What to Look For In a Construction Project Management Software Evaluation
Evan Hill

Evan Hill

How to Evaluate Construction Project Management Software for Contractors

As we all know, contractors operate on razor-thin margins. In order to deliver successful, profitable projects, you need to manage costs prudently. And this discipline isn’t learned overnight — it comes with experience, on-site management, and many mistakes. Every contractor knows that the cost impact of unforeseen budgeting errors, pending on-site issues, and changes in design can quickly grow out of control. The ability to properly gauge the financial health of a project is critical towards project success.
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Unforeseen budgeting errors, pending on-site issues, and changes in design can quickly grow out of control. The ability to properly gauge the financial health of a project is critical towards project success.

In order to develop a strong budget and cost management discipline on your projects, you need to assess all strategic costs, budget rigidity, outsourcing capabilities, and technology implementation to protect margins. Although there are many areas to discuss room for margin improvement, in this piece we’ll focus on technology. In order to properly manage the budget, costs, and ongoing financial health of a project, most contractors rely on a project management software system.

In this article, we’ll outline six key areas that contractors should evaluate before investing in a project management system to manage their project budgets and associated costs.

6 Key Requirements and Features to Evaluate When Selecting a Construction Project Management Tool

When evaluating a project management system, an underrated and often overlooked capability is configurable user roles. Oftentimes software is developed by people who don’t come from the construction industry. What ends up happening is the software will force and confine users to strict, pre-customized user roles — without any room for configuration to match the unique business roles within your organization.

For example, you might not want a sub-contractor to have visibility into the overall cash flow and financial performance of a project. Or maybe you want the finance-related users to only have access to the financial-related functionality. The point being not every project contributor requires the same level of access and visibility. You’ll likely want to configure project contributor access based on their own unique business role.

With the move to cloud-based solutions and more collaborative solutions, security is an increasingly higher priority. You might not want specific contributors on your project having access to sensitive business information so the ability to restrict access down to the field level is critical.
It’s no secret that the startup scene is exploding in the construction space. And it makes sense, construction has historically been a highly inefficient and budget-busting industry. It’s a ripe area begging for innovation. But when it comes time to invest in a project management solution, be cautious about the provider you select. Don’t just jump in without doing the proper research and comparison. Not only are you selecting a product, but you’re also selecting the company behind the product. A partner that either has — or does not have! — the required industry knowledge to help you succeed with your projects.

Here are several questions to consider asking of vendors:

  • How long has their organization been serving the construction industry?
  • What percentage of their employees possess a construction-related background?
  • What is the financial health of their organization? Are they profitable?
    • As a contractor, you run a profitable business. Why would you invest in a solution company unable to run their business profitably?
  • Does their product provide solutions to specific construction pains, or does it serve as an end-to-end project solution?
A common desire from contractors is to have the project financials easily integrate with their ERP system. Many construction project management systems lay claim to this type of integration. However, once again, due to the lack of configurability of the project management system, the integration can be more problematic than beneficial. A common reason for this is that many project management systems require the contractor to use strict systems of naming and coding structures for budget items. Invariably, if these are not exactly the same, there are critical discrepancies in reporting and tracking of project financials.

It is extremely important to find a system like ProjectSight that gives you the ability to manually configure cost codes, cost types, and budget line items.

A project management system is only effective if it’s directly integrated with the progress being made on the job site. When evaluating vendors, ensure they have a direct integration with field tools and mobile solutions. Contractors need the ability to link outside records to budget and cost management workflows (whether it’s RFIs, change orders, meetings, or checklists, etc). These can then all be rolled up and referenced throughout the cost management process. Another example is if you’re logging a change order, you can directly reference the RFI and specific meetings where the issues were discussed.

Many project management systems won’t provide this direct-to-field functionality, which typically indicates the solution is focused on solving a singular problem — instead of providing a true end-to-end solution.

A key component of project success is collaboration in real-time. Field teams, subcontractors, and project managers need to be able to exchange project drawings and BIM when on the job site. Whether it’s a change in floor plan or construction specs, project contributors need to view the latest drawings and markups to ensure the building is constructed as designed.

As design changes occur, users can overlay drawings to visualize design differences. With ProjectSight, all project contributors get automated versioning, hyperlinking, OCR, and direct integration with project controls.

As design changes occur, users can overlay drawings to visualize design differences. With ProjectSight, all project contributors get automated versioning, hyperlinking, OCR, and direct integration with project controls. Whereas most vendors will simply limit you to only viewing a model, ProjectSight takes this much further by allowing users to link model views directly to project controls records. In addition, if you need to upload, review, publish and view your project specifications, ProjectSight’s specification management module makes it simple.

6. Evaluating the Organizational Umbrella

Understanding the vendor’s organizational infrastructure is an underrated element of long-term success with a project management system. When purchasing a solution, many companies will force multiple business roles within their organization to jerry-rig the system to fit their needs. This requires an extraordinary amount of time, unnecessary pain, and money to conform the system to everyone’s needs — when in reality it doesn’t need to be.

When you choose ProjectSight as your partner, you get access to Trimble’s network of products and people. We don’t believe in forcing inorganic relationships with our software. That’s why we have systems designed for operations, finance, field management, project management, reporting, and a whole lot more.

When you choose ProjectSight as your partner, you get access to Trimble’s network of products and people. We don’t believe in forcing inorganic relationships with our software.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, a project management system — or any product for that matter — will only be effective if it fits your unique business needs. Technology companies will often try to force you into their predefined roles and use cases, ignoring the unique roles, use cases, and requirements of your workflows.

We encourage you to select a partner that is willing to work with you for the long haul, instead of vendors’ rushed attempts to secure your business before the end of that quarter. Choose a partner that has a proven track record within the construction space, that has the organizational capacity and confidence to promote your success, and a history of innovative commitment.

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