A Deep Dive Into Why Software Can Enhance Every Stage of Construction
Software will help your construction firm make sure that each stage of the construction process goes smoothly, is completed on time, and ultimately contributes to the overall success of the project. Depending on your business and its needs, this might mean adopting one kind of software or multiple to create your own ideal software stack.
If you're a construction professional who wants to know how to run your firm more efficiently, then you’ve come to the right place: The benefits that software can offer throughout all six phases of construction will make you more competitive in the market.
We'll also include insights from Whitney Hill, co-founder and CEO of SnapADU, a small to midsize construction company, to show you how real leaders in the construction industry use software to maximize their business’s potential.
Meet Whitney Hill, the CEO of SnapADU
Whitney Hill considers adopting software a game changer for SnapADU, which specializes in the design and build of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Its team consists of 15 dedicated employees, who drive $15 million in annual revenue. Even though their team is small, Hill says their productivity and quality of work can rival much larger companies, "thanks in part to the power of technology and software."
co-founder and CEO of SnapADU
What are the 6 stages of construction (and how can software enhance them)?
The construction process can be broken down into six stages that work together to result in a successful project. Software can help your construction operations stay competitive by supporting and enhancing each of these phases.
By investing in software, you can streamline your business's processes, improve efficiency, and deliver better service to your clients.
Stage 1: Align on project conception, design, and planning
In the beginning stage, you’re building a relationship with the client, listening to their ideas and vision, and then helping them evolve their concept into an actionable construction plan.
This stage may be a mix of free consultation and paid design work, depending on how your firm handles these preliminary steps. It's critical to build trust and confidence with the client so they choose you over your competitors, which you can easily do by showing that you understand their vision for the project and are on the same page with them.
Different tools in your software stack can help with this.
CRM software can help you manage communications with potential clients and conceptualize new projects. For example, Hill says their CRM platform helps them manage an average of five new leads a day and keep track of where they are in the sales funnel. Their platform automates sequences of emails and calls that need to take place based on where they are in the process.
Managing a sales pipeline in Pipedrive (Source)
Construction software can also enhance this stage by making it easier to create a detailed site plan, mapping out constraints, potential setbacks, existing conditions, floor plans, elevations, and templated contracts. This can help you present a realistic budget to clients.
Stage 2: Simplify acquiring building permits
Next up is the legal and bureaucratic process of getting building permits. In this stage of the construction process, you must navigate local laws and make sure your project complies with state regulations.
This will make it smoother to get the permits you’ll need to begin construction and will require localized knowledge.
Depending on the requirements in your area, acquiring building permits can prove to be a tricky process. This process can be challenging not only because of the bureaucratic intricacies of obtaining various permits and permissions, but also because it can be easy to forget when to follow up.
Construction project management software can keep track of each submission's status, set up alerts for when it's time to follow up, and assign tasks to make sure nothing goes overlooked.
Scheduling, assigning tasks, and setting reminders in Jobber (Source)
For Hill, this kind of software functionality not only makes this stage simpler but also more efficient overall.
"Not only does the software allow us to track the submission process, but it also facilitates faster mobilization of our team to address any requested changes," Hill says.
For example, if a city follows up with a requirement to revise a plan, you can assign the task to the relevant team member or subcontractor within the system, reducing the risk of an important task slipping under the radar.
Stage 3: Coordinate clients and vendors in the pre-construction phase
In the pre-construction phase of the construction process, you're coordinating with clients, utility companies, contractors, and other vendors and stakeholders involved in the project.
You're also finalizing the design and blueprints with the client and getting them to sign-off before construction begins.
Software can play a critical role in this stage in both the coordination with utility companies and vendors as well as collaborating with clients. To coordinate with vendors, you can use construction project management software to schedule work orders, track their status, and make sure that the timeline for utilities and groundwork is synced up with the larger project schedule.
You can also use construction software to keep track of materials and costs, get client sign-offs, and facilitate client involvement, such as making decisions regarding material selection.
At SnapADU, for example, Hill and her team experiment with other features construction software may offer. To accommodate clients who prefer to keep communications virtual, SnapADU has started experimenting with 3D visualizations to give clients an immersive experience.
3D visualization using Revit (Source)
"This feature provides a clear visual of what the final product would look like, ensuring that our clients are completely satisfied with their choices," Hill says. "Of course, we also provide the option for clients to make their selections in person if they prefer."
Regardless of whether your clients choose to make decisions virtually or in-person, you can also store all of their decisions in your project management software for future reference.
Stage 4: Automate and track the procurement process
In the procurement stage, the project team finds and obtains the equipment, labor, and materials needed to complete the project. As a general rule of thumb, the more complex and sizable the project, the more complex the procurement process.
For Hill and her team, efficiency, accuracy, and transparency are three aspects of their service they want to offer clients. This is especially true in the procurement stage, where material availability and fluctuating costs could affect the overall budget.
If you aim to offer the same to clients, construction software can help facilitate material selection and procurement with clients by storing materials costs.
Materials selection portal in BuildTools (Source)
With construction software, you can also create templates for purchase orders (POs), which not only makes the setup process more efficient but also ensures consistency across all projects.
"Through the software, we can track the status of each PO," Hill says. "We can instantly see which POs have been accepted by vendors and which ones need more attention due to pricing discrepancies or other issues."
In this stage of the construction process, software can help you facilitate material selection, manage payment schedules, collect required lien waivers from subcontractors, track price changes, and analyze data that may inform future decisions.
Stage 5: Monitor construction
Once the plan is finalized and your permits and paperwork are all in order, you can break ground and begin the construction process.
