Essential Construction Management Features for General Contractors

By: on January 17, 2019

Choosing the right construction management tool can be daunting because of the sheer number of features and applications offered in these tools. The industry you serve matters as well.

For example, the ideal software for specialty contractors (fishing contractors, utility contractors or heavy/highway contractors) may not be right for general contractors. That’s because the latter handle different types of projects and have different integration requirements.

Heavy/highway contractors usually need specialized “heavy” accounting features and scale integrations. On the other hand, general contractors need project management features and integration with bid management systems to manage subcontractor bids.

It’s crucial that you analyze your needs and match each requirement to a relevant feature. This will avoid wasting money and time on construction project management software that isn’t a good fit.

In this report, we’ll help you identify the most essential features of construction project management software for your business. Review the most common features offered by top performing construction PM systems in FrontRunners for Construction Project Management, 2018. We qualified the features further by analyzing our technology needs cycle report for small general contractors and our construction industry trends report.

Finally, we grouped the features of construction project management software for general contractors into two buckets:

  • Essential construction project management features for all general contractors: These are key and indispensable functionalities that all general contractors must look for.
  • Essential construction project management features for midsize to large general contractors: These functionalities become important based on the specific needs of your projects. It’s good to have at least one of these features in the solution.

Here’s a graphical representation of all the important construction project management software features:

Essential construction management software features

Read on for a deeper dive into these key features.

Essential Construction Project Management Features for All General Contractors

For general contractors, essential-for-all features are those features that are vital to improving project operations. These operations are primarily post-sales activities such as consolidating information (managing updated versions of blueprints), improving the transparency of project schedules and centrally tracking the work of teams.

These features allow general contractors to deliver on time and within the estimated budgets, create centralized repositories of project-related documents and view project progress of each day.

Let’s look at these features in detail:

Project Scheduling

This feature is all about managing and planning resources (labor, materials and equipment) needed to complete a project. General contractors use it to break a project down into specific tasks and estimate the amount of time needed to complete these tasks based on the available resources.

Buildertrend project scheduling dashboard (Source)

Business value to all general contractors: Project scheduling includes tools such as Gantt charts, which help general contractors outline the project’s critical path and quickly identify task interdependencies and project constraints.

Our recommendation: The depth of project scheduling functionality that your business needs will depend on the complexity and size of your projects. Some tools may allow you to extensively plan projects and create sophisticated schedule performance index calculations and earned value analysis.

But, for small general contractors, project scheduling can be as simple as planning team tasks using a calendar. Research the capability before purchasing a solution, so that you only pay for the functionalities that you’ll actually use.

Project Tracking

General contractors use project tracking features to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. This feature lets you set milestones and task deadlines using visual dashboards. You can track project progress on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

A single, centralized dashboard helps you and your team stay on the same page. View information such as assigned tasks, completed/pending work, document updates and any changes to schedules.

Project tracking dashboard in Redteam (Source)

Business value to all general contractors: Project tracking combines many capabilities such as project status reporting, task management and daily work journals. It helps general contractors efficiently track team performance and identify issues that could cause project delays.

Our recommendation: Project tracking is one of the top applications that general contractors seek in construction project management software. This functionality helps you improve management of the post-contract processes, i.e., organizing the tasks of employees, maintaining daily logs and tracking reports.

If you’re a contractor looking to manage precontruction activities, then this isn’t the feature you’re looking for. Instead, you need project cost estimation solutions. Read our buyer’s guide on construction estimating software for more information.

Document Management

Document management is the process of recording and centralizing project information. It lets you store all types of document such as request for information (RFI) forms, drawings and meeting minutes in a central location.

This feature lets you control permission settings and manage approval workflows for change orders. This helps reduce project delays that could result from disparate teams controlling different parts of the information.

Document centralization in Jonas Enterprise (Source)

Business value to all general contractors: Document management is vital to reducing errors that result from misplaced documents. It also manages compliance by keeping documents handy for audit trails.

Our recommendation: This feature is essential for general contractors that manage projects involving multiple teams where there’s a high risk of information being siloed.

