Construction project management software for small business: Here's what to look for
Should small businesses use construction project management software?
There was a time when construction project management software was reserved and designed for big contractors and subcontractors, who required software to manage a large number of concurrent projects, hundreds of people, tens of parties and thousands of documents and forms.
But today, construction management software is just as useful and accessible for small businesses.
What's made the rise on small business software usage possible?
One of the key trends which has impacted this adoption has been the dramatic reduction in the cost of developing and distributing software to businesses, mostly because of the internet.
In addition, the improvements in software development and usability has made it possible for small businesses to easily transition their daily operating procedures across to software, which is easy to use and easy to adapt to - unlike the clunky and training-heavy softwares of the 90's and 2000's.
Even though these trends have lowered the barrier of entry for small business - is project management software really necessary for a company of 5, or 10, or 20 people?
The answer is yes.
Low upfront costs, subscription based pricing and free trials and free usage have made it possible for small businesses to get started with software very easily.
The benefits of construction project management software for small business
So if we know that small business can easily get started with project management software today, then what exactly are the benefits that these companies can expect to get from the software?
Time and cost savings
There are two main benefits that every small business is looking for when they invest in construction management software: time savings and cost savings.
These two assets and constraints (time and money) are the lifeblood of small business, and managing them efficiently is the different between life and death.
The major benefit of software over and above not-using software is the time it saves small businesses in administration. Softwares super power is streamlining and automating the repetitive manual tasks which take time away from performing value-adding activities.
Some of the tasks which software can instantly eliminate away include:
Manual data entry and document formatting - Good project management softwares standardise the way information is captured in the field and automatically reconcile it into registers and databases so you don't have to manually enter information into a spreadsheet or format word docs and PDFs all day
Uploading, downloading, scanning and emailing - Small businesses like all business had to rely on paper-based forms to document what's happening on site and on projects, which requires manually filling out paper, scanning documents, uploading documents, and emailing back and forth. Using software (and cloud-based apps), small business can go entirely digital (or mostly digital) relatively easily. They can digitise forms and documents, which means that everyone can access them from one place, fill them out digitally, sign them off digitally, and never have to waste time with uploading, downloading etc.
Workflows - Every small business has a number of standard workflows which they perform regularly. These workflows may be centred on safety permitting, completing ITP's, or managing defects.
Project management softwares enable small businesses to automate these previously time-consuming workflows. Instead of emailing and calling people to check in on what's happening, people receive automatic notifications when something is sitting on their to-do list, which dramatically reduces back-and-froth and reduces costly delays.
All of these time-savings reduce administration costs and enable your people to spend their time making you money - not reconciling data,
Bulletproof record keeping
The construction industry is fraught with variations, changes, disputes and other issues. One of the major benefits of construction project management software for small business is that it enables small business to keep better and more reliable records.
In the event of a dispute or contract variation, a contractor or subcontractor may place the blame (sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly) on the small business.
The only way that the small business can have leverage in this dynamic or 'relationship' is for them to have proof of exactly what happened.
Project management software enables bulletproof record keeping, version control and audit trailing.
Using a digital site diary instead of a piece of paper enables your construction workers to capture supporting photo and video evidence of the work getting done (or not done).
Instead of sifting through folder after folder of photos or evidence getting lost, all of the evidence captured on site through your project management software will sit in one organised place where it can be instantly found and pulled out to support a claim or dispute.
While that big contractor or subcontractor can afford to take a $50,000 hit, your small business probably can't. It's imperative that you have all of the supporting evidence and proof of what's happening exactly when you need it.
Real-time tracking and project visibility across your small business
Another critical component of project management software for small business is that these platforms enable small business to track what's happening on their projects in real-time.
In the past, small businesses had to rely on excel-based gantt charts and delayed information trickling in from site to understand how they are tracking on their jobs and projects.
With software, these same small businesses are able to see how they are tracking and progressing in real-time.
They can see and update real-time gantt charts and project schedules; they can track actual progress vs. planned progress, and they can get analytics and insights about what's happening.
Small business owners of the past didn't have a single control centre where they could see and manage what was happening in their business - but today they can have exactly that.
Having a master view of the business enables small business owners to:
- Get a full view of what's happening with their business
- To spot what people are doing well, and what they are not doing well
- To bring transparency to the work being done on site
- To ultimately make more informed decisions about their businesses
The last benefit we will touch on is professionalism. In construction, managing commercial, financial, production, environmental and safety information properly and professionally is difficult.
Even big companies struggle to run smooth and professional processes across the functions of their business.
Construction project management software makes small business look and feel professional.
They can lean on the software to take care of the formatting and collaboration aspects of the business.
- Instead of sending poorly formatted word docs and PDFs, the software generates reports and documents which look clean and professional.
- Instead of sending letters and emails back and forth, small business can send, communicate and collaborate in real-time
- Instead of employees bringing a pen and paper to site for sign off, they can open their phone or tablet and can an instant digital signature from an external party
All of these small elements add up in the eyes of your employees and your customers, and all of this improved professionalism shapes the perception of your small business - which impacts your bottom line over time.
Try the software for yourself.
What small business need to look for in their construction management software
Now that I'm sure you have been sold on the benefits of construction project management software for your small business - what are some of the things that you should look for when 'shopping' for the most suitable software for you.
Flexibility and ease of use
Flexibility and ease of use are especially important for small business. While the standard for software today is dramatically higher than it was a number of years ago (so there's more easy to use software out there), make sure you find a modern software which has been developed with the user experience in mind. This can make all of the different to how quickly and effectively the software gets adopted and starts benefiting your small business.
You should also look for flexible software which can adapt to the way you want to work. Some of the bigger and clunkier systems can tend to be very rigid, and require custom development work and customisation which can add tends thousands to the cost of the software as well as time delays in being able to start using it.
You want to be able to make quick changes to the software and customise it to fit your needs, as you learn about what it can do and how it can best benefit your operations.
Accessible small business pricing
As was previously mentioned, more and more softwares today have accessible pricing which fits small businesses just as well as large enterprises.
Look for softwares which don't have large upfront costs and bespoke development work, and which have a pricing structure based on the value you will get from the platform - such as the number of users saving time by using the software, or the number of forms or functions you are able to improve by using the software.
And finally, it's easy with software to find the system with the most bells and whistles, or most customers, or most publicity.
But what's important for your small business is to find a construction project management software which provides you with the most utility (usefulness).
What utility looks like to you will be different to what it looks like to others, but you need to stay focused on what areas of your business need the most improvement - and which areas will add the most value.
If drawings and correspondence is most important to you, then make sure your choice of software places a large onus or focus on that area. If tracking progress and saving time on site is where you can add the most value to your business, then find a system which specialises in that.
Software is simply a facilitator of your core business. It should emphasise your strength while strengthening your areas of weakness.
As a small business, being efficient and effective is the only way to stay in business, and using construction project management software is one of the smartest and easiest ways to become more efficient, and more effective.
Large, medium and small businesses in 100+ countries use this construction project management software to streamline their businesses.