If you’re considering purchasing construction project management software, you must have a way of evaluating all of your options to see which one is the best fit for your company. Since the early 2000’s construction software companies have sprung up to tackle the big issues within the industry, as such there are many different solutions to solve all possible problems. While many solutions solve similar issues, no two solutions are identical which is why evaluation is such an important, especially if you’re considering building your own. Here are some items to consider in evaluating software.
Evaluating off-the-shelf software
Use your software evaluation process for diving into products and features of different software. You have to check the features and ensure they align with your required elements. You have to ensure that the cost of the product will fit your budget. You have to have some way of determining the return on investment for the software, but there is more to software evaluation than these three things.
No Software Is Perfect
Almost no software on the market is going to work the exact way you imagine it in your head. If you’re picturing a software that moves intuitively with you and completely covers every aspect of your business to the specifications of that team, you’re setting yourself up for failure. There isn’t a single software on the market that will do everything you want for it to do the exact way you want it. Even if you have a team come in and build it, it won’t be perfect, and you have to wait a long time for it to be complete.
Compatibility is Key
When evaluating software, there isn’t always a clear winner on features and price alone. You have to consider compatibility with other software used. If your company uses one software for estimating, another for accounting, and a third for designs and drawings then you want your project management software to integrate with them. You will lose hours a week getting information out of one system and inputting it into another system. Or the fields don’t match up correctly so you have to export information, clean it to be readable for the other system, and import it into the other system. That is tedious, and there are enough solutions out there the integrate to avoid this hassle.
What sort of support and training do they have?
Regardless of how easy a system looks, there will come a time when you will need support or training. Whether a new feature is launched, they update the user interface, or something isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, this is a crucial feature. If a company doesn’t offer support or offers support at a premium, it probably isn’t worth it. When something goes wrong with the system, it is convenient to have someone to call to get it fixed whether it’s on your end or their end. Great systems offer training, support, and resources to ensure you can get the most out of your system.
Evaluating Building A Solution
After evaluating available systems on the market and considering all of the important factors, you’re still interested in building your system. It’s tempting to do so, building your software means that you will have all of the features you want in the exact format you want, down to the menus. But there is a lot to consider when evaluating building that might not come to mind immediately.
Timeline and Budget
Software can take years to develop and get into the format of your dreams, and it’s expensive. Many custom firms charge by the hour and the language used. Each element of the software can cost upwards of $100 an hour, but it can again take months or years to fully develop. That’s tens of thousands of dollars in development. And they aren’t going to be able to build every feature at once, it is a slow rollout of each element. So if you need the software soon, it’s not a reasonable solution.
Evaluate your main reason behind building
You have to identify the main reason for building a software solution. If it’s perceived cost, the initial development cost is more expensive than any software on the market. And that’s just the initial development, that doesn’t include the continual costs for maintaining the system, or additional charges for upgrades, changes, and improvements. A simple daily reports app can cost tens of thousands of dollars to build and even more to maintain.
Updating and Support
Once the software is developed and handed off to you, who will maintain it and support it? Does the company offer updating and support? Does it cost extra? If something happens and the RFIs are going to the wrong table, or you can no longer export them, what happens? Who takes care of it? How is it fixed? How much does that cost you?
And software can become outdated quickly. Software created in 2009 might use outdated languages and coding methods, meaning if you want to update it in 2019 that you have to pay to redevelop the entire software because it can’t just be patched. And what happens if the firm or person you used no longer is in business? Are you going to check the documentation and review the code to make sure that a different programmer can read it and make changes? And in-house teams can be just as expensive and face the same issues if people quit or new people are hired.
So should you buy or build?
While it might seem like every software on the market won’t work, it is worth it to reach out. Many companies will work with you to find ways to make their system work. If you need a certain module they don’t have but in general prefer the software, you probably aren’t alone. And the company can use that information to improve their development processes and time tables.
In the end, it’s going to come down to your needs. While developing your software might sound great because it might offer scalability and all of the customization you want, it isn’t practical in most cases. The industry is subject to change, and a new standard might require an overhaul or the purchasing of additional software. Software companies have entire departments dedicated to developing the software and entire departments that maintain the software. They have all of the contingencies in place and backups of your data. When standards change, they can move agilely with the standards instead of needing to rehire a group or firm to make those changes. And if your custom project management system can’t keep up, your competitors will have an advantage.