Our research shows that growing businesses (general contractors with an annual business revenue between $5 million and $25 million) need document control. If you fall into this category, look for this feature in your shortlisted solutions.

The essential-for-all features we discuss above are the features that all general contractors should look for in construction project management solutions. These features help you standardize the project management process and make it more efficient.

Essential Construction Project Management Features for Midsize to Large General Contractors

Some general contractors may need additional features to the essential ones. For instance, job costing is a top-requested feature by general contractors in our buyer’s report. On the other hand, midsize and large general contractors typically look for integration with bid management solutions in construction management software.

Here are three essential-for-some features that you should evaluate when comparing construction project management solutions:

Job Costing

This functionality helps general contractors estimate total project expenses, track actual costs, create purchase orders and more. It lets you calculate and visualize the project budget with the help of estimating tools and dashboards.

Project finances in Sage 300 (Source)

Business value to midsize and large general contractors: One thing to remember about budgeting and job costing is that it’s a basic accounting functionality. You can calculate and compare actual and estimated project costs. You can also import or export data to your accounting solution using third-party integrations—but that’s about it.

For detailed and project-specific accounting, such as managing payroll and tracking cost per equipment, general contractors should go for specialized construction estimating software.

Timesheet Tracking

This feature helps you manage and track the time spent on a project by employees. It provides a historical record of the actual time employees spend on a job site and even drills down into the number of breaks or overtime hours.

Use the time entries to automatically create billable hours reports, which can be used as an estimate metric to prepare job-costing reports for future projects.

Timecard in Esub (Source)

Business value to midsize and large general contractors: General contractors with annual revenue of $25 million to $50 million typically need automated time reporting and approval workflows to manage employees at a large job site.

This feature helps general contractors manage multiple projects by eliminating the burden of manually tracking time. Timesheet records can help you gauge employee performance and prevent time theft. The records will also act as compliance records to prevent FLSA class actions, arising from employee time-wage disputes.

Bid Management

Big management tools are integrations to construction project management software. They help general contractors update and manage information about subcontractors and their bids. It’s a central place to locate and track the status of subcontractor bids that are in the prequalification stage, review stage or have been awarded.

Bid management solutions also let you ask questions or reply to subcontractors, view their project documents and track compliance.

Project bidding in CoConstruct (Source)

Business value to midsize and large general contractors: General contractors whose annual business revenue exceeds $25 million will most likely need the bid management functionality. As the business grows, so does the need to efficiently manage subcontractors.

With a more efficient bid management process, you can perform several related tasks in one place. For instance, review documents (insurance, financial status etc.) sent by subcontractors during prequalification stages, compare different bids on a dashboard and store all communication in a central location during the bid negotiation process.

The size of your business and nature of your projects will determine whether you need the essential-for-some features listed above. Do note that these features help general contractors in many ways such as managing compliance, making better project estimates and handling subcontractors.

What Solution Do I Choose?

This report analyzes the key features of construction project management software and their benefits for general contractors. These essential features vary based on the type of contractor you are—specialty, electrical, residential remodeling or home building.

It’s vital to understand that the right software for your business depends on your budget and business size. To learn more about specialized construction project management software and understand whether it meets your needs, call us at (844) 847-3290 for a free and no obligations consultation with a software advisor.

You can also download a checklist of the above mentioned features to understand and compare different construction project management software vendors.

Important: How to use this checklist

  1. Download the checklist to calculate the score of a particular tool on the above essential features.
  2. Add a “Yes” or “No” for each of the features on the list to indicate whether the tool offers that feature or not.
  3. Add details about the feature in the “Comments” section, such as “only offered as a third-party integration.”
  4. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 to rank similar tools based on their essential features score.

Pro tip: For help on using this checklist or quickly evaluating different vendors, you can also call us at (844) 847-3290 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

Additional Resources

To help you understand the construction project management software market better, we’ve created buyer’s guides for the market and other related software categories. Here’s where you can start to know more about this software:

By Application:

By Industry:

Note: The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. The applications selected are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.

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