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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology Ultimate Guide

Enhancing Construction Roles With All-in-One Software

Successfully taking a construction project from an idea to a finished product requires the precision of an orchestra conductor. With so many moving parts required to make the job a reality, a single point of reference that everyone can look at to make sure they’re in rhythm. While a conductor’s baton works for the band, all-in-one software does the trick for a construction company.

But, what is all-in-one software, how does it work, and what are its benefits? We’ll discuss those points and how all-in-one construction software enhances the roles of construction personnel in this article.

What is an All-in-One Construction Software Solution?

Construction is somewhat of an old-school industry, though many contractors have adopted business and project management software over the years. These programs take a specific task (or set of tasks) and streamline or automate them for the contractor. The problem is that many contractors use several types of software, and they don’t always play nicely together. All-in-one software solves that very problem.

All-in-one construction software allows contractors to keep all of their most important tasks, documents, plans, and processes under one application. Instead of running three of four different types of software or apps, transferring and updating data, and creating separate spreadsheets to organize it all, an all-in-one software program can handle it all.

In practical use, all-in-one software allows construction personnel to stay organized and updated. For example, when an electronic change order is accepted, the job’s overall budget might change automatically. Or, when sending an electronic RFI, access to the drawings affected will accompany it. And, any change on the project will automatically update job costing reports, making sure that the project is still on course. 

For many contractors, those tasks fall under different software programs or even hard copy filing systems. Some companies aren’t even using software designed specifically for the construction industry, meaning they aren’t benefiting from tailor-made solutions to streamline their business and boost their profits. All-in-one software does it for them. 

How an All-in-One Software Solution Can Enhance Roles

With so many different facets to all-in-one software, the folks filling different job titles within a construction company can all benefit in different ways. The following are some specific examples of how this centralized software can enhance many roles within a business.

Owners/Executive Board

At the highest level, all-in-one construction software is all about information and transparency. For a smaller company, this solution provides the owner with real, hard numbers that they can take to a bank for financing a project or a potential partner looking to buy into the business. With an up-to-date outlook on the company’s current projects, profitability, and even assets, making big moves that will propel the business forward is much easier.

For an executive board, all-in-one software contains everything they need to make important decisions. Current data and job profitability on large projects can be challenging to collect, but with one program managing it all, the job becomes much easier. Should the board need to make important decisions, present information to shareholders, or make a decision regarding the company’s trajectory, the data is at the board members’ fingertips.

Project Management

Project management is a stressful role, and anything a company can do to streamline it for their PMs goes a long way toward enhancing the role. 

Collecting all of the reports a project management team might need under one solution has many benefits. First, since all of the data, values, and documents update automatically, they’re more likely to be looking at the latest, most accurate data. This allows them to make clear decisions in less time with more accuracy.

Also, the project management team can set up customized workflows that will automatically send data and documents to the folks who need to see them. This allows the PM team to shift their focus from distributing and collecting the latest documents and drawings and putting that focus on the job at hand.

Design Professionals

For design professionals, electronic approvals and drawing management can make a huge impact on their workflow. Without all-in-one software, changes in drawings can be challenging. While emailing a document isn’t so difficult, getting a signature required to move forward often requires hand delivery—a workflow annihilator.

With electronic approvals and drawing management, designers can send documents for review and instant approval. Decision-makers can open these documents from any mobile device, review them, and approve or reject them in real-time.

At the same time, RFIs sent to designers for changes in materials or layout are just as easy. The designer can open the request, review the document, pictures, or drawings, and quickly give the okay or offer another solution. This alone helps keep the project on track.  

Finance and Accounting

There is possibly no role in a construction company so inundated with reports and data than the finance and accounting department. These folks are constantly watching the line items, profitability, accounts, and more, and trying to keep them up to date. With all-in-one software, much of that data collection is automatic.

Consider this scenario: A change order occurs and the subcontractor is now submitting a payment application that’s significantly higher than expected. Without all-in-one construction software, this will throw the budget for a loop and leave the accounting staff scrambling to find where the money is going. 

For a team equipped with an all-in-one solution, that change order would have updated the budget automatically. This gives the accounting department the information they need to justify the budget and make decisions moving forward. And, for any decisions requiring approvals, automatic workflows can send these documents and retrieve electronic signatures in real-time.

