5 Things All Construction Administration Software Should Do
Whether you’re transitioning from managing projects on paper and spreadsheets, or you’re just evaluating your current construction administration software against other options, this article can serve as a checklist for the key functionality you’re seeking.
The value of construction administration software
We’ll cover many important aspects of construction administration software in this article, but one thing we won’t dive into is price (although we’ll cheat a little bit by talking about some free features your preferred software should have). When it comes down to it, price shouldn’t be a factor in your decision to adopt e-Construction software. Depending on the size and scope of your operation, the initial price tag may seem high - but value often scales with breadth of usage.
In a 7-year study on e-Construction tools, FHWA reports an average time savings of 1.78 hours per day, per inspector, as they collected an average of 2.75 times more data. DOTs also reported cost savings of up to $40,000 per construction project, which far outpaces the cost of implementing construction administration software. Transitioning to the world of digital project delivery is a big investment, but one that pays substantial dividends.
The 5 things all construction administration software should do
#1 Capture project information in a variety of devices and formats
When you consider an array of construction administration software options, one of the first things you should assess are your own resources. How will your inspectors capture project information in a digital format? If some of your team will be using tablets, while others use laptops or smartphones, you’ll want to make sure the software you choose is compatible with all three options. Operating system flexibility should also be taken into account if you need software that functions with a mix of iOS, Android, and Windows platforms.
Device compatibility isn’t the only aspect of data capture to consider. How quickly will your base of operations want access to project data? Many LPAs and engineering firms adopt construction administration software because they want more instant access to data from the job site. If one of your software options isn’t cloud-based and still requires some form of manual syncing at the office, you’ll be missing out on the major efficiencies gained by real-time data access.
#2 Provide configurable reporting and query functionality
Putting together reports for external stakeholders can be incredibly time-consuming, especially if you have to dig through project files to find the data you need. Construction administration software should eliminate much of the manual searching that can accompany the reporting process, whether you’re used to digging through filing cabinets or shared drives. One engineering firm even reported a reduction from 8-10 hours down to 5 minutes of researching files for an incident report.
“8-10 hours of researching files the old way, I did in about 5 minutes. It happened to come in late on a Friday and we needed to get something to the owner by Monday. To be able to stay from 5-8 and complete the report on a Friday evening for what the old way would have taken the whole weekend, that was a tremendous benefit,” said the Project Manager for the firm.
Your construction administration software should make these time savings possible through reporting and query functionality. Evaluate your software options for their ability to produce built-in and custom reports that work for your agency or firm. Some sort of search functionality should also be present, with the option to refine project item data reports by your desired parameters.
#3 Support complex fund tracking
Another aspect of the job that eats into the construction project manager’s day? Dealing with pay item tracking, especially on projects with a complex mix of federal, state, and local funding sources. The more pay items on a project, the more valuable it is to have a digital process for tracking those items and their associated funds. Your construction administration software should have a way to automatically track pay items throughout the project as the work is done.
On a recent $80 million road-widening project, Tom Nead, the Regional Manager for FHU Engineering, used a construction administration platform to track three funding packages that came in at three different times. The cloud-based platform helped Nead and his team track these packages and the 600-700 pay items that came with them, spotting discrepancies as they arose.
“We can run a report for a certain pay item number and compile all the payments that are posted in [the software] in one place. If someone is saying that they’re paving a section of sidewalk, but you’re in a curb and gutter pay item, the mistake will stand out really quickly,” said Nead.
#4 Offer free and easy external stakeholder access
Different construction administration software companies offer varying pricing models, but one of the most common models for Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms is pay per seat. In that pricing format, your organization pays for a certain amount of licenses, with the cost of each license often reduced if you purchase a greater quantity.
This model works well, but some organizations run into a challenge: they have project stakeholders that need to access data in the module, but will never be full-time users. These stakeholders can include contractors looking to verify quantities against the inspection report, or owners checking in on project progress. Some software vendors offer free, read-only licenses to these external project stakeholders, a time-saving feature for many organizations.
“When [our software] came about and read-only access was free, I thought ‘well why don’t I just give them access and have them go in and find out themselves,’ so it saves me a bunch of time since I don’t have to look up answers for them. If it’s something they can’t get, I can bring it up on my phone, or if it’s something they can get, I can tell them to sign in and get it. Big difference,” said one Construction Manager.
#5 Integrate with other digital project delivery tools
As mentioned in the introduction of this article, your construction administration software can serve as the foundation for the rest of your digital project delivery efforts. As you adopt new tools and evolve your construction management processes, you will want to ensure that your construction administration software integrates seamlessly with the following technologies:
Rovers for GIS data capture
GIS dashboarding and visualization tools for as-built data
Other e-Construction software for activities like e-Ticketing
Real-time multimedia/visual inspection data
As the industry moves to a world where Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology is increasingly prevalent, organizations will need to ensure that their source data is in good shape. The right construction administration software serves as a source of truth for your greater BIM goals.
Are you looking for the right construction administration software?
If you are looking for software that’s specific to unit cost/price contracts on heavy civil infrastructure projects, Appia might be the right solution for you. Appia was built to fill a specific niche in the horizontal construction industry - owner’s representation. While our software is used by owners, our most active users are engineering consultants that work for state and local agencies on infrastructure projects. Benefits to using Appia include:
Effortless maintenance of project records
Eliminating data redundancy and errors
Creating daily reports in the field from templates
Managing change orders, material tracking, and more in one database
And of course, all the aforementioned technology.