As connectivity becomes second nature at home and in the workplace, tools that keep you connected on the job site are gaining traction. Cloud-based software, also called software as a service (SaaS), uses web portals and mobile apps to access files from anywhere with an internet connection. Because all data is hosted at the vendor’s secure data center, the cloud-based model ensures immediate updates between stakeholders, automatic software upgrades, and increased data resiliency compared to paper-based processes. The most common SaaS applications focus on project management and are designed to transform the way data is collected and stored.
On the job site, builders are turning to cloud-based software to streamline communication. Builders are using mobile apps mostly for inspections (64 percent), work orders (38 percent), and checklists (35 percent), according to a 2014 survey of more than 1,100 construction firms conducted by Canvas.
When considering a software upgrade, Janna Finch, construction software analyst at Austin-based Software Advice, recommends builders create a list of “must-have” and “would-like-to-have” features. Sometimes, firms choose targeted, best-of-breed applications. However, “if you feel all of your business processes are taking more time to complete than they should, you could look at an integrated suite of software ,” says Finch.
Immediate transmission to all stakeholders is the greatest strength of SaaS platforms. Dan Houghton, executive vice president of sales at BuilderTREND in Omaha, Neb., says its software handles change orders very well. “There is complete clarity on what is happening with the job,” he says. “It really eliminates the “he said, she said” moments.”
Cloud-based software can also bring transparency to the job site, differentiating the customer experience. Donny Wyatt, founder and CEO of Charlottesville, Va.-based Co-Construct, designed his SaaS to serve design-build firms. Co-Construct gives buyers a seat at the table with their own login.
“In the rest of our lives, seeing behind the curtain is all the rage. Clients expect to see the back office and field updates,” Wyatt explains. “The most successful builders are turning this to their advantage by proactively sharing most of the schedule, status, and budget data with their clients as a way to dispel the inherent distrust that many clients have of contractors.”
These updates might show that an invoice came in too high, the ground was too wet that day, or confirm that an inspection is on track for next week. This selective sharing of information cuts down on calls, satisfies information-hungry clients, and offers a welcome level of transparency.
Upgrading your software isn’t the right choice for everyone. Chris Harrison, senior vice president of construction at Robson Communities in Sun Lakes, Ariz., describes his firm’s homegrown approach to communication as more “hi-touch” than hi-tech.
“We have a steady trade base that we’ve worked with for over 20 years,” says Harrison. “At the end of the day, you have to consider these sophisticated steps and ask if it makes things faster, better.”
How does your company stay connected on the job site? Let us know in the comments.