Field Personnel and Subs

When it comes to building the product that the project owner will actually see, field personnel and subs are the folks for the job. To ensure they’re building exactly what’s expected, up-to-date drawings are an absolute must.

Centralized drawing management offered by an all-in-one solution enables them to instantly check that they’re working from the most updated drawings. Rather than someone driving to the office and grabbing a copy of the latest drawings, these documents are now available on any mobile device.

And, let’s not discount the savings in delays. Confusion, discrepancies, changes, and shortages all have their ways of bringing a project to a standstill. Rather than workers and subs sitting idly, instant RFIs, electronic approvals, and real-time change orders improve communication and keep the project on task. While delays are inevitable, these features lessen their impact and keep the budget intact.

Project Owners

Project owners rarely have access to management software of any kind, however, they do see the benefits. Working with a construction company that uses an all-in-one system means better communication, smarter decision-making, and a feeling of being more involved. Making the project owner part of the workflow or sending documents that require approval helps the owner feel involved, leading to a better overall experience.

The Benefits of an All-in-One Solution Spread Company-Wide

Regardless of the project participants’ role or function, all-in-one software can streamline and simplify their job. Between instant approvals, streamlined organization, and drastically improved communication, these applications can change the way a company runs. And, as a result, increased profitability is a reality.

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

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

What the Last Two Years Taught Us to Look Out for in Construction for 2022

The pandemic taught the world a lot of hard lessons over the last two years or so. Without getting into the grim details, a lot of folks lost everything at the hands of a virus. But lessons are designed to teach, and the construction industry was forced to learn. Let’s take a look at what the last two years operating in the construction industry have taught us.

What Happened Over the Last 22 Months in Construction

Realistically, the pandemic had an effect on every industry and it’s changed the way we operate as a global society. However, some of the effects it had on construction are very easy to point out.

A Screeching Halt to Materials Production

When the pandemic started to spread across the globe, one of the first ripples the construction industry felt was a halt in materials production. With people being mandated to stay home and only certain personnel deemed as essential in many countries, factories, quarries, lumber mills, and other links in the materials supply chain shut down. 

And, when materials were available, many shipping and trucking companies were simply unable to move them.

Increased Demand for Contractors

Despite the materials shortage, contractors were busier than ever. With so many folks staying home on vacation and tiring of their surroundings, they began shopping for contractors to undertake renovations. And, as people fled major cities for homes in the country, many of the affordable homes they were purchasing needed a refresh.

A Sharp Spike in Materials Costs

Between the increased demand for contractors and the materials shortage (some of which were brought on by homeowners performing their own renovations), materials prices spiked sharply. In May of 2021, the cost of lumber alone quadrupled. Since May, prices have risen and fallen, but futures are still roughly 2.5 times what they were pre-pandemic. 

A Shortage of People-power

During the pandemic, many folks had to choose between going to work or staying home where they were safer. This caused a shortage of people-power, worsening the construction industry’s already existing deficit of skilled workers. 

Significant Delays

Even with most construction personnel deemed as essential, many construction projects hit significant delays. Between the materials shortages and the added challenges of social distancing, proper PPE, and temperature taking, everything moved slower on site. Even when restrictions started to loosen up, the delays already compounded. These delays cost many contractors, developers, and project owners a lot of money.

No One Knew What to Expect

The last pandemic was a century ago, so no one was sure what to expect. Each day contractors would show up to the job site not knowing which employees would be homesick, which materials would be on time, or which jobs a government agency might shut down for two weeks at a time. This uncertainty caused a lot of anxiety, some of which will have long-lasting effects on the industry. 

What We’ve Learned Two Years Later

It’s not all doom and gloom. If contractors in the industry take the time to learn from these challenges and bolster themselves for the upcoming year, there is potential for a lot of growth. The following are some tips to consider for getting through the next year in construction.

You Need a Plan B.. or C. Maybe Even Plan D.

The pandemic taught us that staying loyal to one supplier is essentially a death sentence. Contractors looking to make the most of the upcoming year need to build relationships with several suppliers. Establishing a rapport and credit lines with new suppliers will pay dividends when materials get short.

Also, make sure the customer knows that there’s a chance their first choice of paint, tile, or other material might not work out. The same applies to their second choice. Maybe even their third. Take the time to line up 3 or 4 contingency products. This will prevent time-consuming change orders down the road.

