legacy systems

The Future of Construction Is Digital: Replacing Legacy Systems

Construction businesses evolve over time. They hire new staff, solidify key partnerships, improve their operations and take on more ambitious projects.

And so their software needs to evolve to keep pace.

In a sector where many workers are already hesitant to download a new app or learn a new piece of software, it’s easy for businesses to stick with old software. Even if the tool is clearly no longer fit for purpose, there’s work that needs to get done and no time to teach everyone how to use a new app.

That line of thought costs lots of businesses lots of money.

Below, we’ll explore how trade construction businesses can make legacy system upgrades easier by focusing on software that prioritizes ease of use and ease of adoption.

Why Replacing a Legacy System Seems So Challenging

Companies build processes around their key software. Changing software means changing processes means changing ingrained habits, which is universally hard for people to embrace.

In construction, replacing a legacy system introduces specific real and perceived risks. Dr. Pablo Oliveira Antonino and Bernd Rauch at Germany’s Fraunhofer IESE research institute write about some of these risks, which include:

  • Changing something foundational in the company. Updating a legacy system is “making changes to the foundation of applications and usually affects many system parts,” the researchers note. “… This makes system modernizations complex, long-running, and cost-intensive projects that have a risk of failure that should not be underestimated.”
  • Not starting from scratch. Upgrading systems can be harder than implementing software when there was nothing there before because of all the experience, knowledge and processes that accumulated around the old system, Antonino and Rauch write. Often, getting under the hood of an old system is impossible because the people who knew how to operate it — team members, support staff from the solution provider — are no longer around.

But even in the face of such challenges, doing nothing can be expensive. Timothy Brehm at Entrance Consulting uses the healthcare sector as an example of why. As in construction, healthcare companies often continue to use long-expired software. Brehm points out how that cost one healthcare provider $5 million because hackers got into a vulnerable database and held patient data for ransom.

Company executives are then forced to weigh the downsides of leaning on old software versus investing in new tools, new processes and new training.

Here’s where ease of use and ease of adoption tip the scales and make the choice obvious.

Ease of Use

If changing software means changing habits, then you need to make the new habits easy to adopt.

That’s an important aspect of what we talk about when we say “ease of use.” Of course, the software itself needs to be intuitive and navigable. But the thing that makes a tool — any tool — useful is the ease with which you can fold it into your work.

Replacing any system, then, means giving your team a new system that they can intuitively understand how to use and fit into their day-to-day activities:

  • Your project manager needs to be able to see estimates and timelines easily.
  • Your office manager needs visibility into which teams are deployed to which sites on a given day.
  • Your field teams need to be able to document work and get that data back to the office in a few clicks.

Training people on the new system is helpful, but people will forget things they’re trained on if it’s overly complex, or if the training isn’t constantly reinforced. Ease of use fixes that problem by ensuring teams know their way around the new system. They will be less likely to get frustrated by something that’s easy to use, and instead they will be more likely to embrace the new habits that naturally form around the new system’s processes.

Ease of Adoption

Ease of adoption goes hand-in-hand with ease of use, but the perspective is wider. Ease of adoption is all about how easy it is for a company and its internal processes to slot in a new tool.

This perspective works for any kind of software. If a trades business were buying a new accounting tool, then that software would have to fit the accounting methods that business used. 

The same goes for project document management and construction project management tools. That software needs to assist document and project management in a way that is in line with how teams already manage tasks, document flows and communication.

Granted, teams can be quick to balk at change of any kind. “Experienced professionals prefer to do things their way,” business writer Andrew McDermott says. That makes them resistant to culture changes or procedural changes, which new software can impose — though the perceived changes tend to be more cumbersome than the changes in practice.

Further, people worry that implementing a new system will be time-consuming. That, maybe more than any other reason, is why trade contractors stick with their old systems, even when they know those systems are costing them money.
Good software shouldn’t come with a steep learning curve, though. That’s how we designed eSUB Cloud. To support adoption, we’ve developed a Quick Start program where one of our own experts guides a client’s team through configuration and training. That ensures eSUB’s rollout doesn’t disrupt the client’s business, construction projects or timelines.

Modern Factory Office: Female Project Manager Talks to a Male Industrial Engineer who Works on Computer; legacy system concept

Ease of Integration 

There is one more aspect of legacy-system replacement that doesn’t get mentioned enough: integrations.

Each construction project generates a lot of data. If different teams have their own silos (or spreadsheets) for recording and storing that data, information cannot flow easily from one team to another. Everyone ends up working in isolation.

For a purpose-built tool like eSUB, integrations create those necessary connections. That’s why eSUB integrates directly with BIM 360, for example. The designers’ data can live in BIM 360 during the entire duration of a construction project, from planning all the way through the end of construction. As needed, the design and estimating teams can use the construction project data in eSUB to inform future designs and estimates.

Accounting and finance tools likewise integrate. That way, a field manager can report in their dailies that their team used 500 feet of copper wire that day. With cost codes registered in the construction management tool, the accounting software can automatically update inventory levels and materials expenses. 

Learn More

It doesn’t need to be difficult, costly or time-consuming to get better construction project management software into your team members’ hands.

To see how eSUB Cloud 2.0 can slot easily into your team’s workflows and integrate with your existing tools, schedule a demo today.

Images used under license from Shutterstock.com.