There’s a natural skepticism toward digital construction technology in the construction trades.
It’s understandable. The construction trades don’t move at the speed of digital construction technology. There’s no disrupting the work’s fundamental principles. Silicon Valley isn’t going to invent a better way to fit pipes.
But the construction trades do need digital construction technology. They need the leverage that software tools can provide. They need the organization that construction project management software can create.
They just don’t need any hype about disruption.
Below, we will separate the tools from the hype and explore how subcontractors can use the leverage software provides to do less unproductive work.
Manual Organization Will Waste Your Time
There are a lot of ways a digital workflow can help subcontractors’ teams work more efficiently. You can find information more quickly and make decisions more quickly with the right digital tools. We will get into that in greater detail in a moment.
For now, it’s worth examining what happens when you try to organize work and manage documents manually. This includes tracking things in Excel. Probably most noticeably, your team ends up spending extra time trying to track down project documentation.
Imagine you have a foreman in the field who needs to see some drawings. There are three ways to handle this request, depending on what kind of software you’re running:
- If you store drawings as hard copies in a file cabinet, then that foreman has to drive all the way back to the office to look at those drawings.
- If you store drawings on a hard drive somewhere, you can spend a few minutes searching for the drawings then email them to the foreman. That’s definitely a process improvement.
- But if you store drawings in a shared cloud, the foreman doesn’t have to wait at all. He can retrieve the drawings himself whenever he needs them. That’s the most efficient process.
As we’ve noted before, there’s a major difference between having construction documentation and having a systematic process for documenting things.
If you’re not convinced about software’s ability to reduce this kind of unproductive work, or if you don’t see how all this applies to your own business, consider what writer Miranda O’Bryan flags in a piece for Software Advice:
- Are your clients frustrated with the way you communicate, or do they feel your communications are somewhat opaque?
- Is your workspace such a mess that you cannot find paperwork?
- Are you so busy that you struggle to get estimates to your clients on time?
A “yes” to any of those is a sign that you’re ready to upgrade your construction management software, O’Bryan says.
Digital Construction Technology: 3 Ways the Right Software Will Support Work
Any tool provides leverage to a person doing work. The same goes for digital tools. You can’t tighten most screws manually, and you can’t tighten most business processes manually.
Here are three ways construction software can provide that kind of leverage:
It Organizes Project Documentation
Every construction project would produce reams and reams of project documentation if you were to print it all out. Managing that many project documents takes significant work, regardless of whether you’re using hard copies or digital files.
“At a certain point, a foreman can be so swamped with uploading and storing documents that they can’t be out in the field with the guys working,” writes Paralee Walls at Team Engine, which makes HR software for field teams in various industries.
Here’s where cloud-based project document control becomes helpful. When teams all share a platform that lets everyone upload and access project documents, then that work gets distributed and automated.
Attorney Karalynn Cromeens at the Subcontractor Institute talked about this in an episode of our Power to the Trades podcast. Karalynn noted how she and her team used to have to dig through literal boxes of project documents when helping a subcontracting business with a case. That can be especially costly when legal counsel charges by the hour.
A better way to work? Being able to forward with a single click whatever project documents someone needs.
It Connects the Field and Office Teams
Getting field teams and back office teams in harmony has always been a challenge for construction businesses. But by giving these teams the tools they need to collaborate meaningfully, that harmony becomes much easier to achieve.
When field teams are able to send timely worksite reports, for example, project managers back in the office get a better idea of how a project is progressing relative to their forecasts.
Just as important, this connection helps field teams see that their inputs get considered and factored into planning. “Opening up communication gives employees the chance to express any concerns they might have, giving the organization the chance to solve problems preemptively,” Athena Marousis at TalentCards writes.
This has additional benefits, she notes. When people feel they’re working within an organization that understands and values their input, they’re more engaged with their work. “Tackling issues early and head on decreases employee dissatisfaction, and increases retention and company loyalty,” Marousis writes.
Better communication doesn’t just bridge gaps in your workflows. It makes for a tighter organization all around.
It Helps the Business Itself Grow
Tighter processes tend to translate to efficiencies across the board. That’s ultimately what we’re talking about with a tool like project management software.
As Sean Peek at Business News Daily writes, project management software can help trades businesses “improve communication, manage budgets and documentation, and keep track of their employees. This all makes companies more efficient, allowing them to scale their business in the long term.”
During lean times, those efficiencies can help smaller companies weather economic downturns.
During good times, those efficiencies can be an engine for business growth.
Granted, it’s harder for smaller businesses to take on the cost of new digital construction technology, writes Ryan Whisner at Equipment World. But it’s worth it, he says:
“In some regards, small contractors stand to benefit more than anyone from implementing project management, business management or other digital construction technology tools. … Investment in the right technology will help a small to mid-sized contractor improve profitability in the long run.”
You’re Never Too Busy to Cut Out Busywork
Implementing a new piece of software can sound time-consuming. That’s why trade contractors stick with the processes they’re used to, even when they know those processes cost them extra time.
But new software doesn’t need to come with a steep learning curve. Ideally, it’s something your teams can use right out of the box. That’s what we designed eSUB Cloud to do.
We have a Quick Start program in which one of our experts guides a client through configuration and training on a single project. That way, the rollout is minimally disruptive to the client’s business. Brandon Paslay, owner and CEO of New Way Electric in Eugene, Oregon, says new user training took his team about two hours. “We were up to speed and running our first project within a couple of days.”
To learn more about how you can implement new digital construction technology without wasting hours of productive time, have a look at our subcontractor management guide. It goes over some of the ways teams can adopt a tool like eSUB quickly through training — and by having a software vendor that understands how important ease of use is.
If you’d like to learn more about how eSUB can help your team with field communications or project documentation management, schedule a demo today.
Images by: Borko Manigoda, Emir Krasnić, Dimitris Vetsikas