Pay Attention to Your Contracts

Contractors who take a laid-back approach to their contracts should learn a very important lesson from the pandemic: That language matters.

This year, as contractors are drawing up contracts and signing on the dotted line, they better make sure there’s a clause protecting them from events outside of their control. Excessive materials delays, government-mandated shutdowns, or a general lack of labor because everyone is homesick should afford the contractor more time. 

Keep Employees Happy

In construction, it’s isn’t finding good help that’s hard, it’s keeping it. While competitive pay is still as important as ever, there are two other factors that employers need to consider. 

Employees today recognize the importance of healthcare and sick time, and contractors that want to hold onto the need to provide it. Whether it’s time off for when they’re sick, or time to stay home while their child is quarantined home from school, employees need to know their paychecks are secure. And, should they have to seek healthcare, they need to know it won’t break the bank.

Remember, everyone’s experiencing a shortage of able hands, so treating the ones you have poorly will send them down the street to the next contractor.

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

There are a lot of jobs on the market ripe for the taking. The problem is that many contractors focused on growth will grab too many at one time. While it’s great to have a banner hung on the fence of every job site in town, that type of approach requires a lot of resources.

First, be sure you have the labor to handle the job, which is a feat in and of itself. Next, watch cash flow. Taking too many jobs at once requires a lot of mobilization costs and floating materials, which means a bank account can go from flush to in the negative before a contractor receives their first paychecks. Yes, the jobs are out there, but it’s best to throttle back the go-get-’em attitude a bit for your resources’ sake.

Stay Flexible

The word “nimble” floats around the business world so often that it’s reached buzzword status, but it’s for a reason: a company that’s flexible and quick on its feet has a chance to survive anything. 

The next year is full of uncertainty, so it’s best to stay flexible. Provide office staff with the ability to work from home if needed. Be prepared if new social distancing or PPE guidelines come about. Find those 3 or 4 suppliers and build the relationships and credit necessary. Keep your funnel full but workload manageable.

It’s also important for contractors to know their company’s financials like the back of their hands. They should know how much is coming in, how much is going out, and how much they need to survive.

Having these points nailed down will allow a company to remain flexible. They’ll be able to make better-informed decisions in less time, which could be a key to surviving the next year. 

Automate Processes to Shift Your Focus

Contractors need to keep their eyes and ears open moving forward, else they could miss an opportunity for growth, or stumble upon a significant setback. Rather than spreading that attention with day-to-day office work, contractors should rely on construction management software. 

These programs automate mundane, everyday tasks, allowing the contractor and its office staff to be more creative and think outside the box for solving more complex solutions. Also, these programs lessen human error, giving contractors a better perception of how their company is running.

Prepare for an Endemic

There’s a chance that the pandemic will turn into an endemic, which sounds similar but means something very different. A pandemic means the disease is highly contagious and spreads rapidly. An endemic means that the virus will always be here in some shape or form, such as the flu.  

Changing to an endemic could mean a lot of things. First, it’s highly unlikely that government agencies will force people to stay home. Many folks might head back to cities, dumping their freshly renovated homes back on the market. Materials might even become affordable again.

While it’s hard to say what a categorical change to the virus will do for the construction, it’s likely to breathe some air back into the industry.  

The Next Year Will Be Exciting

The next year will be an exciting one for construction contractors. There still isn’t much certainty, and no one knows for sure when the pandemic will end. But, with the tips above in mind, contractors can fortify their businesses for the upcoming year.

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

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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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology Ultimate Guide

Electronic Approvals: The Key To Improved Synergy

When a construction company finds a way to improve communication and efficiency, it’s taking a step toward serious growth. With everyone in the company having access to the tools to work quickly and automate their most menial tasks, they can expand their possibilities and find job satisfaction. In construction, the synergy electronic approvals promote can be the key to unlocking both these scenarios.

Electronic approvals in construction are all about automating workflow, improving communication, and maximizing efficiency. Everyone benefits from these tools. Let’s find out how.

Electronic Approvals: An Overview

In construction, almost every decision, change, or adjustment requires someone to approve it. In the past, getting approval meant faxing or physically bringing a document to the owner, project manager, designer, or another party for a signature. If there were issues with the proposal or document, the courier would head back to the drawing board, draw up a new document, and track down the signature again. 

