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Management Headaches? Take Two Aspirins' and Buy Good Construction Software

Management Headaches? Take Two Aspirins' and Buy Good Construction Software The amount of information and data that is collected, processed, and interpreted on a daily basis by contractors is tremendous. The best way to handle this incredible load is with effective and efficient construction software.

Today, contractors can employ large numbers of craftsmen, which creates a complex and time-consuming payroll process. Accurate project estimates, schedules, and cost and time control activities require significant amounts of data for maximum results, and cannot possibly processed properly without effective construction software.

Without construction software to assist them in their daily activities, many contractors are small businesses that might be overwhelmed by the task of data information management. These businesses tend to focus more on marketing, sales, and production rather than record keeping and data information processing. The result could be financial loss on a project or even financial ruin for the business.

However, computers and the proper accompanying estimating, project management and construction software allows the contractor the opportunity to manage this information stream. Construction software can process, manipulate, store, and print information, but the result of the output is only as good as the value of the data input. Costs for hardware and effective construction software are easily within the reach of virtually all contractors' budgets.

While many contractors have computerized their financial accounting, a lesser number have automated the project management functions. Managing a construction project incorporates several activities including:

* Construction Estimating

* Scheduling

* Job cost control

Construction estimating involves taking off project work quantities and determining the cost of labor, material, equipment, and overhead. It is a time consuming process that is prone to errors because of the many parameters. Proper construction estimating software will improve the accuracy of the final bid document and significantly cut the amount of time needed to prepare the estimate.

The construction estimating software incorporates several estimating tools:

* Computer aided design

* Process math calculations and formulas

* Data base of past performances that improve forecasting and costing estimates

* 'What if' analysis to study the estimates under different assumed future events

Construction software CAD programs enable the user to prepare computerized drawings for the project that can be read to perform quantity takeoffs. Many software vendors supply CAD programs. The other three tasks are performed by two different approaches to construction software: general application and industry. Usage is pretty evenly divided between the two.

Planning and scheduling construction software enables the contractor to:

* Plot planned project schedules

* Perform critical path method calculations

* Plot and manage resources

* Plot and manage cash flow

* Update project in a timely and accurate manner

Ideally, the scheduling construction software program interfaces with the construction estimating function so the two are performed in conjunction with each other. Unfortunately, many construction software vendors provide one or the other, but not both, even though the programs often interface.

There are several factors to consider when selecting a planning and scheduling construction software program:

* Number of activities to input

* Ability to update program

* Resource algorithms available

* Popularity of program with clients

* Ability to interface with estimating software

* Ability to interface with control function

* Ease of data entry

* Number and types of reports available

Job costing construction software provides a report on the status of a project and associated overruns or under runs based on input data such as labor time and quantities in place. The computerization of this function should be simple and linkable to your other estimating and proposal construction software. Ideally, the contractor should select accounting, estimating, and project management construction software that totally integrates.

At the least, the contractor should not settle for construction software that cannot link to all construction software management functions.

About the Author:

Phillip P Gilliam is the President and CEO of Discover Software Inc. Phil 58, currently lives in Florida with his wife and youngest daughter, is a native of Ohio. He went to Wright State University and has over 37 years experience in marketing, construction software development, business management, and finance. www.easyestimating.com

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