Construction management software might not command the attention of heavy machinery at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020. Savvy contractors that visit software suppliers at construction tradeshows, however, could uncover opportunities that rival or even exceed the ROI value of that shiny new hardware.
Navigating a show can be the first challenge. Well over 2,000 exhibitors are expected at CONEXPO-CON/AGG, and the list of companies offering software solutions will extend literally from A (A1A Software) to Z (ZMac). They will demonstrate every type of application imaginable and probably quite a few that you have never imagined.
Here are four software-focused opportunities to look for at construction tradeshows and four additional considerations before deciding which booths to add to your “must-see” list.
Faster, more accurate estimating
Estimating is a numbers game in more ways than one. Replacing paper, spreadsheets and limited applications with advanced construction estimating software helps contractors complete more bids in less time. That translates to more bids completed, more time to focus on bidding strategy instead of chasing figures and, ultimately, more bids won at the right margins.
Specialized software for workflows like scheduling and dispatching, field tracking and equipment maintenance brings added efficiency to those processes. Employees freed from paperwork and redundant data entry have more time to focus on core tasks. They also have more information at their fingertips to help them make better decisions, work smarter and optimize resources.
Workflow connectivity and real-time data
Efficiency and the flow of information increase further when software applications for estimating and operations talk to each other. Estimating logic is visible to leaders in the field as they plan and complete the work. Performance data from the field can be analyzed daily and used to adjust operations immediately. Repair requests, equipment moves, resource needs, inspection results and dozens of other critical pieces of intelligence can be communicated and seen instantly across workflows by the employees that need to act on them.
Capturing and sharing data remotely is essential in modern construction, and effective, easy-to-use mobile capabilities are essential for any software solution. Compatibility and connectivity among mobile applications used for various workflows are worth considering. Contractors should also keep in mind that cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity may not be available at all sites or may not be the most cost-effective option. The ability to use software in an offline mode and then sync up at the end of the day can be a valuable alternative.
Software Strategy and Commitment
Ever wonder why the exact same software can be wildly successful and loved by employees at one company, while another company struggles with it? The difference almost always comes down to strategy and commitment. Contractors need to consider in advance how software will fit into their workflows and how they will adapt those workflows to optimize the software. They should also think through their overall approach to technology, including how solutions for estimating, operations, accounting, planning and other workflows will interface with each other.
This is more than a marketing slogan. Enterprise-class means the underlying architecture of the software is robust, so it will accommodate multiple users and run fast and reliably, without bugs. How aggressively a supplier keeps pace with technology and delivers updates are things to look for. Requirements also change. Contractors intending to grow should make sure software they install can scale to account for more users, more complex operations or expanded resources, jobs or locations in the future.
Great software that is hard to use is bad software. Many applications marketed to construction companies were developed by non-specialized software providers. They may be intuitive for accountants or IT pros, but “They just don’t work the way we work in the field,” is a common complaint from contractors. Look for software that aligns with your existing processes instead of fighting with them. A user interface that’s easy to learn and easy to use is also essential, so users buy-in right away and can stay focused on construction, not on getting software to work.
Support and Fit
Tradeshows like CONEXPO-CON/AGG are an opportunity to get beyond software itself and meet the people behind it. Try to get feel for the personality of the company and its commitment to the industry as well as the expertise of its employees and how well they could work together with your team. Look for proven implementation and training processes and ask questions about support resources, like how long it takes to respond to calls or resolve issues. References on support capabilities from existing users should be readily available.