Today, construction teams need to do a lot more with a lot less. In this competitive environment, many look at online (Web-based) construction management software to help them make decisions faster, automate documentation and reduce costs.

Three of the most important criteria for selecting such software are ease of use, focus and affordability.

Ease of Use – The software must be intuitive and easy to use. It must mirror the way the project team has communicated for years and not ask them to learn a new way to exchange information. It must employ familiar methods for formatting and presenting information so that field personnel can put it to use immediately, inputting information with ease.

If users can actually teach themselves with little or no training, they are more likely to use the software. If the construction management software looks complicated, the project team will either spend too much time learning how to use it (minimizing its benefits), or avoid using it altogether (sabotaging its effectiveness).

Focus – The construction project management software should focus on the areas where it can make the most difference, sometimes routine, repetitive tasks such as RFIs and CCDs.

The greatest benefit comes from using the software to automate these changes of information that move projects forward on a day-to-day basis. The software can ignore – or link to – other applications that are needed less often such as CAD drawings or CPM schedules.

The first online software trial to do too much. They were too complex and difficult to use, making many construction professionals related to use them. Software that does a few things well is much more valuable than one that does many things poorly.

Affordability – Good online construction management software can pay for itself in a short period of time due to increased productivity.

Of course, it is still important to check the price. Most online construction management software is sold as an annual fee, typically based on the number of users or projects. Other possible costs include a set-up fee, maintenance fee, training (if required) and customization (if available). Better software vendors offer a free trial or a month or so.

But price is not the only factor in affordability. Productivity is another important measure, and study after study shows that lost information and paper-based systems are expensive indeed.

For example:

The Butler Group, a London-based IT research and analysis organization, contends that as much as 10 percent of a company's salary costs is "frittered away" as employees scramble to find information to do their jobs.

According to the Delphi Research Group in Elmwood, Connecticut, 15 percent of all paper handled in a typical business gets lost and each lost piece of paper costs a business $ 120.

The German firm AWV concluded that companies could increase productivity 20 to 30 percent, and save 20 to 40 percent of the time spent on document handling, by managing documents electronically.

A rough ROI measure of productivity improvement is: (number of employees) x (salary) x (% time savings) x (productivity rating). With that formula, if the software saves a few hours a week (a conservative estimate), it probably will pay for itself in a few months.

Summary

By concentrating on ease of use, focus and affordability, construction teams can choose an online construction management service that fits their needs. Such software can reduce workloads, minimizeize delays and maximize profits.

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Copyright 2008 Richard Sampson Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

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