Guest Contributor: Brett Fairbourn, CrewTracks
Construction software can streamline your operations and make your company more profitable, but it also carries the potential for huge learning curves, disruptive transition periods, and worst of all, complete failure. Fortunately, the following considerations will greatly increase your likelihood of finding the right fit.
In the interest of transparency, I would like to begin by mentioning that Russ Young from FMI Corporation presented many of these ideas in a recent webinar. I would like to give him credit for helping me recognize and organize these principles. Among the insights he offered were the following distinctions that can help you find the right software for your company:
- Technology Vendors vs. Technology Partners
- Stack Solutions vs. Point Solutions
- Self Service vs. Full Support
With one exception, there is not a clear winner in these matchups. You need to consider which option is a better fit for your company.
Technology Vendors vs. Technology Partners
Let’s start with the exception. There is a clear winner here: you want a technology partner, not a technology vendor. This distinction sometimes appears as the option to “rent” or “buy.” In other words, are you paying for an ongoing subscription or buying the software outright?
If you are buying the software, you’re setting yourself up for some hard times. Stagnant software goes obsolete almost immediately. This includes software you pay someone to develop and is especially true of mobile software.
Alternatively, some software is sold as a monthly or annual subscription. Believe it or not, this approach is usually less expensive both immediately and over time. With a software subscription, you pay less upfront than you would with a software purchase. Plus, you receive incremental updates over time, which eliminates the need for costly disruptions to your operations when your software gets out-of-date. Plus, a subscription software provider doesn’t make any money from your initial subscription payments. They must keep you happy month after month, year after year, or else you won’t renew your subscription. The long-term outcome is a huge win-win.
Stack Solutions vs. Point Solutions
Another important distinction is stack versus point solutions. A stack solution is usually represented by a big company that continually builds or acquires products to create a “stack” of software that meets all your needs. If you can find a good, affordable fit, it’s beautiful. You have one go-to partner to ask for help whether you’re trying to upload a drawing or compile your year-end financials. However, you’ll usually identify some part of this “all-in-one” stack that falls a bit short. Maybe you can’t customize your quotes the way you’d like, or your employees find some part of the software a bit cumbersome. This is where point solutions come in.
Point solutions strive to be the best at one thing. Field management software is an example of this. A field management solution might not have estimating or CRM features, but if you want to know what’s happening on the jobsite and communicate with your field crews, a product that “points” specifically at that problem might be a good bet. The main challenge you face with a point solution is integration with your other software. This is usually accomplished via importing and exporting files, or by built-in integrations that allow you to send data from one software to another. You’ll want to ask about this if you are evaluating a point solution.
Self Service vs. Full Support
This distinction largely boils down to a series of important questions. What is it about that company that makes them special? Do they have a clearly defined vision that aligns with your expectations? Do you have named account management that will get to know your needs over time? Do you know someone by name that you can call? Do they have 24/7 support? Do they have user groups you can join? Again, you’re looking for a trusted partner, not a vendor, so don’t hesitate to ask these questions.
In some cases, you don’t need full support. If you’re downloading a free app to solve a simple problem, it will likely have a built-in walkthrough to get you up and running. On the other end of the spectrum are large enterprise solutions, which can contain so many features and options that you don’t even want to consider purchasing without getting some consultation first. Then, as you move forward with the partnership, you want to know that you can continue to count on someone to answer your questions and help you recognize ways you can squeeze even more value out of the software. Again, it depends on the complexity of the problem you’re trying to solve.
When it comes to software, you need to find the right tool for the job. The above considerations will help you establish strong partnerships to streamline your operations, improve your bottom line, and take your company to the next level.
Brett Fairbourn is the Vice President of Marketing at CrewTracks and has helped hundreds of businesses implement software for sales, marketing, and field management.