By Megan R. Nichols
Contractors, building material vendors, jobsite managers and architectural firms all stand ready to reap the benefits of cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS). These might not be the most obvious applications when people think of digital platforms, but the advantages are just as clear in construction as anyplace else.
The Benefits of SaaS for the Construction Industry
Higher productivity is the chief benefit of adopting SaaS in the construction sector. According to research from McKinsey, some construction markets have seen their productivity decline since the 1990s. Construction has been slow to digitize — but the proliferation of useful, cloud-based tools means now is the perfect time to change that.
SaaS improves productivity and organization by providing a single collaboration platform and a unified repository for documents across multiple locations. Keeping projects on time and within budget requires that all parties have access to up-to-date resources, including surveying data, blueprints, quotes, and more.
Construction industry software services also include tools that make the procurement and bidding processes streamlined and transparent. Building and lot owners can define their ideal candidates and bids, and then allow the SaaS platform to automatically remove bidders that fail to measure up.
Life on construction sites also stands to improve greatly thanks to SaaS. Digital collaboration tools allow multiple stakeholders to view progress, compare plans and drawings to reality, and seamlessly ask and answer questions no matter where they are. SaaS helps prevent information loss and miscommunication, even as the number of participants scales up or down.
These products typically allow project managers, building owners and construction site supervisors to use hardware they’re already familiar with, such as smartphones and rugged tablets.
The benefits of SaaS in construction extend to the maintenance of heavy equipment, too.
When they were surveyed in 2017, an overwhelming majority of construction industry representatives expressed interest in adopting equipment tracking, driver hour logging and digital maintenance platforms in the coming year. Digital SaaS tools can automatically track equipment hours and provide alerts when maintenance comes due.
How to Implement SaaS in Construction Successfully
Adopting SaaS successfully requires a deliberate approach. Here are some of the fundamentals to keep in mind.
1. Define Your Company’s Needs
What’s holding you back right now? Nobody knows your pain points better than you do. Long before you start comparing prices, ask yourself what problems you’re trying to solve and whether software is the answer. Even the best software can’t remedy stubborn cultural issues that result in slow turnarounds and flagging business.
2. Decide Which Pricing Model Makes the Most Sense
Understanding your company’s needs in advance can have a huge impact on your ultimate choice of service provider and how much you end up paying over time.
What degree of scalability do you require? Do you need a considerable amount of cloud space for large design documents? Do you anticipate significant personnel or territory growth shortly? Does the software provider charge a fixed rate for usage?
3. Assign a Project Leader to Oversee the Transition
Any company seeking to adopt cloud-based or service-based software services needs in-house knowledge of the system and its capabilities. One of the chief benefits of SaaS in construction is that it removes the burden of technical expertise from your shoulders and places it on software providers instead.
Even so, it’s important to identify subject matter experts early in the process. They’ll be able to keep buy-in high, answer questions and help the whole rollout go much more smoothly.
4. Do the Math on ROI for SaaS
You know your mission, you have project leads assigned, and you understand what the various software platforms provide and how much they cost. You now need to determine the potential return on investment. Every construction company’s math will look a little bit different, and there are lots of variables in the mix.
Answering the following questions will help determine which SaaS platform is right for you, which billing methods make the most sense and whether the ROI works out in your favor:
• Which processes does this software replace or enhance? How much do you currently pay for those processes in terms of resources, materials and labor?
• Do you regularly experience delays with or lose business when soliciting bids, exchanging documents, communicating with stakeholders or receiving payments?
• Where do you currently lose the most money and time during the planning and building phases of construction?
• What are your current expenses, including any software licenses and the cost of web hosting? Does the proposed SaaS solution replace multiple line items in your budget, or just one or two?
You won’t find the answers to all these questions at the top of your organization. Your company lives and dies according to the productivity, engagement and satisfaction of the people you have at the jobsite.
Ask them which processes give them the most trouble and where they see the majority of delays. Find out which of the available SaaS platforms provide tangible, daily value for the people with boots on
Ready to Adopt SaaS into Your Construction Business?
Software-as-a-service is a force to be reckoned with in manufacturing, agriculture and many other industries. The benefits for construction are becoming obvious. With the right strategy and follow-through, the cost savings and productivity boost will be equally obvious — and well worth any growing pains along the way.
Megan R. Nichols is a technical writer who regularly covers manufacturing, supply chain and construction industry trends. She’s written for sites like Manufacturing.net, IndustryWeek and Contractors from Hell. Megan also publishes easy to understand manufacturing articles on her blog, Schooled By Science, to encourage others to take interest in the industrial sector.