aspects of ensuring a construction software program integrates with your business and helps take it to new heights.

The success of a construction business is a reflection of the choices of employees, customers, stakeholders, and their organizations. These decisions can play a critical role in determining the success of your organization.

Not to worry, Premier has your back. From the very beginning, we will ensure you feel fully supported and successful. End the wait today and get your business back in financial control.

Schedule a demo 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. 

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Company News Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

The North American Construction Market and the Future of Construction Software

Very few people could have guessed that the past few years would be so interesting. But, despite the tumult, supply shortages, unrest, and other challenges, construction is still one of the fastest-growing industries in North America. All across the U.S. and Canada, construction crews continued to build while other industries were at a standstill—albeit, not all at the same pace.

But what does the future hold for the construction industry? And what does it mean for the future of construction software? Let’s find out!

Where the Industry is Heading

As a whole, the construction industry is heading toward continued growth over the next few years. Government spending on infrastructure projects is helpful, but the majority of the growth will come from the effort of the residential industry. In fact, residential construction deserves most of the credit for the industry’s bounce back after the 2020 recession. 

But how much will it grow moving forward?

With so many entities performing market research on the construction industry, the estimates regarding growth vary. However, most researchers believe that the industry will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 4.8 and 8.4 percent over the next few years. While that might seem to be a drop in growth rate from 2021’s numbers (roughly 12 percent), it’s still within a healthy range for most industries. 

Trends to Watch

One of the best ways to understand the direction of the construction industry is to look at current trends. While they may be temporary, they can steer the direction of the ship.

Residential is paving the way. While the commercial and municipal construction sectors slowed (crawled, really), residential construction experienced a boon. Despite the rising costs of materials and lumber, new home construction and renovation made up the majority of the industry’s growth.

Some construction firms saw the writing on the wall and pivoted from commercial and residential outfits to residential-only. Many downsized their workforces but were able to keep the doors open by building new homes or remodeling existing homes for folks fleeing big cities.

Commercial and industrial projects are likely to continue crawling moving forward for the next year or so, leaving the emphasis on the residential sector. However, both of these industries are expected to bounce back shortly after. 

Labor is still an issue. Finding skilled workers has always been a challenge for the construction industry, and it’s an issue that isn’t likely to go away any time soon. But, it’s not just the ironworkers, carpenters, and electricians that are hard to find. It’s also a lot of the clerical and office staff. In fact, the number encompassing all positions lost during the pandemic is just shy of one million jobs.

Many folks chose to stay home from work for a few years, while others transitioned into other industries that were more work-from-home friendly. Whatever the case may be, there just aren’t enough experienced, qualified workers to keep up with the industry’s demand. 

Companies are doubling down on technology. Despite the industry’s resistance to technology and the changes it may bring forth, companies are investing heavily in connected construction. The hope is that by investing in technology, these companies will be in a better position to answer the call for smart cities, climate change programs, and Urban Air Mobility initiatives.

Along with positioning themselves to take advantage of big-spending bills and government programs, the companies within the industry can now realize improved efficiency, accuracy, reduced costs, and larger margins. 

Supply chains are far from fixed. Supply chain issues plagued all industries in recent years, but they’ve really held the construction industry back. Between not being able to get certain materials or basic materials doubling (or tripling) in price, materials availability and affordability have been an issue.

This issue is likely to play out over the next few years before it comes back to the center. Some materials are still difficult to find, and then getting them to the job site can be even more of a challenge. Until other countries open completely and everyone heads back to work, this is an issue that won’t go away any time soon. 

How The Construction Software Industry Will Respond

While there may be good things on the horizon for the construction industry as a whole, the construction software industry must adjust accordingly. In general, this means developing new technologies or adapting older tech to modern trends. 

1. Adapting to Residential Contractors

Most construction software programs are designed for large contractors tackling commercial and industrial projects. However, with the current trend showing residential work to be the shining star of the construction industry, software companies will have to adapt.

Adapting to residential construction won’t be difficult for most software developers. However, a greater focus on making estimates easier to understand, making forms easier to customize, and simplified invoices will help those working in the residential industry.

2. Better User Experience

With such a shortage of skilled employees to choose from, growing construction companies will often rely on less-experienced personnel to see the job through. In fact, some employees may go right from the slab to the office, and they need to adapt quickly.

In this case, making construction software easier to use will help those lacking experience adapt to the new system. Also, these systems will help to reduce the number of mistakes or errors caused by inexperience—something the industry may come to rely on in the coming years.

3. Cloud-Based Access

With so many folks working from home these days, cloud-based storage systems and real-time reports will become critical. While the actual building happens on-site, plenty of the clerical and administrative roles can transition to a remote commute. And, companies will have to start offering these WFH positions if they want to attract the right people.

For these roles to work, however, they need reliable access to the company’s construction software program as well as the drawings and files that it may contain. Software companies will have to partner with strong cloud service providers to pull that off.

3. Improved Flexibility

As supply chains continue to work themselves out, modern construction software needs to be nimble and flexible. It should allow for easy changes it can also track through the system, adjusting the appropriate values automatically as it goes. There’s no way to predict how often this could happen during the lifetime of a job, and streamlined automation will help.

Construction software should allow for the easy production of change orders should a particular material become unavailable. These change orders should operate on customizable workflows so everyone who needs to see it and approve it can do so. With these features requiring minimal input from the contractor, there will be fewer errors and less downtime, helping to keep projects on track. 

Growth on the Horizon

Between the construction industry and the software that supports it, the future looks like growth. While certain sectors might struggle to keep up, the overall industry is poised to grow over the next few years, and savvy construction software creators will adapt their programs to go along for the ride, including yours truly, Premier Construction Software! Amidst the market shifts, one thing Premier and the team behind the brand can do is adapt. We will ensure your business can benefit from a system like ours.

See how we can help you structure your business for success, schedule a demo 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.