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Why Go Digital? The Future of Construction Management

The construction industry has traditionally been slow to adopt the technology. Many of its work processes are legacy solutions from decades ago, like spreadsheets and yellow notepads. Today’s workers are stuck in the process of trying to digitize an industry that has been stuck in the analog world for many generations.

However, contractors are beginning to realize that they no longer have a choice when it comes to embracing technology. Now it’s a race to decide who will be the first adopters to bring the industry into the future.

We’ve put together five reasons why construction companies need to go digital today.

Why go digital?

Save time and money

Many contractors run several software systems simultaneously – one for estimating, one for project management, and one for accounting. These systems often don’t talk to each other, and each system becomes its own information silo, creating obstructions to the flow of information. Each software system provides information, but it’s difficult or impossible to share that information with the other systems.

Companies soon develop workarounds like entering data by hand from one system to another or using spreadsheets to provide the information everyone needs. Some software systems allow data sharing through import/export, but it still takes time to capture the data, download it, then upload it to another system.

When workers have to manually enter data, there’s an increasing chance that mistakes will be made. Inaccurate information can lead teams to make wrong decisions that can have a profound effect on the financial success of projects over time.

All-in-one software packages create workflows that allow project teams to share data between departments without resorting to workarounds that can cause errors and lost productivity.

Attract a younger workforce

In order to attract younger workers contractors need to upgrade their tools to the latest technology has to offer. You don’t have to be on the cutting edge, but there’s a lot of tried-and-true technology that construction has been hesitant to implement. Companies need to adopt tech more readily to match the skill sets, education, and training future workers are receiving.

Construction management students are learning project management and documentation using the software. These packages make tracking correspondence, submittals, and RFIs much easier than using Excel and other legacy software. If contractors don’t adopt these tools, they could be losing the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest in new talent.

Integration is key when it comes to estimating and material takeoffs. Too many companies rely on outdated software or manual methods to create estimates and perform takeoffs. That data then has to be entered into another software system once the project is approved. Younger workers don’t understand why these systems are separated when there are so many options for integrating them.

Harness the power of new technology

New tech, like AI, machine learning, and automation are changing the landscape. Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than robots and droids. It describes how machines are able to mimic human thinking, like problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning.

AI is being used to create predictive models based on past project data. These models analyze projects for cost overages, schedule delays, and other potential issues. The software looks for similarities between past projects and current work, and from there it can predict potential problems and bring them to the contractor’s attention.

Machine learning is a subset of AI and uses statistical techniques and calculations to understand project data and gain insights. As more data is added to the machine learning model, the software is able to assimilate the information and refine its predictions in current situations. Contractors are using both machine learning and predictive analysis to assess projects before they start so they know the risks and can proactively manage them from the beginning of the project.

Automation, or the use of technology to perform tasks, is also gaining in popularity in construction. Construction management and accounting software systems use automation to speed up data entry tasks and help prevent errors. For example, automated invoice entry in accounts payable allows workers to pull amounts and codes from commitment records and get notified when budget line items are over their limits. This automation helps ensure data is accurate and cost overruns are detected and managed.

Streamline your operations

With business growth responsibilities and processes are often developed organically. Employees do the best they can, but without a big picture view, they often create processes without knowing why. These processes certainly get the work done, but it doesn’t mean they’re the best way to do something.

The software can provide the overall structure needed to streamline processes that have grown cumbersome over time. With software as your guide, roles and responsibilities can be reorganized based on the most efficient way to perform a process.

Using an all-in-one system also simplifies record-keeping and data retrieval processes. Project records can be stored in the cloud, so now there’s only one place to look for information. Teams don’t have to search in multiple folders and software applications to find the information they need. It’s at the tip of their fingers 24/7.

Manage/control risk

Construction management software can help teams mitigate many of the risks found on a project. Although it can’t address all potential risks, it can speed communication and document what’s being done to proactively address issues.

Project management software allows teams to see and address overdue tasks and documents that may delay the project. Teams can run reports that show outstanding items as well as who is responsible for those items. The software can also track health checks and other safety-related inspections that are required in today’s world. This daily reporting allows team members to see the status of various items and predict potential problems.

Having a central hub where documents are stored is a must, given the number that is created and distributed during a project. Document storage, version control, and distribution are easily managed by project management software, ensuring everyone is working from the latest documents and has access to them from wherever they are. The same is true for project correspondence. Team members have only one place to look when it comes to searching for an email or notice. All communication is tracked and documented within the system, and specific items can easily be recalled in minutes.

