The importance of selecting the right software for a construction business

For construction firms, investing in technology is all about doing more with less


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The greatest challenges I see construction businesses facing are using outdated software, or basic accounting software that may not be the best solution for their business. With the economy beginning to recover, contractors who put technology investments or upgrades on hold are now starting to consider whether or not it’s the right time to implement construction accounting, estimating and project management software to operate more effectively and efficiently in today’s construction market.

You can start the process of selecting the right construction technology by asking yourself a simple question -- are you spending more time managing your information systems than you are building?

Many construction companies have limited internal resources for managing the accounting, job costing, estimating, financial reporting, and project management functions. The right software integrates all of those functions into one tool, allowing you to use your time more effectively. If your company is growing, you may be realizing that you are ready to go to the next level with software that improves efficiencies and improves internal and financial controls.

Construction software can help improve operational efficiencies by centralizing information. Most general-purpose software relies on third-party applications to provide the customization that contractors and other construction businesses need to operate their businesses.

Companies also can consider opportunities for operational efficiencies. By choosing integrated construction software, some of the improvements to operational efficiencies include:

 • Efficiency -- an efficient system with document imaging technology allows you to electronically store all of the invoices, construction documents, reports in a central location. Further efficiency can be gained by utilizing electronic document routing and approval processes that tie together various departments and operations.

 • Integration -- Integrate the system with Microsoft Office for easy internal organization and communication. Project emails and other correspondence can be filed electronically with search capabilities.

 • Mobility -- Allow your team to access real-time data from outside the office via their laptop, iPad or tablet device. Team members can better manage field resources by accessing project management information at the click of a button.

 • Streamlined process -- Maintain tight financial controls by entering all of the information once to save time and improve accuracy.

 • Access to data -- Drill down into detailed information without printing multiple reports with high-level executive dashboard reporting and records.

In the cloud

Construction software can also help you increase your bottom line by improving financial reporting. With all of the necessary information housed in one system, financial reporting is automated, accurate and reliable.

You can also improve cash flow if job information is better organized. This makes completion-to-payment cycles shorter, and a standardized method of managing jobs streamlines the process of project execution.

One of the most useful technology upgrades is cloud computing and remote connectivity. This is an extremely important consideration when selecting construction software. The ability to stay connected with your team, your suppliers and your clients from any location is a huge asset that enables you to improve productivity and improve communication. It also eliminates the need to invest in expensive hardware upgrades because Web-based applications can run from nearly any operating system.

When you make a decision to upgrade, do your homework first. Start by talking to your team. Develop a report that summarizes the needs that exist within your business. Then talk to industry experts. Inform yourself about the trends that exist within your competitive space. Make a list of products that you would like to learn more about. Develop criteria that you would like your potential new system to meet.

Then take a test drive. Spend some time meeting and discussing options with a few vendors. Participate in a product demos to help differentiate product features. Develop a spreadsheet or a system for organizing the features of the various products. Determine if the software can meet the critical needs of your company. Take the time to follow-up with references.

Selecting and investing in construction specific software is a critical decision for construction businesses. Take the time to network with a variety of providers – your decision should lead to increased operational efficiencies and ultimately enhanced profits for your business.

CPA David V. Jean, a principal with Portland, Maine-based Albin, Randall & Bennett, specializes in financial accounting and consulting for construction and real estate development companies. He can be reached at djean@arbcpa.com.

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