UserView | 2013
For the last two months we’ve surveyed the construction industry to create our 2013 Construction Project Management Software UserView. While there were several important findings from our survey, I’d like to highlight three key takeaways:
We first wanted to know about software adoption and effectiveness in the construction industry. We asked participants to define their project management system as one of four types:
Given the difficulty of managing the high volumes of project documents and complex schedules of modern construction projects, we weren’t surprised to learn that 94 percent of survey participants relied on some kind of software to manage their projects. Out of all participants, 61 percent used a specialized system, 25 percent used generic software and only 8 percent used homegrown software.
The results of our follow-up question—whether their system is working for them—clearly indicate that generic project management systems are difficult to adapt to construction processes, with only 18 percent of users reporting that these systems met their needs. In contrast, 72 percent of specialized software users reported that their system met their needs.
Our results also indicate that construction project managers are comfortable with Cloud-based systems, as 57 percent of participants access their application over the Web. Our own experience in talking to construction professionals at Software Advice is that there’s been a dramatic shift to Cloud-based systems in the last two years. This survey confirms that trend.
Participants using specialized software led the way in project delivery with 29 percent reporting that they deliver projects under budget almost all of the time. For homegrown software users, that figure falls to just six percent.
However, our results indicate that participants had more difficulty completing projects ahead of the project schedule. Participants who used homegrown software reported the best outcomes here, but with only 18 percent reporting that they complete projects ahead of schedule nearly all the time.
Also noteworthy is that no manual users reported finishing projects ahead of schedule almost all the time. This might be a symptom of the delayed communication that can result from relying primarily on phone, email and fax to communicate important project details.
To gauge what gets in the way of effective project management, we presented participants with a list of commonly cited construction obstacles and asked them to rate the prevalence of each. The charts below are ranked from the highest to lowest percentage of participants identifying the obstacle as one they encounter.
The leading obstacles to delivering projects within budget were starting from inaccurate initial project estimates (i.e., the estimator bidding too low on the project) and working from incomplete plans. This reinforces the importance of the pre-construction phase (i.e., the takeoff, estimating and bidding processes) and demonstrates how critical creating complete and accurate bids is to staying within budget.
We also asked participants about obstacles to completing projects on time. The two primary causes of project delays involved changing projects plans—change orders altering plans and scope creep. This again points to the importance of getting everyone on the same page before construction begins. Trailing just behind these two obstacles was unforeseen site conditions (e.g., cracks in the foundation).
Finally, we wanted to know about general project management challenges. The top challenge in managing projects effectively was getting everyone on the team to use the same project management system, indicated below as “software adoption.” Just behind that obstacle was standardizing project documentation so that project information is accessible to everyone on the team.
Similar to our section on challenges, we presented participants with commonly-cited project management software benefits and asked them to rate the benefits of their system.
The chart below ranks system benefits from highest to lowest percentage of project managers who say they have realized each software benefit. Standardizing project management processes, improving access to documents and enhanced collaboration led the way as the top benefits of project management software.
We also wanted to know how satisfied users are with software functionality and software vendor services.
From a functionality standpoint, survey participants showed the highest satisfaction with how their systems tracked and managed project documents (e.g., RFI tracking and submittal management).
Participants indicated they are least satisfied with their systems’ job costing and resource management features. Strengthening these features would help with budget tracking and could lead to delivering more projects within budget.
On the services front, participants were most satisfied with the email and phone support and training services provided by their vendors. But survey participants indicated that they were least satisfied with product enhancement updates, software version upgrades and user conferences.
At the end our survey, we gave participants the opportunity to tell us about their top project management priorities in 2013. Naturally, improving company profitability and getting more work were cited frequently. However, four common themes arose that aligned nicely with the top challenges participants cited earlier in our survey:
We heard from 230 construction professionals who represent a diverse cross-section of company sizes, industries and trades and types of projects. Below is a breakdown of our survey participant demographics.