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Selecting the Right Construction Management Software for Subs

Anyone who works in a trade understands how important it is to have tools that are the right size for each job.

You cannot work with tools that are too big for the job. If someone tried to strip paint with a jackhammer, they would be escorted off the job site. The same goes for construction management software.

Imagine a piece of expensive construction project management software that’s so loaded up with features that no one knows how to use the app. You’ve probably seen software like that on a project before. You might even have software like that on your phone.

If so, it’s understandable. This is a problem across all industries.

Research suggests that most businesses overspend on their software because they “don’t have the right purchasing infrastructure in place — data, tools, experts and processes — to effectively navigate the nuance and complexity inherent in software procurement,” Tropic CEO and cofounder David Campbell writes at TechCrunch. “They’re essentially in ‘DIY’ procurement mode.”

If your team’s software has gotten too big, too expensive and too unwieldy, here’s how to find a tool that’s a better fit for the job.

Why Old Software Stops Being Useful

In a lot of companies, executives and project managers do a good job of procuring software for their teams. They come up with a list of must-have features, they talk to vendors, and they make the best selection available.

For a while, the field and office teams work well with the tool. Over time, though, the software stops feeling as useful.

That’s because the companies that make that software feel pressure to keep developing, to keep pushing the boundaries of what the software can do. This is what’s known as feature creep.

When feature creep takes over a construction project management tool, three things tend to happen:

  • Unnecessary features emerge.
  • The user interface gets cluttered.
  • The software’s price goes up.

This starts a vicious cycle. Now, the vendor has to invest more time, energy, money and people into what was once a lean, useful piece of software. That’s why prices go up. At the same time, the original tool starts to look and behave like a very different piece of technology than what you initially bought.

In the end, the people responsible for the software feel spread too thin, product leader René Rosendahl writes, and the software’s users feel betrayed.

Selecting the Right Construction Management Software Partner That Builds Right-Sized Tools For You

The way to avoid the feature-creep trap is to find a provider that understands your business and software needs.

You’ll recognize those providers because they have the following qualities:

  • They look to be real partners with you.
  • They work with other businesses like yours.
  • They clearly demonstrate that they understand the work you do and what you need from your software.

At eSUB, we recognized early on that the needs of trade contractors, and particularly subs working on commercial projects, needed specialized solutions that worked for their businesses and their specific roles on construction projects.

We’ve heard from so many clients who felt they’d been oversold on features they didn’t need — then felt brushed off when they asked for the features they actually needed.

Take Meyer Sarshalom, vice president of A&P Air Conditioning, for example. In his company’s search for and use of software solutions for their larger construction projects, Sarshalom quickly discovered that software meant for general contractors wasn’t the right fit for his firm.

“There are fundamental differences between eSUB and other general contractor-based solutions,” Sarshalom says. “Because other solutions are designed for the General Contractor, every feature would have to be adapted for us, the subcontractor. It would be an added step in our workflow.”

Selecting the Right Construction Management Software

3 Tips for Downsizing to a Better Tool

Here are three steps you can take to identify software that’s been built to work at the size and scale at which your team operates.

Sketch Out Your Team’s Normal Operations

Always map software to your processes, not the other way around. So, the first step is to outline what your processes look like. From there, you’ll be able to recognize which software features are nice-to-haves, and which are have-to-haves.

Take one of our customers, Kasper Electric in Florida, as an example. Kasper’s former director of business development tells us that each week their team gets together “to assess each project’s health using real-time labor, time, cost, material, and forecast data for analysis.”

That’s an example of a process worth writing down. If your team does something similar, then you will know you need a tool that can support this kind of data analysis.

Map Features Onto the Operations You’ve Sketched Out

Work software can potentially have lots of features, including:

  • Task management.
  • Expense and billing management.
  • Contract management.
  • Analytics and reporting.
  • Timesheet management.

Just because those features are available, however, doesn’t mean they’re useful for your team. It might make sense for you to handle billing, for example, as a separate process with a different piece of software. But be sure your software solutions integrate and do so as seamlessly as possible.

Software “shouldn’t add any friction to your daily tasks,” tech reporter Autumn Smith writes at Make Use Of.

Make Sure the Software Is Easy to Use

You want software that’s easy for everyone on your team to feel comfortable using. If it could take people weeks or months to get up to speed with a tool, then that software likely isn’t a good fit.

Don’t get discouraged if your “Will people actually use this thing?” criterion weeds out a few promising tools. It’s better to flag hard-to-use software now, before you’ve invested money. That’s the only way to make digital adoption work in any field.

The Big Picture

Most companies in most industries will find themselves struggling to find the right tool for a given job at some point. Along the way, there will always be voices recommending that you splurge on the big software platform.

Dan Simpson is no stranger to this pressure. Simpson is the CEO of Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe in Nashville. He isn’t in the trades business, but his teams experience a similar problem when buying software: There’s always a bigger, shinier model out there with a bunch of features that, while not a good fit now, you can always grow into.

“A lot of times, the simple solution really meets the needs of your business,” he says. “Don’t feel like you’re failing because you don’t have the biggest tech. A basic set of tech can carry you for a long way—don’t get sucked into all of the bells and whistles.”

If you’ve done the work of mapping out your needs and your processes, you’ve already done the heavy lifting. Now, your task is to look past all of the unnecessary features available to you and find the tools whose capabilities and scope most closely match what you’ve written down.

And if you’ve arrived here because your research suggests eSUB specialty contractor project management software could be a good fit for your team, contact us today to schedule a demo.

Images by: Daniel McCullough, Emmanuel Ikwuegbu