Obviously, this is slow, tedious, and inefficient. In a business with thin margins and tight deadlines, moving to an automated method of gathering signatures makes much more sense. Thankfully, we now have the electronic approval.

How Electronic Approvals Work

Electronic approvals serve the same purpose as traditional approvals, yet they benefit from supercharged efficiency. These approvals automatically head directly to the person who needs to review them. They’re often built into documents, allowing the user to open them on a computer or mobile device, sign them, and send them back in real-time. 

To make this process even faster and smoother, system administrators can set up automatic workflows that trigger alerts anytime someone does something that requires approval. And, to drill down even deeper, these administrators can often program which types of decisions need approval. They can opt for or against approvals for budget transfers, change orders, payment applications, compliance acceptances, and a number of other documents and processes. 

The Benefits of Using Electronic Approvals

There are lots of benefits of using electronic approvals. The obvious advantage is speed, but convenience and accuracy should both rank high on the list.

Electronic approvals are fast. Generating themselves automatically, they’re on the way to gathering a signature the moment that an event triggers them. This allows the company to work faster and more efficiently without adding additional staff.

Not only are electronic approvals great for intercompany transactions, they’re also a bonus for customers. Rather than taking time out of their day to head to a fax machine or print, sign, scan, and send a document via email, they can handle the approval from their mobile device. This convenience makes customers more responsive and improves communication.

Accuracy is also a major factor. Whenever there is a human inputting data or drawing up documents, there is potential for a small mistake or oversight. They might even misplace the document or forget to send it (or that they sent it in the first place). With electronic approvals, as long as the contact information is correct, the other party is sure to receive it. And, if they don’t sign it right away, the system can keep track and send reminders and alerts.

Electronic Approvals: Improving Synergy in Every Role

Speed, convenience, communication, and accuracy build synergy, and electronic approvals are no exception. These tools improve the lives of everyone involved in the project, from folks working in the office to the people on-site—even the project owner. Everyone feels the benefits of synergy.

Project Management

Electronic approvals make a massive impact on the way that project management teams perform. As they always seem to be putting out fires, having access to instant approvals on the fly is imperative.

Consider a cost overrun due to a materials shortage. First, the project management team might need to shift the budget from one line item to another, so they’ll need approval from the accounting department. Or, the architect might need to choose a different material, and they’ll need to send a change order to the project owner.

Regardless of the reason, the project management team can send and receive electronic approvals in seconds, allowing the project to move forward and avoid significant delay.

Finance and Accounting

Financing and accounting departments have some critical roles to play, keeping an eye on profitability and ensuring the company has the resources it needs to succeed. And, the type of clarity electronic approvals offers these departments allows them to see the whole picture.

As projects progress, delays, shortages, and changes can take the established budget and turn it on end. With electronic approvals generating automatically, the accounting department will always know where the money is going, who’s moving it, and what for. This improves communication, creates accountability, reduces errors and redundancy, and ultimately protects the company’s profits. 

Field Personnel and Subcontractors

The boots on the ground physically constructing the building benefit from electronic approvals, as well. While these folks might be top-notch problem solvers, they often need the approval of the project management team or designer to move forward.

Let’s envision that there is an issue with the on-site conditions, and the field personnel won’t be able to construct a wall according to the plan. The field personnel can submit an RFI to the architect. This RFI will state the issue and propose a solution, and with electronic approval, give the architect the ability to approve or disapprove in real-time. 

And, one of the most important electronic approvals involves on-site personnel. Modern construction companies often allow subs to submit their pay apps online, saving time and frustration. A few folks within the different departments have to put their eyes on these applications, and each can approve or deny the app with electronic approval. This reduces the amount of time it takes the sub to get paid, making them happier and more willing to work with the construction company again—once again, improving overall synergy.

Project Owners

Some of the most frustrating things for project owners who don’t typically work in the construction space are the constant changes and paperwork. While they might have the architect or designer handling most of the issues, they still need to be available to make some decisions. Often, this means taking time out of their day to meet with contractors to review paperwork.

With electronic approvals, project owners don’t have to feel so overwhelmed. All of the documents they need are at their fingertips. They can quickly provide electronic approval through their mobile device. This can help relieve some of the tension, stress, and confusion that many project owners suffer during the construction process. And, since electronic approvals improve communication, project owners will always feel like they’re in the know.

