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Construction Software: Why Workflow and Routing are so Important
by Pat Chappell, Principal, Softsellers, LLC

In today’s construction software market, there’s incredible functional parity among the major players. So, how do you select the best solution for your company? That’s a question I’ve been addressing with my clients for over 30 years. It should come as no surprise that good planning is the key. If you as a business owner or manager are thinking strategically you will be best served by a solution that has workflow and routing.

workflow Unfortunately, many contractor/owners still see construction management systems as something they “have to have” and don’t spend enough time understanding what’s critical to their own business and the software functions they need to make the business grow.

Most software decisions usually end in something that’s “price-based” rather than “function-based” and has as much of a chance to fail as it does to succeed. In fact, I would estimate that at least 60% of the hundreds of systems I’ve replaced during my career suffer from these misplaced system change priorities.

A much smaller percentage of contractors do invest the time and resources to understand their strategic goals and look for software tools to strategically assist them:

  • Find profitable work.
  • Execute that work profitably.
  • Minimize Job & Corporate Risk.
  • Maintain/reduce the number of non-job (production) related Full Time Employees.
  • Maintain/reduce infrastructure and IT costs.

If these functions are part of your goal, then the search for a new construction management solution should include tools to address these issues while reinforcing your own internal best practices and workflows. Correctly implemented, these tools will automatically allow the system to manage the majority of the work that complies with your rules and pinpoints the issues that need your attention.

What things should you look for in a construction software vendor/partner that will help you make the best choice? You will be best served by a solution that has workflow and routing. Let’s take a look at a few examples for each of the tasks above:

Finding profitable work

During the preconstruction stage, prequalification activities can be managed and executed. When ready to solicit bids, Bid Requests need to go to specific sets of supplies or subcontractors. The proper routing and workflow will ensure that all your bidding partners receive what they need to effectively respond to your bid.

Profitably executing the work

Managing the RFI/Change Order/Correspondence/Job Meeting Status process can be a real challenge. However, with the proper routing of documents and notification of missed due dates, etc., significantly reduces the chance for error. In fact, properly managing the Change Order process alone can mean additional dollars that flow to the project and the corporate bottom line.

Minimizing job & corporate risk

Capabilities for things like approval routing embedded in specific modules like Payroll or Accounts Payable is a must. This functionality handles the basics like approval amounts, routing order and exceptions the Payroll Administrator is on vacation and someone else needs to approve to get the checks out). To a greater degree, these capabilities can reduce your risk by insuring compliance for subcontractors (through prequalification/post selection tracking) and employees (safety, qualifications, drug testing, etc.) alike.

Maintaining/reducing Full Time Employees and infrastructure costs

Through the automation of your best practice workflows (allowing the system to manage 80% of the work that falls within your guidelines existing personnel can do other work that makes the company money (or reduces the need to add staff or other systems).

In the examples above, workflow and routing is embedded in each individual construction software module. Several construction management solutions provide workflow and routing that enables the user to create custom rules, workflows and routing that exist outside of (but can include) multiple modules or applications. This powerful capability extends the ability to further automate the management by exception process.

So, as someone once said, “plan your work and work your plan!” Use the same fundamentals you’d use to build a building in your own evaluation process. Then, apply that plan to find the vendor/partner that offers the automated tools and workflows that will promote and grow your business.

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