Picking the Right Construction Project Management Software
This is part one of four in a series of blogs called Tips on Deploying Construction Project Management Software for Your Organization.
If you are a construction organization, I would assume that IT is not your strong suit. Nor should it be. You need to focus on construction. You probably already know that trying to navigate the IT landscape can be both intimidating and frustrating. While there are many construction project management platforms on the market that all provide very similar functionality, by doing some up-front planning, you can improve your chances of selecting and successfully implementing the best solution for your organization.
Below are seven lessons that I have learned from years of deploying construction project management software for enterprises. Hopefully, these tips will help make your selection process a little easier.
Seven Tips for Selecting a Construction Project Management Solution
1. Define the problem statement. What specifically are you trying to improve by implementing new technology? Check with subject matter experts within your organization to determine what is working and what is not. Then formulate a problem statement that includes a cost-benefit analysis by filling in the blanks of this statement: "If we do X, it will save us Y and improve our offerings by Z." It is incredible how many companies looking for a new software platform do not perform this most basic and crucial step.
2. Develop "as-is" requirement documents. I have written about the importance of "as-is" requirements in the past. In brief, to understand what you might need tomorrow, you must thoroughly understand how your processes work today. Prepare business requirement processes, flow diagrams, risk areas, data dictionaries, and reports based on how you currently do business now, not how you would like to in the future. Hire a third-party consulting company to challenge the robustness of your processes and identify where technology will help improve them. The exercise of uncovering how you do things is critical. You might find that you do not know your processes as well as you would have liked. Also, you might have tools already at your company that can provide what you need with little to no modifications, or maybe your processes do not lend themselves to an upgrade in technology.
3. Do not be made to feel inadequate because you use Excel to manage projects. Be aware that using Excel to manage projects does not mean you are behind the times. In my experience of over twenty years in project controls, Excel is the de facto standard to manage projects regardless of what enterprise software companies claim to use. Believe it or not, teams use Excel to run multi-billion-dollar projects and programs and have done so for decades. Do not be too quick to throw out your Excel files unless you have evidence of problems. Also, if you are using SharePoint, know that you can turn your Excel files into a web-based project management system. Contact us to find out how.
4. Avoid looking at software products until you complete steps 1-3. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is starting to evaluate project management software systems on the market before knowing: 1) what they already have and 2) what they need. When we founded Lydon Solutions, we worked with multiple sizable companies that could have upwards of twenty construction project management systems deployed across the organization. These companies were paying for all these tools but under-utilizing them because these expensive software platforms never actually solved the core problems. Nowadays, we see even smaller companies with the same dilemma. Do not be fooled by the software salesperson and all those pretty charts. Focus on how and if their software can solve your specific problems.
5. Decide your level of involvement. Evaluating, planning for, and implementing the right construction project management software for your organization is a big undertaking. Even if a vendor tells you their product is an off-the-shelf solution and you can hit the ground running day one, they are glossing over the setup, configuration, and training that will be needed to get the system working for your team. If your organization intends to manage the entire selection and deployment process internally, then make sure you know your IT group's experience level and availability to deploy and support the selected solution. If you do not have that internal team, then you need to understand the level of external support required and the associated costs. Also, beyond just administering the system, you will need management oversight to support the deployment. We recommend designating at least one sponsor, a senior manager or executive who is ultimately responsible for the successful implementation of the system. You will likewise need at least one subject matter expert (SME), someone who knows your business processes and can be available from the beginning to help with the rollout of your new solution.
6. Change is inevitable, so plan accordingly. There is not any construction project management software system out there that will not need to be "tweaked" at some point after implementation, either through configuration or custom code, to address changes to your company or projects. Make sure you have the budget and resources to support such changes. Also, ensure that whatever software you are considering allows for your required company-specific modifications and does not force you to change your business processes to fit how the system works.
7. Pilot a project. Way too many times, I have seen the mistake of companies trying to roll out an enterprise project management system across the entire organization without doing a pilot first. In my experience, enterprise software implemented organization-wide in this top-down fashion will either likely fail, end up costing two to three times more, or both. I encourage companies to start small with a pilot program with minimal functionality, get the win, and then expand. This approach minimizes your investment, obtains crucial buy-in from your team, and if you have a subpar experience with a vendor, you can write them off before making too large of a commitment.
Get Help with a Construction Project Management Software Solution for your Team
I hope the above lessons that I've shared can help you find the right construction project management solution for your organization. As you can see, more up-front planning on your part is needed before you put a request for proposal (RFP) out on the street or start inviting companies to provide software demos. Stay tuned: we will be providing more tips on assessing the right technology framework and managing a successful implementation of construction project management solutions in future posts.
If you have any questions or are looking for a project management software solution for your construction organization, reach out for a no-obligation consultation with our team. Good luck!