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Infotech’s Owner-Centric Approach to Construction Software Solutions

November 09, 2021

What does it mean to be owner-centric? That’s a question we often have to answer to new employees, whether they’re in sales or software development. At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple; we create, maintain, and improve software solutions that help construction or infrastructure project owners meet their goals. That doesn’t mean that project managers, consultants, contractors, inspectors, and administrators don’t all benefit from our software. It just means that our solutions are designed from the owner’s perspective to help teams deliver a final product that adheres to federal and state contracting requirements. Providing the ability to easily work, communicate, collaborate with all stakeholders on a project is also crucial to our approach. Ultimately, we believe this method best ensures successful project delivery for travel and commerce.

If we’re being entirely honest, there are times when adherence to our owner-centric goals has been difficult. There are always tempting opportunities that don’t quite align with our strategic plans - opportunities that we bypass to stay true to our owner-centric mindset. It helps that the owner has been the focus of our services since our founding in 1977, though we often have to remind ourselves to return to these founding principles.

Back then, computerized tools for data analysis were just emerging into the scene. Our founders and their early teams analyzed vast swaths of construction project data to ensure owners were receiving fair value from their contractors. These early projects formed the basis of an owner-centric approach that continues to this day:

  • Analyze the data to determine truth and fairness

  • Protect the owner from collusion and prepare them for audits

  • Maximize state and federal funding through robust tracking mechanisms

  • Ensure contractors get paid efficiently, accurately, and on-time

  • Make it easy to adhere to federal and state requirements

  • Focus on the long-term success of the customer agency

From our point of view, this is the most holistic way to approach construction software solutions. The contractor and the inspector have different priorities, but the owner is more concerned with the overall success and compliance of the project than anything else. So, how do we create software that meets these macro needs while also focusing on the day-to-day productivity of a job site?

Owning our niche

We’ve never been a one-size-fits-all operation, and understanding that has enabled us to create the perfect fit for our users. We build contract management software for horizontal construction projects. There are a limited number of infrastructure owners in this market, but accepting our niche means we have a deep understanding of stakeholder priorities on these kinds of projects, which allows us to provide purpose-built solutions. Because of our long history of working with DOTs, we’re used to rolling up our sleeves alongside agency teams and working towards the same goal. Infotech has over 350 employees, many of whom can offer on-premise expertise and help with training, implementation, and more.

Listening to the user

When it comes to new technologies, we pursue incremental innovations that make sense for our users. One of the biggest mistakes a tech provider can make is to roll out some flashy new app or feature that no one actually asked for. Everything we build needs to serve the user and match the direction the industry is moving towards. Whether that means updating programs to be SaaS-based or integrating with asset management providers, our goal is to solve real problems for real people. When our users wanted a better way to capture data in the field, we created the Mobile Inspector app. It’s nothing fancy, simply a basic app that collects field data and syncs to a construction administration system. But it works, it’s simple to use, and it doesn’t require training - and that makes it effective.

Relying on our experience

There are enough people inside the Infotech building to start a small university. We know it sounds trite to boast about our experience, but in this case, it’d be borderline negligence not to do so. Our founders were professors before they started Infotech, so it only makes sense that education, knowledge, and learning are so important to how we operate. Many Infotech employees have come from the industry and can share their direct experiences, challenges, and needs. We have analysts who have immersed themselves in the industry to become our experts in estimating, bidding, inspection, civil rights, construction, and materials management. Others bring expertise in software development, or litigation, or research, and their expertise is melded with industry whizzes and agency vets to create the best possible solution.

Practicing innovation regularly

When we were founded in 1977, the name “Infotech” was a modern and savvy way to refer to our business, which sat at the intersection of information and technology. 40+ years later, we often joke about how it’s not the most innovative name - but that’s probably for the better. Companies can become so focused on innovation that the next thing always seems more important than the current thing - often to the detriment of the users of the current thing. For Infotech, innovation isn’t a goal; it’s a practice. Big ideas don’t come from the top down, they matriculate up through the first-hand experiences of our employees. Regular design sprints, hackathons, and customer summits ensure we’re always listening, iterating, and improving without neglecting what got us here in the first place.

Pursuing practical partnerships

Where is the industry headed? What will contract owners need in 5 years? What emerging technology will soon become commonplace? How can we help owners transition to new methods and technologies? Those are the questions we ask ourselves when we pursue partnerships with other companies. We’ve even funded a regular research report to gain deeper insight into industry trends. By partnering with companies for rover data integrations, e-ticketing, data visualization, visual inspections, and more, we’re providing our users with the tools they need to navigate a world of BIM, digital as-builts, and holistic asset management.

Are you a construction project manager or owner that needs help meeting your goals? Maybe you’re trying to move away from paper and spreadsheets, or maybe you want all your project data to feed into a common source. Whatever your needs, Infotech has the experience, technical expertise, and industry knowledge to help. Our goal is to provide owners with the products and services that will promote good stewardship of transportation infrastructure.

Authors

Ward Zerbe
Vice President of AASHTOWare Products
Ward manages the development and delivery of the AASHTOWare Project software used in most state departments of transportation for managing construction contracts. He has more than 36 years experience in software development, network communications, and the application of information systems. Ward graduated from The George Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and information systems and he holds the PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. Ward’s career highlights include implementing a nationwide network infrastructure for the Federal Highway Administration, supporting intelligent transportation systems for the Maryland Department of Transportation, and delivering imaging and document management systems for pharmaceutical companies. Ward also spent a year overseas as an adviser to the Royal Thai Government implementing a project management system.
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