Many construction firms underutilize software solutions, achieving poor return on investment (ROI) from those purchases. The reason for this poor ROI is often poor usability due to confusing user interfaces, improperly sized software solutions, and problems with ongoing support.
This article looks at three critical characteristics that construction firms should consider to help ensure they realize adequate ROI from software solutions.
Ease of use
Construction firms are in the business of building, so time spent dealing with business software solutions can be a costly distraction. Many construction-focused software solutions employ a variety of applications from different providers. The result? A comprehensive solution with a range of interfaces, processes, and functions that construction firm software users must master to operate each application—some of which may be unlike any software that the users have ever used before or will ever use again.
Unfortunately, construction industry realities—such as overlapping projects, field personnel who rarely have time to learn numerous new interfaces, and a technical focus on building rather than on software and business technologies—make training at multiple levels of a construction firm very difficult. Ultimately, many construction firms are unable to overcome the training requirements of new software solutions, so they are often unable to fully benefit from all the useful functions that are available in their software solutions.
Software solutions with uncomplicated, customizable, or familiar interfaces can help construction firms avoid the different interface usability problems common in multiple-provider software solutions—and enable them to realize the greatest ROI. In fact, construction firms can achieve a common interface design across all applications by sourcing their entire software solution from one provider. The best of these single provider software solutions feature user interfaces similar to familiar software applications and allow construction firms to customize individual users' interfaces, so that users have easy access to the functions they need, without being confused by unneeded features.
Construction can be a highly competitive industry in which unnecessary overhead and inattention can rapidly deplete profitability. Software solutions must be lean, efficient tools that are capable of being adapted to unforeseen future requirements. Accordingly, scalability is an important consideration for construction firms considering new, more capable software solutions.
Compared to one-size-fits-all solutions, scalable solutions are more cost-effective because they do not require the extensive, time-consuming, and costly programming of full custom software solutions. For many construction firms, it can be highly efficient to purchase the applications and features that they need, arranging these features around a central integrated database.
Then, if additional applications and features are needed in the future, they can be purchased from the same provider. This homogeneity helps increase employee usability and business transparency, which, in turn, enables construction firms to more fully utilize all the capabilities of the solution, helping to increase ROI and the true value of the solution. This is particularly important for growing construction firms and for specialty contractors. Both commonly face significant challenges associated with simultaneously managing different areas of their business, such as inventory, labor, and materials.
Construction firms can also be more certain of the long-term value of their software investment by researching software solutions. This helps ensure that their investment is backed by established software providers that have significant commitments to ongoing research and development, updates, and technical support. Even then, if a software solution employs numerous applications from multiple software providers, future updates and support are likely to be more complex—to the extent that if one provider does not ensure ongoing support and compatibility, the entire solution may be affected. Without clear pledges from all contributing software providers regarding future updates and support, construction firms may find that their multiple provider software solutions become less adaptable and more vulnerable to problems over time. Assured ongoing future updates and support can be easier to confirm when a software solution is sourced from a single, stable provider.
Another concern is the expertise and geographic location of the software support representative. Software support is most convenient when it is available locally, from people who know the construction industry. Construction firms should look for software solutions that have local, knowledgeable support representatives endorsed by the software provider—a valuable asset, particularly to growing construction firms with evolving software needs.
With a highly functional, single provider solution, necessary updates and support do not result in compatibility concerns but instead facilitate continued efficient, accurate reporting and other valuable functions profitable construction firms need.