Having an integrated system where costs are instantly updated in the field allows teams to respond to potential budget issues quickly. Project managers can manage the project budget and costs from the site, without having to request information from the office.

Digital is changing the construction world

While the outside world and other industries transitioned from analog to digital several years ago, construction has always been behind the times. It’s only now that the industry has begun harnessing the power that has been available for decades. Tomorrow’s workers are better prepared for this change and are sure to lead the effort. See how smoothly Jonas Premier can assist you and your team in the process of going digital. Visit our website or schedule a call with our team of professionals at Jonas Premier today for a complimentary walk-through of our simple and easy-to-use software.

Author Biography:

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

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Tips for Using Construction Software to Improve Performance

Construction companies upgrade their construction software for lots of reasons. One of the main reasons being to improve, you guessed it, performance. This includes being more profitable and more efficient, both in the field and the office. There are many ways to improve performance working with construction software, including choosing the right software, getting an ERP solution, changing processes, gathering data, and using analytics.

1. Get the right software for your business

One size software does not fit all. Before selecting construction software for your company, you need to do research to make sure you’re selecting the program that is best for your company. Get something too simple, and you’ll quickly outgrow it. Get something too complex, and you’ll never use it properly or understand what the data is trying to tell you.

Start by assessing your current system, even if you’re still using spreadsheets. Determine what’s missing and what information you wish you had. Shop around and look at multiple software options. Don’t rush this process or you’ll quickly be overwhelmed by all the information you receive. Look for software that allows for flexibility and growth in your company and the data you collect. You’ll want to be able to grow into the software and still have it serve you several years down the road.

Choose the software package that best suits your needs and gives you the most options for additional data collection. Some software packages target specific contractor types or are better suited for certain trades. Choose one that fits your company and the work it does, both now and into the future. Choosing the right software lays the groundwork for improving your performance and improving efficiency.

2. Get an ERP

An ERP software program, or enterprise resource planning, offers companies a holistic view of their operations and finances. In the construction world, it combines project management and accounting into one solution that is linked by data. This type of software solves a critical missing link in construction – it links the office to the field. Information entered in one area can be immediately seen by the other, making real-time decision-making possible.

ERPs have several advantages over standalone accounting software, including the ability to see data in real time, integrated data, and a larger view of company performance. All of these allow management to assess and act on trends in the business. They can spot problems both in the field and the office and proactively address them.

3. Don’t be afraid to change

New software often brings new processes. No software program does things the same way as another, and companies need to be flexible in changing their processes. Using the software’s process will improve efficiency and avoid extra work. It can also allow for additional data collection, which can be beneficial in assessing productivity.

New software provides the opportunity to learn more about the company and its processes through the collection of additional data. Even though the company hasn’t collected certain data in the past doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the information.

4. Gather data

Data is key when it comes to improving performance in construction. By being able to gather data from both the field and the office, management can assess performance companywide and make improvements to increase efficiencies and improve performance. Without this data, management must rely on anecdotal evidence and assumptions about what is happening on site.

When companies gather more data, they have an opportunity to learn more about the company. With limited information available, management has to make assumptions to fill in the gaps. But with concrete information coming from the field, management can monitor both growth and performance in real-time, allowing them to make better decisions.

5. Use analytics

Analytics help companies predict future outcomes based on past events. The more data the company has available for analysis, the better the predictions are. Since construction software allows for the collection of data from the field and office, analytics can provide insight for both areas and allow project managers and company management to make better strategic decisions.

Analytics can predict incidents and problems ahead of time, like forecasting the possibility of safety incidents depending on the type of work being performed. This proactive response helps prevent problems and allows companies to improve performance and increase efficiency.

Conclusion

If your company is looking to increase efficiency and improve its performance, construction software is a key part of that journey. Start by making sure you have the right software for your situation by assessing multiple options before deciding. If it makes sense for your company, select an ERP solution that connects the office to the field. Don’t be afraid to change your internal processes to match the software’s procedures. Gather as much data as you can and use analytics to help you predict outcomes for your business. Premier Construction Software has all the tools you need to improve your key performance measurements. Contact us to request a demonstration.

To learn more about how you can improve performance with a construction software, schedule a call with our team for a live demonstration.

