There is a lot more to construction software than Prolog and Primavera, with a raft of software packages catering to everything from a single project run by one construction manager to a complex portfolio of developments managed by a large company.
Here we look at what you need to know, starting with what these applications can actually do.
How Project Management Applications Can Help
An old project management adage is that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail; therefore, effective construction project management software should take the guesswork out of the process. The application should offer assistance with budgets, cost control, mapping the project’s critical path, slack, scheduling and snagging, which is aptly called ‘managing the punch list’ in US applications.
Bid management, procurement, planning, environmental schemes - such as BREEAM in the UK - and photo and sitecam will form part of a more extended system. Change control is key to most larger projects; therefore, more advanced project management systems should be able to handle document control, change logs, versioning and requests for information (RFIs). Many vendors will try to make working with partners easier by providing cloud-based document management services, meaning that dispersed teams can access documents from any location.
What Do Buyers Want From Construction Software?
The main reasons buyers are in the market for construction software are to increase efficiency and obtain help with project management and estimating. Construction project management software can help with:
- Planning and scheduling - a core activity for all project managers.
- Allocation of resources and materials.
- Job costing and budgeting.
- Document management, including version control.
- Change management.
- Bid tracking.
- Purchase order and vendor management.
Project plans are notoriously hard to understand, especially for project executives who want a high-level view; therefore, look for a project dashboard capable of delivering business intelligence. You also need to be able to drill down to the detail if you see a key performance indicator (KPI) that requires investigation, and it helps if you can customise the dashboard to deliver the precise intelligence you need to manage the project and report upwards.
Many full-service construction management applications have specific project management functionality; therefore, you have a choice between these and standalone systems. If choosing a standalone project system, you will need to consider how you will transfer financial and resourcing information in and out of the application to inform the rest of the business.
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Buyers in the UK will need to note that many building terms are different in the US and the UK, as are processes and job roles; therefore, UK businesses will need to be sure that the software they are considering can cope with these differences. Some packages may be available in localised versions; for example, as mentioned previously, terms such as ‘snagging’ are not used in the US.
The main groups of construction software buyers:
- Project management professionals, including some architects, who are offering a project management service to construction sector clients and need to keep track of projects.
- Smaller contractors who want a package that does everything and talks to their in-house accounts software.
- Property developers and building contractors, who may have medium-sized portfolios of projects.
- Large building contractors working for top-level developers or architects on multiple large projects.
The best strategy is to draw up a list of business requirements for your construction project management application and score each system against this list.