PASKR software frees up time for project managers to focus on other important tasks.
By Chris Kelsch
The concept behind PASKR Software’s cloud construction management software remains simple, yet for the construction industry it could be considered revolutionary.
The idea is to drastically cut down on the time project managers have to spend in the office reviewing and signing documents, and haggling with subcontractors over problems that come up and the pricing adjustments that come along with them. With that extra time, project managers can spend more time doing what they love to do, which is build.
If the idea sounds practical, it’s because it comes from someone who spent 18 years as the CEO of a commercial general contractor. Pat Whelan, who founded PASKR Software in 2004, recalls how inefficient his project managers were. “All software was accounting driven,” Whelan recalls. “All of my project managers were reduced to being data entry clerks.”
Noting that huge inefficiency when it came to time management, Whelan decided to come up with his own software. “I built this software for my own firm around 2000,” Whelan recalls. “We did well with it, so I eventually started PASKR in 2004.”
The timing of the launch of PASKR also coincided with the coming of age of the Internet, and the expansion of its capabilities into cloud-based software. “Originally, I knew little about software,” Whelan recalls. “But I did see that the web was moving to the next level as a host for information.”
Whelan also realized that if his product was going to be successful, he had to do a thorough job of educating an industry that was and still is, to a certain extent, dependent upon an Excel spreadsheet as a means of communicating. “I know for us, the big hurdle is explaining to project managers that going forward, construction management software will be the most useful tool, “Whelan explains. “Operational oversight is what we are really providing.”
Importantly, Whelan does not view PASKR as a vendor-to-contractor tool, but more as a digital assistant that can take some of the more mundane tasks of project management and, similar to robotics in manufacturing, make them more standardized and repeatable. “If you can standardize it, you can automate it,” Whelan says. “The nice thing about the digital assistant is it doesn’t take breaks.”
Fortunately for Whelan and PASKR, there has also been a movement in the construction industry that dovetails with what the software provides: the advent of lean construction methods. The term “lean construction” refers to the entire industry, and not just the phase where construction takes place – a distinction not lost on Whelan.
“The entire lean process begins with bidding,” Whelan explains. “While most general contractors accept that lean practices need to be implemented on-site, ultimately what PASKR software does is introduce lean practices to the office as well.”
Begins with Bidding
When Whelan introduces his software to general contractors, the first thing he does is convey to them that the entire project begins with their bid. Though that message seems insignificant at first, Whelan notes the bid process is where the entire project starts and where his software has an intuitive feel to manage the project back to the original bid documents.
“From there, the workflow should naturally unfold,” Whelan says. “Once you have that strong foundational piece [the bid], the project should move forward with very little human intervention, which helps with errors and omissions.”
The concept is that once an owner’s proposal and bid are locked into place, then anything that comes after that in the process is less likely to create an error or omission. In essence, it removes disputes, which is a huge factor in wasting general contractors’ time.
Once the proposal and bid are established, Whelan notes that what comes next is basically operational oversight. The cost savings here are significant, when one considers how typical project managers spend their time. “If they spend a third of their time either managing paperwork or settling disputes,” Whelan says, “then they have less time to manage resources or develop clients.
“You realize very quickly that extra time is what gets you more work,” Whelan continues. “It’s all about the quality of the day and time spent. Oversight is where you eliminate the noise.” Whelan estimates that at least a third of a project manager’s time is spent on disputes or additional rework.
For Owners, Too
Though the software is designed for project managers, Whelan emphasizes that it is meant for owners as well. “As an owner, I actually want to log on and see the process,” Whelan says. “Ideally, I want to be able to sign documents electronically on a certain date and time.”
Whelan adds that with today’s technology owners can log in to view webcams that are set up on-site to view progress. PASKR’s construction management software technology provides that if a project manager or subcontractor leaves the project, another project manager or subcontractor can immediately step in.
Early Adopter Stage
Though the advantages of using PASKR software are apparent, the overall construction industry is still in the infant stages of using such software, still preferring the tubes of documents commonly seen at construction sites. Whelan estimates that only 4 percent of the industry is using software like this, so there is tremendous room for growth.
Whelan notes surveys done by Texas A&M University found that, in some cases, general contractors still use from four to seven different kinds of software on a project, whereas PASKR could be a simple one-step solution. “I think it’s applicable to any project,” Whelan notes. “A user who is progressive understands the power of a collaborative tool. Traditionally, if they enjoy creative tasks they will enjoy the freedom from menial tasks.”
Even if some of today’s general contractors do not fully appreciate the value of PASKR, it is easy to see why Whelan remains optimistic. “About 10 years ago there was a large push in the industry to create a degree for construction management,” Whelan explains, “and that group came out of college understanding and looking for technology to improve processes.”
In other words, as that group rises to management and decision-making roles, they will be looking for products such as PASKR. Whelan also notes that the experience of working on a construction project remains very different from many white-collar industries: Every day unfolds differently, with different pacing and different emotion levels as challenges arise. “One of the tasks we have is to get the contractors to not be so emotionally tied to a certain way of doing things,” Whelan explains. “Many of our potential customers are used to doing things a certain way because they have been successful at it.”
Whether it’s a 20-year veteran in the industry or a relative newcomer, PASKR offers the same value proposition for them, summed up in the company’s moniker:
- P-Productivity – to improve opportunity for growth;
- A-Automation – to eliminate manual clerical tasks;
- S-Standardization – to set the same standard for every manager;
- K-Kinetic – to promote organizational lean movement;
- R-Results – to increase the quality of life; more time and profits to do what you love.
Whelan also stresses the importance of building his own culture at PASKR because the software company is still in its infancy. “We’re looking for several things,” Whelan notes. “I want some people who are in the final 20 years of their career, as well as those in the first 20. We also make a conscious effort to build a culture of inclusivity.
And while there is a nice mix of age and experience, there is one area Whelan is insistent on. “It is really important to our client’s success that the core of our team has experience in construction,” Whelan explains. “Whether it has been in management or as assistants, that is extremely important.”
So far the formula has led to strong growth. Whelan notes the software has been used for more than $3.5 billion’s worth of construction projects since 2010. Justin Tannenbaum, director of product management, adds that PASKR has been used on a variety of projects. “We have a great customer base all over the U.S.,” Tannenbaum says, “and the software has been leveraged in building everything from Tesla manufacturing centers to NASA facilities to oil rigs.”
The future looks bright for PASKR. The software is being used to teach the next generation of construction managers at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), giving them real-life experience in how to bid on projects. As that group comes of age in the industry, Whelan and PASKR likely won’t have to teach them the benefits of using their software. They will already know.