Construction Project
Management Software
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:

Key Findings:

  1. Construction project management software produces superior outcomes. Participants who used software designed specifically for the construction industry were more satisfied with their system and delivered more projects on time and on budget than any other segment of software users.
  3. Survey participants are embracing Cloud-based software. A majority of participants relied on Cloud-based software to manage their projects. This indicates that construction project managers are open to using software that is maintained and hosted off-site by vendors.
  5. Preconstruction planning is a top challenge and top priority for 2013. When asked about top challenges to effective project management, participants cited issues with construction plans (e.g., working from incomplete plans) as a chief obstacle. And they consistently highlighted improving the estimating and takeoff process as a key priority for 2013.

Project Management Software Adoption

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:

  • Specialized: Project management software designed specifically for the construction industry.
  • Generic: Software designed to handle general project management needs.
  • Homegrown: Custom software built from the ground up for the survey participant.
  • Manual: No software; projects are managed using email, fax, phone or other manual means.

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.

What Type of Software Do You Use?

The results of our follow-up questionwhether their system is working for themclearly 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.

Does Your Project Management System Meet Your 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.

Do You Use On-Premise or Cloud-Based Software?

Project Delivery Success Rates

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.

How Often Do You Complete Projects Under Budget?

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.

How Often Do You Complete Projects Ahead of Schedule?

Obstacles to Effective Project Management

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.

How Often Do You Encounter the Following Obstacles
to Delivering a Project On Budget?

Common Reasons Construction Projects Go Over Budget

We also asked participants about obstacles to completing projects on time. The two primary causes of project delays involved changing projects planschange 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).

How Often Do You Encounter the Following Obstacles
to Delivering a Project On Schedule?

Common Reasons Construction Projects Get Behind Schedule

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.

How Often Do You Encounter These Project Management Challenges?

Top Project Management Challenges

Satisfaction with Project Management Systems

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.

How Well Does Your System Deliver the Following Benefits?

Top Project Management Software Benefits

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).

How Satisfied Are You With These Features in Your System?

Top Project Management Software Features

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.

How Satisfied Are You With These Vendor Services?

Top Project Management Vendor Services

Project Management Priorities in 2013 and Beyond

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:

  1. Create more accurate, detailed bids by improving the estimating process.
  2. Standardize project management processes and documentation.
  3. Get all project team members to use the same project management system.
  4. Improve cost control and job costing to help project stay within budget.

Participant Demographics

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.

  • What Is Your Industry/Trade?

  • What Types of Projects Do You Work On?

  • What Are Your Company’s Annual Revenues?

  • What Is the Average Size of Your Projects?

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