What are the factors to consider when reviewing new construction management software? Keep in mind that the wrong answer can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and your company may struggle to deliver homes on time. What if I told you that your job depended on the right answer?

I can help because I’ve been in that same situation at my company, Capital Homes. You probably just need a place to get started.  

When we decided to find a new software system, I was elected to lead the implementation team.  As the team leader I contacted several software companies to begin the review of available solutions.  When I started to make the calls to request information, I had no shortage of companies willing (even begging) to guide me through a multi-hour guided tour of their product. 

After several demos it quickly became obvious we needed a roadmap--a checklist to guide us through the review and objectively rate each product on the same criteria. I wanted the list to be thorough but not overwhelm the group with meaningless discussions of every window in the software. I wanted to keep the discussions at a high level but at the same time look at every module.

Here is my list of topics (in order of importance):

Sales. How good is the system’s process to enter prospects, track and conduct follow-up, price a home with multiple options (both standard and custom), and produce a pre-formatted sales agreement?

Purchasing and estimating. How are costs tracked during the construction of the home? How can costs be reviewed when a home closes?

Accounts payable. How are purchase orders paid when an individual job task is completed? Can we complete a task without paying a vendor? Will our field managers use an iPad or will they be stuck with managing from a laptop?

Job scheduling. How are schedules applied to homes?  Can the system handle schedule exceptions?

Cost. What is the full cost to implement the software?  Does the cost include any customizations that may need to be made before the system goes live? Are there monthly fees?

Reporting. Are the built-in reports enough to run our business?  Will custom reports need to be developed?  Can the pre-defined reports be modified? 

Implementation. Is there a pre-defined timeline to keep the implementation on schedule? Does the company have staff to lend a “helping hand” to keep the process on track?

Software revisions. How are future software revisions handled? Do we have to pay for them or are they included in your maintenance fees? What are the maintenance fees?

Website. Can the software create data that can be exported to our website? Does the software allow vendors or customers to interact with our website? Is the data seamlessly integrated to a website?

Client visits. Visit one or two of the company’s current clients and ask detailed questions. Was the software implemented on time? How are problems handled once you go live? How much customization do you need before you went live?

After the initial demos we cut our list down to three finalists. We then scheduled a final demo for each of the companies and tried to ask the same questions of each vendor. Once we had finished all the demos we independently voted on the three companies. We scored each company on a scale of 1-10 for each of the 10 topics. While the scores were close, after we reviewed the scores one product stood out from the crowd. More importantly, we successfully implemented the software on time and didn’t miss a single home delivery.

Jim Haffner is vice president of information technology at Tulsa, Okla.-based Capital Homes. For a sample score sheet and detailed list of questions to ask when considering new software, email him at jhaffner@aol.com.

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