Author Biography:

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

 

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Industry Insight Resources Tips & Advice

Automate & Standardize Construction Compliances

Contractors know the value of staying in compliance with their contracts and their customers – it can make or break the relationship. Keeping up with compliance requirements and ensuring that customers have all the information they need can leave those contractors without an organized process scrambling.

Developing a process, standardizing it, and using automation to carry out routine tasks improves efficiency and saves money. But you may wonder, how do you do this?

So, what is contract compliance?

Let’s start by getting clear on what contract compliance means in the construction industry. Contracts require certain documents and information from contractors so that project owners know that they are operating within the terms of the agreement.

There’s an almost endless list of items that could be requested in a project contract, and each contract is different. Contractors have to provide the requested information and documentation to ensure the owner that they are meeting the requirements, not only at the beginning of the project but throughout its life.

Here’s just a shortlist of information that may need to be communicated to a project owner to ensure compliance:

  • Licensing
  • Insurance
  • Bonding
  • Credit information
  • Background check
  • Union agreement
  • Lien requirements and notices
  • Safety and health information

Ensuring that these documents are received by the owner, meet the contract requirements, and remain up to date with all your clients can be difficult if you aren’t tracking them in an organized fashion.

Here are some suggestions to get started on standardizng and automating your contract compliance process.

1. Create a process

The first step to automating and standardizing your contract compliance process is to create one if you don’t have one already. If you already have a process, document it so everyone knows what it is.

The steps in a contract process may include:

  1. Contract intake and review
  2. List items that need to be sent for compliance
  3. Review list for any items you don’t already have
  4. Obtain/collect compliance documents
  5. Sign contract
  6. Return contract to client
  7. Review requirements regularly for ongoing compliance

Depending on the specific compliance requirements, more steps may be needed. Make the process as simple as possible but recognize that it needs to be flexible as well.

2. Define roles

Now that you have the process written down, you’ll need to define who is responsible for taking care of each part. Steps can be assigned to departments or specific employees, depending on the size of your company.

For each step in the process, define what needs to be done, who is going to do it, and when it will be completed. It’s important to set deadlines for the completion of tasks, as contracts are often time-driven, and you need to ensure that you’ll meet the deadlines listed.

Be sure to include a way to deal with new documents or new requirements that you haven’t come across before. As situations and conditions change, contract requirements will as well. Assign someone to research the new requirements, as well as assign the task to the appropriate department or employee.

Once the process has been written up and all the steps assigned, distribute the information to everyone involved in contract management. Everyone needs to know who will be performing each role and how long they have to perform it, so they can keep each other accountable.

3. Automate as much as possible

Once you’ve created a standardized process for contract compliance, automation is the next logical step. Instead of wasting time finding and collecting paper documents, use technology to expedite the process. Automation helps streamline processes, which will save your team time and improve efficiency. And the chance for human error is reduced when compliance tasks are automated.

Construction management software can help automate your compliance processes. Online document storage and notifications can help ensure that you stay in compliance with your customers.

4. Periodically review and audit the system

On a periodic basis, you should review the system and audit the results to ensure that you are maintaining compliance with your customers. Talk to the employees involved in the process and look for gaps or areas that continually get bogged down. You’ll also want to review the current status of compliance over all your contracts to ensure that the system is working effectively.

Once you’ve completed the review and audit, assess the overall system to see if it is working and if it’s effective. If there are changes that need to be made, implement them, and then review the process again after a while. Continual improvement will help ensure that the process remains effective.

5. Remain flexible

COVID has taught us that we have to remain flexible and ready to pivot at any time. Contract requirements can be changed in an instant, and new requirements are added all the time. Meet with your compliance team regularly to ensure that the current processes are meeting the needs of the contracts and make changes, as necessary.

Start the process today!

The first step to standardizing and automating your contract compliance process is to write it down. Then assess it to see if it’s effective. Assign roles and responsibilities so each step is covered. Then, find out how technology can improve your efficiency by automating as much of the process as possible. Software, like Premier Construction Software, can track expiration dates and prompt you to request new documents as needed, and provide online file storage so your whole team has access to compliance documents from anywhere. Reviewing and improving your compliance processes ensures that your company is always running at the peak of efficiency.

