is often daunting for owners when it comes to choosing the perfect construction management software for their small business. But why?
Digital technologies are an increasingly common feature of construction sites, head offices and design teams. From cutting-edge technologies like augmented reality and 3D printing to Building Information Modelling and project management software, the adoption of digital tools is on the rise everywhere.
However, to borrow a common expression: the future of construction technology is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. While some of the world’s biggest construction firms are breaking ground with advanced IT, the majority of smaller and medium-sized firms’ technology adoption lags far behind. A survey of SMEs showed that levels of digital adoption at construction businesses is below the global average.
This is a shame because, as another study of construction SMEs showed, smaller businesses have the most to gain from digital technologies. It makes them more efficient, productive and generates more profit. Those that embrace digital technology see revenues rise by, on average, 6%. So why do construction SMEs struggle with digital technologies, and how do you go about choosing construction management software for small businesses?
Obstacles for small construction business software
From our smartphones and tablets to email systems and the internet, most people today are relatively comfortable using digital technology. However, when it comes to the workplace, a large number of construction firms are still reliant on manual, paper-based approaches to project planning, site management and monitoring. So, what is hindering the take-up of construction management software for small businesses?
Lack of skills
Studies reveal that one of the biggest obstacles to using small construction business software is a lack of in-house skills. Companies that have just a handful of employees may not feel comfortable downloading, installing and operating new kinds of IT.
Another oft-cited barrier to the adoption of construction management software for small businesses is cost. With often razor-thin margins and unpredictable cash flow, smaller businesses are naturally wary of investing in new tech.
While construction firms are not inherently opposed to new technology, most have developed their own culture – their own ways of doing things – that does not rely on digital tech. Why invest in IT if the current way of doing things works?
A brief search online reveals the sheer variety of small construction business software available. With all that technology, by all those different suppliers, how do you know which one is right for you?
Researching, testing, and learning to use new technology is time-consuming. If you run a small construction business, chances are you just won’t have that much time to try out lots of different IT programmes.
These barriers are not insignificant. It is therefore unsurprising that many small and medium-sized construction businesses prefer to rely on generic IT for communication and collaboration.
Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly many benefits of using specialised construction software – from speedier communication to fewer errors, smoother collaboration to saved time and improved accuracy. So, where do you begin when choosing construction management software for small businesses?
How to choose small business software
Choosing small construction business software is an important decision and will affect how your employees and subcontractors work. You can use the following tips on selecting construction management software for small businesses as the basis for your research:
Start by considering your company’s problems
When choosing construction management software for a small business, the first and most vital step is to look at your business and its challenges. What issues do your teams face when it comes to sharing information, communicating with one another, or managing time? By analysing your issues, you can then create a list of features you would require from technology.
Example: Imagine a company that independently inspects sites for various clients. The firm realises that its current process involves a lot of driving between sites and head office to transfer information from paper notes to a central database. To address this problem, they would look for technology that allows them to instantly send information over the internet. This would eliminate both unnecessary driving and data entry.
Map technology to your problems
The next stage in choosing small construction business software is to begin mapping the technology’s features to your problems. By having a list of requirements, you will find it easier to sift through different kinds of construction management software for small businesses. If a solution doesn’t include one of our essential features, you can exclude it immediately and save time on testing.
Example: Our fictional site inspection company would create a checklist of features for software that would, among other things, allow them to take notes on a digital version of the building blueprint and send this to their central database over the internet. Any software that didn’t support this requirement would therefore be removed from the longlist.
Make the most of free trials
Most construction management software for small businesses allows you to experiment with the technology to decide if it is right for you. Once you have a shortlist of potential products, spend a few days with each programme. Use it in real, day-to-day situations to work out if it suits you.
Example: Our site inspection company might do trials with three or four kinds of construction management software for small businesses. After trying each out for a few days, they decide they feel most comfortable with one particular programme.
Start slow and low
Once you have chosen your construction software, it is generally recommended to begin using it on a small project. Involve just a handful of staff of all levels, so you can understand how each of them uses the software. This approach means you can learn more about the tool before deploying it more widely across the business. You can also spend time customising forms and reports before sharing them with other teams.
Example: The fictional site inspection company might begin using the new tool to conduct inspections on just one of the projects they are contracted to visit. Using the tool in this limited way allows them to compare it against their previous working method, and see if it is really the right solution for their needs.
PlanRadar: construction management software for your small business
PlanRadar is a construction business software that provides a wide variety of features that can support your SME. With flexible pricing packages, free subcontractor accounts and an easy-to-use mobile interface, it allows you to eliminate paperwork and improve project and site management. Used by hundreds of small, medium and large construction businesses worldwide, PlanRadar gives your company the tools to digitally transform.