Automated Workflows and Improved Synergy? Yes, Please

Ultimately, electronic approvals are excellent tools for building a better running, more efficient, more cohesive construction company. They keep everyone in the loop, allow for instant responses and improved communication, and minimize the chances of mistakes or errors. Who wouldn’t want those for the company, employees, projects, and clients?

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

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. 

Categories
Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Pros and Cons of Working From Home

 

As pandemic restrictions are tightened again, and some areas go back into lockdown, workers are again being asked to work from home when possible. While construction companies are used to working from many sites, the office staff is generally located in a central office. Changing venues for office workers has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the benefits and challenges for construction company employers of having workers work from home.

Benefits to employers

1. Higher productivity

When working from home, employees are often more productive than they are at the office. There are fewer distractions from coworkers stopping by to chat or ask questions. It’s easier to shut out time-suckers like email notifications and unnecessary meetings. A FlexJobs 2020 survey found that workers who thought they were more productive at home, were. Respondents cited fewer interruptions and quiet working environments as part of the reason for their increased productivity.

2. Recruit from a larger pool of candidates

When location isn’t a factor when hiring, companies can expand the pool of possible candidates for open positions. This can lead to hiring more highly skilled workers for key roles. When companies hire the best of the best, their products and services improve in quality.

3. Reduce turnover

The flexibility inherent in a remote job allows workers to stay with them longer. For example, if an employee needs to relocate because of a spouse’s job change, instead of quitting they can easily continue working for the same company from another location. Companies can keep key talent when there are fewer constraints on where they perform the work.

4. Reduce overhead costs

For some companies, overhead costs like office rent and supplies can be significantly reduced or even eliminated by employing a remote workforce. With fewer overhead expenses, profits increase.

Employees also save money. Since they don’t have to commute anymore, they save on gas, car repairs, parking, and lunches. This savings translates into more of their hard-earned money staying in their pockets.

5. Fewer sick days

Spending less time around other people, coworkers, and the public, results in less sick time. Workers reduce their chances of catching viruses, colds, and the flu. With less downtime, workers are more productive and are able to get more accomplished over the long haul.

Challenges to employers

1. Collaboration and communication

As contractors know, when teams are spread out over long distances, it can be difficult to maintain communication and collaborate with team members. Impromptu meetings and discussions are more difficult to have when workers aren’t in the same physical location.

Luckily there are several tech applications that can assist teams in maintaining their connections. From online messaging apps, like Slack, to videoconferencing programs, like Zoom, it’s easier than ever for teams to keep in touch when working remotely.

When it comes to accessing collective data, online SaaS programs allow everyone to get the data they need from any device with an internet connection. This ensures that everyone has the info they need when they need it. Using SaaS software also allows office teams to stay productive from wherever they’re working, as well as ensuring everyone is working off the same real-time data.

2. Distractions

While there may be fewer distractions at home than in the office, they are still a struggle to deal with. Children, pets, and household chores can quickly steal employees’ concentration. Workers must do their best to set boundaries and structure their work environment and schedule to reduce distractions as much as possible.

3. Technology struggles

Technology can be difficult to deal with, whether it’s at home or in the office. Programs crash, computers die, and internet connections are lost. While these problems can’t all be eliminated, there are some things that can be done to help prevent them.

  • Ensure that employees have the latest in hardware and software installed on their work-provided devices.
  • Develop a schedule for regularly replacing hardware every 2 to 3 years.
  • Employ IT workers or hire a company to provide remote service to all employees.

4. Time Management

Without the structure of the office environment to keep them on task, some workers may struggle with managing their schedules when working from home. They may lose track of their work time and blur the lines between home and work life. This can lead to added stress and burnout.

Allow workers to set their own schedules when possible, so they can effectively manage their work and home life. Encourage them to stick to their schedule as much as possible, with only occasional changes under special circumstances.

5. Dress code

When working from home it can be tempting to dress more casually than when working in the office. While an occasional day spent working in your pajamas is acceptable, workers need to be dressed properly the majority of the time. Clothing can be both professional and comfortable, keeping workers in the correct mindset when they’re on the job.

As construction workers and companies continue to navigate the ever-changing pandemic restrictions, it’s best to remain flexible, as this helps reduce stress. Teams can function successfully when working remotely with the help of technology and a little patience.

 

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

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.