Author Biography:

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

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Tips & Advice

Supporting and Encouraging Women in Construction

In 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women made up 10% of construction industry workers. Up until now, the industry has done a poor job of reaching out to women and minorities and encouraging them to pursue a career in construction. And with a severe labor shortage in the industry, now is the time to act.

In 2021, Levelset, a mechanics lien processing company, surveyed 1,001 women in the construction industry about their experiences. One of the biggest frustrations for women is the lack of opportunity for advancement. “The glass ceiling is very real for smart women in technical positions,” said a manager for a California general contractor.

Women also feel that they aren’t respected as much as their male counterparts, especially in the field. “I am very good at my job and I do it well,” said one office administrator who works for a general contractor in Minnesota, “but in this industry, I am spoken to like a child a lot of the time. It’s assumed I don’t know what I’m doing and that is very frustrating. I love this industry and I see potential for so much growth and I really want to be a part of that, but it’s going to take a long time to shift the thinking that this is just a man’s industry.”

According to the survey, 59% said fewer than 1 in 20 women are in leadership roles where they work. That translates to less than 5% of leaders in the construction industry being women. “At all the jobs I have held in construction the opportunity to advance has been limited because the CFO has always been married to or has been somehow related to the owner of the company,” said an administrative assistant for a subcontractor in South Carolina. “It limits growth in the traditionally women-held jobs in construction.”

The events of the past year and a half brought the subject of inclusion and diversity to the forefront for the nation. Looking at the statistics above, it’s clear we still have a long way to go before we can claim to have a diverse workforce. The good news is, there are concrete steps that we can take today to encourage women to become a part of the industry.

Encourage diversity in contracts

In federal and state-funded projects, minority and women-owned businesses are given preference over other contractors and suppliers. Contractors are encouraged to reach out to minority-owned businesses to solicit bids. Some projects even have quotas that have to be met when it comes to contracting with minority companies. Some companies, like McDonald’s, are asking contractors to report their use of minority-owned companies on construction projects.

Expanding these requirements to use minority contractors and suppliers for private projects would encourage contractors to hire more minority companies. Some project owners, like the City of Portland, also track the gender and ethnicity of workers on site, encouraging diversity in field crews as well.

Support professional development

To encourage women to advance in their positions, companies should offer professional development opportunities to expand their skill sets. These opportunities could include workshops, classes, or on-the-job training. There are many organizations that provide professional development for women, like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). With chapters across the nation, women can participate in local, regional, and national conferences to learn more about the industry and the latest trends.

Mortenson’s Business Development Manager – Community Engagement, Alejandra Spray says, “We start identifying those people who show potential and want to keep growing. We identify people not based on their present title, but how hard they are working, how they rally the troops, how they inspire others, and if they have the desire to be more.” By identifying good workers early, they can be encouraged and taught the skills they need to continue moving up to positions with more responsibility.

Support networking opportunities

Meeting other women in the industry is beneficial for women at all levels. Networking allows them to learn more about the possibilities in their field and about how other companies handle issues and their processes. The key to getting the most out of these groups is to participate. When workers get involved in events, fundraisers, and other activities, they learn new skills, such as public speaking and leadership. They also benefit from getting involved in their community.

There are many professional organizations for workers in different skill sets, like engineers and architects, construction financial managers, women in trades, and unions. Other networking groups include local marketing groups, chambers of commerce, charity boards, and other volunteer opportunities.

Support mentoring programs

Mentorship is key for women who wish to advance their careers. It offers the opportunity for support and someone to challenge them to meet their career goals. “Mentorship is really a key part of the success of women in the industry,” said Anne Pfleger, President of the National Association of Women in Construction. “[Mentoring] can rejuvenate your career at any stage, it improves your personal productivity, it strengthens leadership skills, and it also increases career satisfaction.”

If women are unable to find suitable mentors within their company, management should help them locate groups or individuals that could help them along their career path. Companies should support regular mentor meetings and provide professional opportunities to help them meet their career goals.

Keep making progress

Above all, construction companies need to continue moving the needle when it comes to encouraging a diverse workforce. We need to continue to look for ways to attract and engage women in the industry.

“We are all human and we all want to succeed,” says Mortensen’s Spray. “I hope we can get to that place because I just love this industry. I love driving downtown and telling my kids I was part of that project, or when one of my mentees gets a promotion. There are so many rewards in the industry, and I’m going to keep fighting for more people to be given the opportunity to see the benefits of those rewards.”

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.