The construction industry is going all in on digital technology, and fast. If you haven’t made the investment in software for your estimating and pre-construction management processes, it’s time you did-- but first, make sure you know what you’re buying. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what makes some construction-specific software better than the rest. You’ll learn what to look for—and what to avoid—before you invest in future-forward technology.
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It pays to ask if the estimating software you’re considering is designed as an in-house desktop solution or is “in the cloud.” For obvious reasons, desktop systems have serious limitations when it comes to access and availability, and security can be a concern, too. Cloud-based online solutions, on the other hand, offer far more power and flexibility, giving users the ability to work remotely—and simultaneously—on budgets, takeoffs and reports. Cloud-based estimating software is intrinsically scalable, too. If your company experiences sudden growth (or needs to scale back), there’s no need to modify equipment, storage or infrastructure. Plus, it’s nice to know that a cloud platform offers multiple layers of data privacy and security protocols, so your data remains confidential and secure.
If you’re in the market for estimating software, you may already know that training on your new system is an important part of what you’re buying—and that what you may get for your money can differ from product to product. Some providers set a “live” training limit of just a few hours, and make you pay for more. Others may only offer pre-packaged training in the form of videos and written manuals, so you’re virtually on your own. Instead, look for a true technology partner committed to giving you all the time you need to understand and master the software you’re considering. A mix of one-on-one training sessions, live Q&As and feature-specific walk throughs, followed by periodic check-ins to confirm your progress, is the way to go.
If you’re running a construction business, you’re no doubt already using some kind of software for accounting, project management and other business needs— so it makes sense to connect those programs to your estimating solution. That’s where integration comes in: when your estimating data flows seamlessly to other business programs, you can save hours –even days—of tedious data re-entry once jobs are awarded. Just as important, by integrating multiple software solutions, you can be sure that the data being transferred is complete and error-free, a reliable “single source of truth” used by all of your teams throughout the project lifecycle. Unconnected programs can mean data silos, process bottlenecks and project delays while integration offers an uninterrupted flow of information from one system to another.
When considering estimating software, pricing is usually at the top of the list, and for good reason. After all, even the best solution isn’t worth much to your company if you don’t have the budget to pay for it. But price and value can be two different things, and bottom-line cost has a lot to do with how your company operates, your current estimating volume and the potential for future growth. A cloud-based estimating platform, for example, may offer “per seat” pricing that could prove costly if you have plans to expand; the better choice is an unlimited pricing model at a fixed annual cost. That way, you can accommodate more users—who produce more estimates—for the same price, with greater business value as a result .
Once you start using your new estimating solution, it’s inevitable that you’ll have technical questions, experience a temporary glitch or need help with your account. That’s why it’s best to explore what kind of support is available (and how much) before you commit to your technology provider. Make sure you understand ahead of time how support can be accessed—by phone, chat or email request— and if there are limits to how often it can be used. For example, a dedicated Account Manager who knows the product and has a solid understanding of your business can help resolve issues and find ways to optimize your investment, so be sure that he or she is part of the package.