What is General Contractor Software?
Software for general contractors is designed to meet the demands of their unique workflow and business processes. General contractors have many roles and often oversee all phases of a building project from pre-construction to ongoing maintenance and repairs after completion. They need a system to support them through the entire contracting process and at the same time help manage their business.
We’ve written this guide to help you navigate the vendor landscape and find the best contractor software. We identify the most common features among applications in this market, as well as other considerations buyers should make suring the evaluation process.
General Contractor-specific Features
Contractors need most of the standard features that come with construction management software, but as you’re looking there are a few features for general contractors to consider:
|Job Costing & Invoicing||A critical feature of a contractor programs is job costing data to improve estimating and billing efficiency and accuracy. Generic contractor accounting software systems won’t have anywhere near the same level of functionality, since they’re not usually designed to manage multiple expense streams tied to a single (large) revenue source on a project-by-project basis.|
|Link to Vendors & Subcontractors||A robust construction accounting and ordering program will link directly into vendor and/or subcontractor purchasing and pricing information, which makes it easier to order supplies and schedule subcontractors.|
|Advanced Project Management & Scheduling||Critical path method is a project management algorithm that’s specifically designed to solve the kinds of scheduling challenges faced by a general contractor: performing hundreds of different tasks that each depend on another’s (but not every other’s) completion. A good construction contracting program will incorporate this type of algorithm (though it may not necessarily be called that) to maximize project efficiency and ensure on-time delivery.|
Evaluating General Contractor Systems
When choosing general contracting software, it's important to narrow down your needs. Many organizations need contractor business software as a stand-alone project management system to track key documents. Others will need integrated construction project scheduling, accounting and job costing or bid management.
There are dozens of top-rated software for contractors, and each varies tremendously in price, features, and target company size. When selecting your system, ask the following questions:
- What features are you looking for? A fully integrated suite is a very different product than a best-of-breed estimating and takeoff system.
- What size is your company? Since most construction programs are geared toward companies of a very specific size-range, this should be one of the first questions to ask before delving too deep into the features.
- Does the system integrate with your existing accounting, CRM, ordering, estimating, or other systems?
Conversations in the Market
The following topics have been part of recent discussions in the market:
- Mobile applications.The industry is catching on to the benefits of web-enabled systems, and leading vendors are taking their solutions to the cloud. Some are pushing their web-based solutions even further with mobile contractor software for Mac and tablet devices. In 2009, PENTA released PENTA Mobile Field Service, a mobile app designed for contractors in the mechanical and electrical construction field. General contractors can use the tool to monitor job status, assignments, equipment and more. In February 2012, Sage Timberline launched another personal assistant tool, called Sage Timberline Office MyAssistant. The app monitors critical project information and delivers notifications related to automated tasks, alerts, compliance and profits.
- Electronic document management. Systems for storing, organizing and managing paperwork within the industry is another frequented discussion topic. In February 2012, Construction Executive magazine released a report citing the cost of using paper-based documents is 13 to 31 times the initial price of the paper alone when accounting for ink and printing costs. By implementing electronic document management systems in the cloud, contractors can reduce cost and waste, and access any electronic project-related document from any device with an Internet connection.