Categories
Features Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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!

 

Categories
Features Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

Is Construction Software Worth the Investment?

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

The importance of investing in construction software

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

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

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

Why you might not want to purchase software

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

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

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

Why you should invest in construction software

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

It will streamline and improve your current processes.

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

It will increase productivity.

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

Companies will need to hire fewer employees.

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

It improves industry compliance.

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

It connects the field to the office.

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

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

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

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

Author Biography:

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

Categories
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.