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Software Choices, When Less is More
by Sheldon Needle, CEO/Founder of

A well-known axiom in the construction software industry is that users often only utilize a small percentage of software capabilities. Other issues aside, you are much better off utilizing software that only has a limited number of features as long as it does the ones you need well. In other words, using 80% of a system that only does 100 things is far better than using 20% of a system that does 300 things.

software choices Unfortunately buyers often get suckered into thinking they need more than they can really handle when vendors show off all their slick features on demos. That’s to be expected but does it make sense for a user to make a choice on those pop and sizzle items or do they need to think a little more about what’s really important to them?

An example might be seeing fancy workflow functions for project management when that is not a particular concern for the contractor.

Cost of ownership issues:

Complex software requires more training and more training means greater implementation costs. More complex systems require more competent employees so there is greater payroll expense. When there is staff turnover, you will need to spend more on training new employees. When there are new releases, chances are greater there will be more bugs and a break in period.

More applications mean more points of integration. Let’s say you are a medium to large sized contractor and have a need for integrated estimating, project management, CRM, human resources and bid management. Indeed having a system with all these functions integrated is a great concept. Unfortunately, in many cases, the promise exceeds the results. This is because the software vendor rarely covers all these applications and if they offer or claim to offer them, with some custom interfaces or 3rd party products, you are going to be responsible to make sure the integration points are appropriate to your business and that they work as advertised.

For example, some users may think tracking prospects with CRM and having it integrate with their construction system would really be cool. But think about it. How big a deal is it to enter a prospect who turns into a customer to the job record? CRM is valuable when you are doing extensive sales pipeline analysis or have continuous contacts and transactions going back and forth between the main system and CRM. This is just not something that contractors often do.

Human resource accounting is another example. A true HR system is going to add considerable cost to a system and only very large contractors can justify the expense and complexities of managing a full blown HR application.


There are many potential applications a contractor may need including: estimating, job cost, document management, scheduling, purchasing, inventory control, payroll fixed assets, equipment and HR. Knowing precisely which are most important to your organization and how and when data is moved between each application is essential to both successful software selection as well as minimizing long term costs of ownership.

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