It might be obvious to you that your construction company needs a new project management solution. The challenge lies in convincing higher-ups that’s indeed the case.
To get buy-in from executives, you have to demonstrate how new software will improve the company’s bottom line and overall operations by answering four key questions:
- What is the problem or issue this software will solve?
- What is the best software for solving this issue?
- What is the total cost of the investment?
- How soon will you see a return on investment (ROI)?
In this article, we’ll break down each of these questions and provide tips on how to answer them so you can convince your boss to invest in new construction project management software this year.
NOTE: We also include a “quick and dirty” checklist of dos and don’ts at the bottom of this article that you can download for reference.
What is the problem or issue this software will solve?
It would be easy to answer this question with a laundry list of complaints about how your current system isn’t working. For example, if you’re using manual methods for construction project management, inefficiency could be causing delays, inaccuracies or perhaps communication issues.
However, specific examples are more persuasive. Point to times when the lack of software actually cost your company money, or came close to doing so.
- You lost, or nearly lost a bid because your estimating process was delayed.
- You missed out on business from a repeat customer because of scheduling errors.
- A project ran over time and budget due to poor communication between staff.
2. What is the best software for solving this issue?
To answer this question, some research is required. There are hundreds of construction project management solutions on the market. The challenge is narrowing the field down to a shortlist of products that have the highest potential to solve your issues.
Three to five different options is a good range to present. Suggesting only one or two solutions is limiting, and more than five can become unwieldy.
When reviewing products, it’s also important to remember that software that might work best for your company may not be what works for another.
Here are two scenarios to explain:
Example 1: From two out-of-date programs to one comprehensive system
We spoke to Megan (last name withheld), accounts payable manager at a small general contracting firm in Austin, Texas.
“Our previous software was out-of-date and we were using two platforms that only shared information in one direction, so any errors on one side caused problems on the other side,” she says.
For Megan’s company, the answer was selecting a single, comprehensive product with updated functionality which, she explains, includes a “payroll module, is user-friendly, reliable and has flexible reporting, emailing capabilities and a field module for employees on job sites.”
Example 2: From one slow program to two integrated, customized platforms
Frank Eichelberger, president of Lobar, Inc., a general contractor based in Dillsburg, PA, had the opposite problem. When Eichelberger and his associates decided to upgrade, they were using one system with integrated accounting, estimating and construction management.
“We were forced to change from the standpoint that we had a totally integrated system to begin with, and it was slowing the whole system down drastically. We had to pull the construction management portion out to make accounting and estimating work.”
Frank Eichelberger, president for Lobar, Inc.
3. What is the total cost of the investment?
Calculating costs means gathering bids from software vendors, but that’s not the whole story. There could be equipment costs, such as new laptops or tablets, as well as installation and data migration costs that impact the total cost of ownership (TCO).
Time for training employees also means time spent away from regular work. And if you have a full-time IT director, helping the team ramp up during the implementation might monopolize their time.
If there is no “out of the box” solution that fits your requirements, you might have to spend extra time and money customizing a product.
Eichelberger says that when Lobar moved their business to a different platform, the one that worked best didn’t integrate with their accounting and estimating programs, so they hired a third party to make it work.
4. How soon will you see a return on investment (ROI)?
You need to prove an investment in new software is worth it, which means showing execs how quickly a new solution will improve the company’s bottom line.
To do this, outline the expected benefits, cost savings and expenses alongside a realistic timeline. The sooner the benefits and savings outweigh the expenses, the greater the ROI.
A major concern with new software is the learning curve. The steeper the curve, the higher the cost, and subsequently, the slower the ROI. Estimate how long it will take to train employees and the resources needed to bring everyone up to speed.
Megan and Eichelberger both say the training sessions provided by the vendor were only the beginning. Megan says her company had “decent training … but the employees would forget things immediately, so we ended up having more than one training session on the same items.”
Eichelberger agrees that the “canned training” is not always retained. His staff learned the most by spending time working directly in the software to gain experience. They eventually created their own training documentation, which is now used by new hires.
Keep in mind that you and your bosses have the same goal: to create a successful, profitable business.
As you make your business case for new construction management software, keep the following “do’s” and “don’ts” in mind: