Q4 is here again folks – it’s go time. A lot of us have a budget to spend down before the end of the quarter. Maybe you’re looking at your balance and thinking of investing it in new technology? Or you have a stack of sales rep business cards and notes from software demos? There has never been a better time to invest in construction software but there are a lot of factors making that successful for your team.
In this article, I’m going to share some advice I’ve gained from successful customer experiences at DADO and years of working with contractors who’ve invested in tech for their teams. Check out the tips below on finding the right software tools for your company, and how to avoid the pitfalls of tech failure.
Which problem are you trying to solve?
A quick Google search of “construction software” is going to yield hundreds of results. You’ll find workflow-specific apps like basic punch tools all the way up to enterprise solutions designed to run your business from end to end. There are a lot of top tier, advanced solutions on the market designed by computer scientists and industry veterans. But, sometimes we can get too much of a good thing. We look at these tools and think, that looks useful, and so does that, and so does that. Suddenly, our teams are bogged down in multiple, redundant tools and processes or worse, our company looks like the Wild West. Every team or every person is using their own solution and we have no cohesion or consistency. Information gets lost and projects suffer.
Before you sign any new deals, make sure you ask yourself and your team: what’s our most urgent problem? What are we struggling with, and where are we losing efficiency? Another piece of advice: just like you’re not going to pour your footings on the same day you’re installing plumbing fixtures, don’t attempt to tackle every problem at once. Run triage, and work from the most to least urgent drains on your team’s efficiency and quality of life.
Here’s an example. A team working on a campus housing project at a local university has a long distance to walk between the jobsite and the trailer. The project’s Foreman is having frustration finding drawings and documents the trades workers need onsite and has trouble getting the PM on the phone, because the PM is currently stretched across multiple projects. The Foreman wants to avoid her walk to the trailer just to use the laptop, check the paper sets, or talk to the PM. Using this problem as an example, you might do the following to find a solution:
- Survey your staff or do some short interviews (depending on the size of the team). Ask them to name what’s working, what’s not, and how much time they estimate this problem costs them on a daily and/or weekly basis. Record it, and quantify these costs, i.e. “Mark is losing 60 minutes per day every day looking for documents. At a $48/hr rate, we’re losing $48/day, $240/week, and accounting for time off/vacation, around $11,760 per year- just on Mark’s time looking for documents.”
- Run an internal audit. Look at the software tools/platforms you’re already using to try to run this workflow or solve this problem. If it’s a financial issue, look at every financial or payment processing tool, simple to complex, that your teams are using. If, in the case of the university project, it’s a document management issue- list and review every tool you’re using to manage and share documents across the team.
- Lean on your network and ask colleagues, friends and associations for advice. Google works well for initial research, but look to your network when it comes to finding trusted, proven tools. Talk with a contractors’ association like NECA, AGC, or MCAA, go to a conference or two, and ask current and former colleagues for advice. Before you start conversations with any software providers, get a sense of how other companies have seen success working with their product and team.
Articulating your problem and its cost to your business is critical, because too often contractors are asked to bust their budget, change their processes or find an application for a tool that doesn’t quite fit what their teams need. Sometimes this can look like investment in a tool that’s unnecessarily complex and expensive, or a request to piece together dozens of one-off solutions that don’t integrate. Make your tools fit your problem, and not the other way around.
Find a champion
The most successful software rollouts have at least one and usually 2-3 internal champions. This person or team will work with your software provider to find the right solution for your problem, then communicate and manage the internal rollout. The rollout begins at initial training, but the champions stay invested after all the teams get their introduction. Additional questions, feature training, and upgrades all go through the champions. They stay committed and become an internal subject matter expert. How many software applications sit unused, and how many iPads become paperweights in the job site trailer because there wasn’t an internal advocate motivating the team to use them?
Champions help secure good, effective training, mentor their coworkers, and keep the enthusiasm alive. Internal champs are good as gold, so when you put them in place, make sure they have their own support, time and resources to stay invested. Before you get started, figure out how much time this new responsibility is going to require from your champs on a daily or weekly basis. If you find that your champs are going to be stretched too thin, think about hiring an outside consultant (like SteelToe Consulting) to support them with implementation.
However, don’t try to replace your internal champs with consultants outright. A trusted, internal resource is critical for driving momentum and adoption among your teams and an outside software trainer, consultant or sales rep isn’t going to have the same level of trust or influence right away.
Pick your software partners and consultants wisely
This last point ties back to point #1. When choosing the right solution for your problem, make sure you find the right partners for your team. While there are a lot of great tech solutions on the market currently, the services and support provided by software providers can vary widely.
Make sure you get commitments from your software partners up front and everyone is clear about the training and customer support they agree to provide. Your team might need a lot or only a little support from your software partner and it’s good to discuss your expectations with them up front to ensure there are no surprises further down the road.
Ultimately, there are a lot of factors involved in a successful software implementation and these three steps will get you started on the right path.
We’ll continue this series with another article about doing right by your team when rolling out new tech, and the equal importance of winning hearts and minds in technology adoption.