Questions to Ask Before Investing in Construction Management Software

The Construction Industry is experiencing a massive transformation from paper processes (i.e. Excel spreadsheets, hand-written RFIs and invoices) to web-based, collaborative, paperless processes to manage everything from multi-year Capital projects, to 2-week Retail Roll-out projects.

The competitive nature of our business, coupled with the tech-savvy millennials entering the workforce, has forced companies to consider acquiring software to manage their Construction Programs in an effort to standardize processes, become more efficient, and stay competitive.

In my experience, those who have been tasked with evaluating CM software are members of the Construction Department; not their IT department counter-parts. In many ways, this makes sense because, after all, the Construction Department will be using the selected software on a daily basis, and they know better than anyone else if the solution will meet their unique needs. However, on average, members of the Construction department are, quite frankly, not the most tech-savvy individuals I've sold to. A definite draw back to tasking members of the IT department to evaluate Construction Project Management Software is the fact that they know little to nothing about Construction. The IT department is primarily concerned with software security, risk to the organization, and how much time they will have to dedicate to managing and maintaining another server in the data center.

In my opinion, some Construction Management Software vendors take advantage of unsuspecting Construction professionals who evaluate their solutions. I'm not implying that they flat-out lie, but they don't always mention the fine print. I mean, omission isn't lying... is it? Most Salespeople today only care about the sale. They want to pocket the commission and move on to the next. Very few take the time to truly educate their prospects because they fear the truth will cost them the sale. Personally, I believe my reputation as a 'Trusted Adviser' far outweighs the instant gratification of a one-time sale. I believe that empowering my prospects with the knowledge they need to make the best decision for their organization, builds a trust that can reap sales each and every time that prospect transitions from one company to the next. Not only is it wise, it's the right thing to do.

In an effort to keep future posts brief, I will focus on one topic at a time, discuss the various pitfalls you can expect, and what questions you should ask when evaluating cloud-based construction management software.

Today's Topic is: 'Web-based & Mobile Friendly'

When evaluating project management software for construction, it is imperative that it be accessed in the office, from the field, from the airport, pretty much anywhere at anytime. The last thing you want is to be tied to a computer in this industry. Therefore, selecting a solution that is web-based (accessed via the Internet) and mobile-friendly (accessed on mobile devices) is a must.

I would say that most CM software vendors today can 'check the boxes'. When you ask if they are web-based, they will say, "Yes". When you ask if they are mobile-friendly, they will also say, "Yes". However, there are some additional questions you should be asking.

  1. When a vendor says their solution is web-based, you need to ask them, "What specific web browsers is your solution compatible with?" Believe it or not, some vendors are only compatible with Internet Explorer 8! If your organization is running IE 9 or 10, it won't work. If your device's native browser is Safari, it won't work. If you prefer to use Chrome for its built-in spellcheck, it won't work. Your preferred vendor should be compatible with ANY web-browser (IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) so you are not at the mercy of your IT department upgrading to a newer version of IE, or not able to use your preferred mobile device.

  2. Additionally, when a vendor says their solution is mobile-friendly, you need to ask them, "What specific devices is your solution compatible with?" Believe it or not, some CM software vendors have fine print listing the specific makes and models of the mobile devices they are compatible with. If you are not using one of those specific devices, you're out of luck. I have a client who told me, a horror story about their previous CM solution. His organization purchased a Construction Program Management Software solution and provided all the PMs with Apple iPads to use in the field. Once the software was implemented, they realized that their selected vendor was not compatible with Apple devices. None of the iPads could be used.

  3. Finally, it is also important to ask the CM software vendor if they have a Mobile-Version of their software specifically designed for those in the field using small screen devices (phones). I don't know about you, but if you have ever logged into a website on your iPhone and you're over 40 like me, the print is so small, I have to turn my screen horizontally and stretch and pull just to read what it says! Just because you can access their website on 'any device with an internet connection' doesn't mean you can easily and efficiently interact with the software. Have you ever tried to type out your Daily Field Report on a mobile phone? The keyboard is so tiny you spend more time correcting your grammar than completing your work. How about punching 100 items? Forget about it! Your preferred vendor should not only be accessible on any web-browser, using any device with an internet connection. It should also provide a separate version designed for mobile phones. The last thing you need is to purchase a CM software solution with the intention of collaboration that everyone refuses to use because it's maddening, inefficient and frustrating.

Stay tuned for more "Questions to Ask Before Investing in Construction Management Software".

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