In this process, stakeholders must work together to ensure contract details are upheld, delays are avoided or minimized, jobsite safety and health of workers are prioritized, challenges are communicated and overcome, and the overall quality of work is high.
You can deliver a great client experience by continuing to be efficient, accurate, and transparent as issues arise (and they inevitably will arise).
Construction management software facilitates issue tracking, making it easy to document issues, assign responsibility, and track how the issue is being resolved.
Daily logs on Buildertrend (Source)
On your construction platform, you can provide clients with a log of what's happening on the jobsite on a daily basis.
"It's like a virtual window into the worksite," Hill says.
This software can make it possible to notify specific subcontractors when they're needed on the job site, which minimizes scheduling conflicts.
Stage 6: Maintain post-construction processes and relationships
Just because construction itself is over, doesn't mean your relationship with the client should end too. After construction, follow-up with clients about their warranty and to check-in to see how they’re enjoying the finished product.
In the post-construction phase, construction software can make it easier for your business to manage relationships with past clients by helping you manage warranty follow-ups and schedule reminders for regular check-ins with clients.
It can also help you centralize and securely store important documents, such as warranty information, product specifications, and other relevant documents.
Client portal in Contractor Foreman (Source)
Once of Hill's favorite parts about this is that clients can access this information too.
"It's like a personalized project archive for each client," she says.
Benefits of using software in construction planning
When calculating the return on investment (ROI) of your construction planning software, consider the benefits it offers both internal operations to client-facing processes and service delivery.
Hill, for example, looks to team productivity, sales process efficiency, client feedback, and online visibility. Here are five benefits Hill and her team noticed after adopting software in every stage of the construction process.
1. Increased capacity, same team size
Using software can help your small team achieve greater results. Three years ago, before SnapADU adopted construction project management software, its team of five managed five to six projects a year. Now, its team of 15 oversees 40 to 50 projects a year.
"This sharp increase in project volume without a proportional increase in team size demonstrates the effectiveness of our software tools in streamlining our project management," Hill says.
2. Greater sales process efficiency
By investing in software, you are investing in your business's ability to gain more leads and revenue. After adopting a CRM platform, Hill says they now support 50% more leads and require less time to process them compared to before using software.
"This improvement isn't just about time savings; it's also about the quality of our sales process," Hill says. "We're seeing a higher conversion rate of leads into discovery calls, giving us more opportunities to present proposals to potential clients."
3. Improved client communication
Before adopting new software, listen to your clients. What feedback do they have for your construction firm? Keep what they say in mind while looking for new software to make sure your new platform will also meet customer expectations.
Before implementing software, Hill recalls often receiving complaints from clients about inconsistent communication. She and her team took these complaints seriously, and she says that software helped tremendously.
"Now, we're consistently hearing clients commend us for our reliable and consistent communication, a testament to the software's effectiveness in organizing and facilitating interactions," she says.
4. More client reviews and testimonials
For every business, reviews are your best friend. When your construction firm collects positive reviews online, potential clients see you as a trustworthy partner.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of SnapADU's leads are from Google organic search, and Hill says their positive reviews on Google and third-party review platforms have boosted their visibility on Google.
"Seeing this number grow has confirmed that our commitment to streamlined, software-enhanced service delivery is being recognized and appreciated by our clients," Hill says.
5. Greater ability to manage variances
Variances are the differences between estimated costs and actual costs, which can lead to higher costs than were projected in the planning stages.
Unfortunately, it's not possible to eliminate them entirely, but software can help minimize them.
With their project management software, Hill says they've been able to reduce their overall variance to 8% and set a target for future growth.
"We can analyze why variances happened and take immediate corrective action when necessary, plus make broader refinement of our estimating process," Hill says.
Overcoming challenges to construction software adoption
Construction software offers many advantages to your business, but like when implementing any new tool, there may be challenges. Fortunately, these challenges can be resolved.
Here are some things you may face when adopting construction software for the very first time or replacing an older platform and how to overcome them.
Resistance to change
Successfully adopting a new tool requires employees to be willing to change the way they’ve done things for years. Resistance to change was the most common challenge SnapADU faced.
To overcome this, management emphasized the long-term benefits of the new system.
"We painted a clear picture of how it would streamline our processes and ultimately make everyone's job easier," Hill says. "Additionally, we demonstrated quick wins in a few areas to build confidence and trust in the new system."
Adopting a new system can feel overwhelming to employees. Hill describes the beginning steps of implementing new software like "building a rocket launcher for a paper plane." Or, in other words, the new software felt too big for their business and the features felt excessive.
Your team might feel similarly, but this feeling will likely subside after you get the training you need and get past the learning curve.
Client and vendor adoption
Your clients and vendors will need to get onboarded to the new system too, and they may have varying comfort levels with technology.
For this, it may not be possible to get everyone to the same level. Hill and her team have accepted this and have learned to be flexible, accommodating client and vendor preferences as much as possible. For example, if a client prefers to conduct business over the phone, Hill's team honors that but then immediately documents the conversation into the software workflow.
"This allows us to maintain the personable, flexible service we're known for while still benefiting from the structure and traceability provided by the software," Hill says.
"It was a matter of scaling our use of the software in phases and ensuring everyone had the appropriate training and support to feel comfortable using it," Hill says.
Construction software can make a difference in your business
As a small to midsize construction business, you can use software to make the most of the resources you have to make an impact in the industry. SnapADU was able to scale their business and enhance every stage of their construction process, and you can do the same.
Note: The screenshots of applications included in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.
1. Whitney Hill, LinkedIn