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When It Comes to Technology, Always Look Forward

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(Photo credit: Deltek)

Builders can be slow to adopt new technologies, but according to John Meibers, the vice president of software and information systems firm Deltek, it also can hurt them if they do not update their tech fast enough. For example, “Outdated technology can limit field-to-office communication and put overall job profitability — as well as productivity — at risk while exposing construction companies to competition,” he explains.

When contractors have the ability to see the status of a job’s profitability, Meibers says, they can make adjustments that put them in a better position to grow their business and gain market share. “Ultimately, outdated technology forces construction companies to look in the rearview mirror instead of looking forward at the future financial state of their business,” he says.

Firms that use outdated technology also may find it difficult to retain skilled talent. “The modern workforce of today actively seeks out companies that are utilizing the latest technology to run their businesses and, in most cases, expect this type of forward-thinking in an employer,” Meibers says.

Meibers, who also serves as the general manager of Deltek + ComputerEase, recently spoke with Construction Best Practices about how companies can avoid outdated technology becoming a liability and make upgrades.

Construction Best Practices: What signs should construction firms look out for to determine whether their software is a liability? 

John Meibers: A major sign for construction companies to determine if their software is a liability is if they’re executing a lot of business functions outside of their ERP. If they are utilizing Microsoft Word or Excel and other software to run their business, or duplicating efforts by having to do things twice, they should begin the discovery phase to find software that can consolidate these efforts and streamline processes.

Another sign for contractors to look out for is if their current software lacks the functionality that is powerful enough (for example,  job cost accounting, WIP reporting) to make money for their business. Oftentimes, software turns into a cost center, when it should be a profit center. 

Construction software needs to be transformational, not transactional, and in real-time provide the critical job information needed to succeed. In addition to being transformational, construction software should easily and seamlessly connect both the office and the field through mobile communication solutions. If their software isn’t helping or even limiting team communication, this is a sign that their current software is a liability.

CBP: What are a few best practices for construction firms looking to successfully implement new or updated technology?

JM: The first step is to find a strategic partner that truly understands the uniqueness of your business and the construction industry. There is a big difference between understanding software and understanding the complexities of managing a construction company. 

Actively seek out software providers that have a long and successful history of operating within the construction industry and know how to ask the right questions. Also, look for providers that have strategic product roadmaps and a vision for growth. Ask questions about what is on the horizon for development and make sure those line up with your needs as a company.

Another important initial step is to define what success looks like upfront and have a plan for implementation. Build a team, assign roles and hold people accountable for software implementation success. Create a schedule with milestones and break the project up into smaller action items. Take this time to organize and clean up your data by purging duplicate records and old information.

Once ready to move forward with new software, create an ongoing training strategy for key employees that will be using it. Training shouldn’t end once go-live is complete, and companies that continue to train ultimately get the most return on their investment. 

CBP: What benefits will construction firms see by updating their software and shifting more to digital operations?

JM: Simply put, they will see business growth, both financially and culturally, and empower their employees. It is extremely difficult for a contractor or construction company to truly grow without the right software powering their business. Another benefit is improved communication. Connecting the entire team and virtualizing their back-office operations will make overall communication much easier and effective. 

Construction companies that adopt digital solutions will start to be regarded as growing, forward-thinking leaders in their field. A new story and narrative for a company can be leveraged in many ways, from communicating value to a potential new hire to differentiating from competition in a sales pitch.

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