What’s the best construction accounting software on the market? What contractor or construction controller doesn’t want to know that? Every month, thousands of people ask Google what the best accounting software is, pulling articles and reviews from across the Web. So what’s the answer?
The Winner of Best Construction Accounting Software Is . . .
Google doesn’t have a clear answer for you. It can tell you all about the top construction accounting software, but its rankings are based on websites — not products. Here’s the real truth. Ready? There really isn’t one best job cost accounting program. There are a number of excellent options available to help contractors manage their business effectively. As far as which one’s the best, there’s only the best solution for you and for your company.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad question. It just means there are a bunch of questions you need to ask to find your answer. Here are the five top questions we think we are especially important as you talk to your team and interview vendors. Turn these questions around on their sales departments. See if they leave you feeling confident about what the best construction accounting software is for your business.
1. “Do We Even Need New Accounting Software?”
You may have already concluded on your own whether you really do need new accounting software. But how a vendor handles this conversation, with a sale on the line, will say a lot about them. If they’re up-to-date on the industry and straight-shooting, they might also help identify your options and clarify what your needs really are.
Many contractors look to switch accounting software before working through three critical steps:
- determine the feature sets and reports you really need to help you be successful
- investigate everything available to you with your current software
- maximize what you have with your current accounting system
If it turns out you’re only using a fraction of your current system, you might consider making sure you’re getting the most out of that before deciding to switch. Sometimes construction businesses realize after an honest conversation with us that their best next step is to go back to their current vendor for additional training. At a minimum, asking this question helps to build trust and get everyone on the same page.
2. “What’s the Construction Software We Really Need?”
Similarly, it’s important to make sure you’re looking at the right type of construction software for the needs you have.
For example, there are many top project management applications on the market today. But let’s say the next big step for your business is really to improve your job costing so you can tie it out with your payroll, payables and financials. A project management suite may track job costs among its main function, but it might not accomplish what you ultimately want for your accounting. Buying otherwise useful software for the sake of its secondary features will probably give you the wrong tool for the job.
Whether your biggest needs are estimating and take-off, project management or job cost accounting, don’t try to bend an application into something it really isn’t — however good it is. Clarify with vendors what your needs really are and where their software is more and less strong. The question isn’t simply whether a system can perform this or that function. It’s whether using that particular software for those functions will give you the best chance of being successful.
3. “Do You Have Construction Software Users That Look Like Our Business?”
Foundation Software has around 5,000 clients across the U.S. in numerous trades. But what about roofers in California who perform Davis-Bacon jobs with less than 50 employees? What about an electrical contractor with a service division that reports profit and loss by division? The most important number a vendor can tell you about says whether they have successful clients that:
- look like your business
- look like what you want your business to become
Ask for a list of similar-size contractors who perform similar projects. See if you can contact them for a reference. They don’t need to be clones of your business. But what you want to be able to verify is that the software has been a good fit for them and that they’ve been happy after the ink has dried.
4. “Do You Have a Roadmap for Us to Use Your Software Successfully?”
Achieving success on new accounting software is an ongoing process. To get the most out of your system, the end of your initial training is just the beginning. A roadmap to success should be unique to your goals. The vendor knows what resources they have to develop their clients into advanced users. So ask them whether they would be able to work with you to create a long-term game plan.
For example, it may be too much to incorporate an inventory module along with your core accounting system at the beginning. Looking 12 months out, you might commit to be using 60% of the system’s capabilities by then, plus add an additional module. After another six months, you might look to adopt a mobile field log app. Talk to the vendor about how you’ll get there, with a map that might include:
- educational webinars
- user classes
- additional training
- on-site consulting
Find out how they’ll work to support you along the way.
5. “Do You Have a Good Roadmap for Your Future in the Construction Industry?”
The truth is, choosing construction accounting software is a long-term commitment. You don’t want to be worrying about converting your data over, retailoring processes and training your staff on new software again after just a couple years. But beginning a relationship with a vendor who has expressed plans for their future can help assure you of stability in your own.
Ask vendors where they’re headed. They may be intent on remaining independent, but others may be open to selling once they find the right investors. Not every software company is actively looking to grow, but your next software vendor should.
More importantly, find out how they plan to grow over the next five, 10 and 20 years. Are they planning to raise funds from outside the industry, or are they pursuing new entry points into the market, and are those additional entry points going to come back to benefit you as a client? The more their focus remains on you, and the more their success becomes your success, the more you’re talking about the best vendor for you.
The Internet can’t tell you what the best construction accounting software is. Even if it claims to. But it’s not necessarily something you can figure out on your own either. Start a conversation with as many vendors as possible that could be a fit for you. Give them the chance to learn about your needs and see how you work. Then, let the questions fly and find out who gives you the best chance of being successful.