5 Software Tools You Can Start Using Right Now

Construction firms maintain notoriously thin margins. According to a recent study by Gartner Research, the construction industry as a whole spends less of it's annual earning on technology than every other industry. Just a mere 1.6% of revenue for construction firms making $250M a year, and 1.1% for firms making over $10B a year.

The fact that firms are not spending a lot of money on technology is not the concerning part. What is concerning is that they are missing out on the vast possibilities of finding a tool that would not only generate enough revenue to pay for the technology itself, but also potentially manage that revenue using fewer resources than what was previously required.

In our experience, we have seen countless firms pass up incredibly useful technology for one reason or another - too busy, too expensive, doesn't fit the needs, foreman aren't tech savvy, etc. The list of excuses (because that's what they are) goes on and on.

So we've done some legwork for you. Here is a list of 5 tools that you can start using today. And with just a little perseverance, will pay of on your bottom line. Notice I haven't used 'easy' to describe these new tools. While downloading them and getting set up is easy, they are only valuable if they are put to use.

This is hands-down the best virtual plan room I've put my hands on. It's easy to use, intuitive, and every single person I've seen use it (including the General Foreman 3 months from retirement) absolutely love it. Use it for everything (RFI's, punchlists, progress photos, as-builts etc) or just use it to review plans. Not only is this a handy tool for the aforementioned reasons, but just imaging this - you are on a design-build project and the design team releases a new drawing overnight for something you are building the next morning. If you're using PlanGrid, you get that updated drawing first thing and adjust your plan to include the change. If you're not on PlanGrid, you install from the drawing you printed last week, then end up either tearing it out or paying the design team to re-re-design it. Either way, we're talking big bucks. Think of PlanGrid as a 'rework insurance policy'. On top of saving rework, you're also done printing (paper, ink, time, headache) and shuffling papers.

Microsoft OneNote

A place to collect thoughts, ideas, plans, notes, photos, PDF's and much more, all in one place. I won't lie on this - it takes some getting used to. I tried it twice before actually adopting it as my all-in brain-dump tool. Set up notebooks for different projects or maybe areas of your business. Take notes at meeting and email them out in a cinch. Keep rolling to-do lists. There is oh-so-much that this program does that it almost becomes overwhelming. Have no fear though, just sign up for a free account and start using it for the minimum - keep notes. This is more of a personal tool, but can also be suitable for groups. Notebooks can be shared, so at a very minimum, think about taking meeting notes on a notebook and sharing it with the team. Take a moment and think about how much more efficient your team could be if you weren't relying on phone call, side bars and smoke breaks to share information. Also - it's free!

Dropbox

If you already have a magical, secure server set up that everyone on the team can access to save and share documents, great. If not, go to Dropbox.com immediately and create an account. There is a free version (personal use only) and a paid enterprise version for more security and more storage (which you'll eventually need). The beauty of it is that everyone on the team can access it from any device. No more excuses about not being able to get it.

Bonus: If your company does have a server, I like to use my FileBrowser app to access that. Great user-interface, simple and powerful. Just my two cents.

GoodReader

This is a PDF reader/editor app. There are lots out there, but we like this one. It packs in plenty of features and still keeps a pretty simple user interface. Here's why a PDF reader/editor is a must have - in order to be an effective manager/foreman/owner/etc, you absolutely beyond-any-doubt know and understand your contracts. And guess what - we're not all super-geniuses who can memorize thousands of pages of contract language so here's what we do - have a copy on hand. Load it on your iPad, iPhone, whatever. Make sure it's OCR'd (if that's an acronym you don't know - Google it asap) and you're good to go. No more 'but that's in your contract' surprises. Special note: This is super duper important for your field craftsmen. They are even less interested in memorizing the contract than the owner is. But since they are the front line defense for extra work and changes, they need this more than anyone.

Frontline's Daily Reports

This handy little app was created based on a need. A need for the 'office folk' to know what the 'field folk' are doing. For the same reason stated above about the craftsmen being the front line of defense for extra work and changes, this is a must for the field personnel. This is the tool that is going to enable the Project Manager, Superintendent or Owner to see what is happening on a daily basis, measure that against the contract and the plan, and react accordingly. Bonus points if the Foreman actually calls before the Daily Report is finalized and includes notes about his conversation with the Client in the report. Although not free, this is a tool that will pay for itself the moment that first extra work description comes in. Not only are you going to pick up additional revenue on extra or changed work, but you will save the time of getting timecards, making copies, wiring up issue letters and compiling the final claim. This is a time saver for everyone on the project. 

 

The Recap:

There you have it - 5 tools that you can have set up in a single day (if not by lunch time) that are not only free or incredibly inexpensive, but will only ever cost you a tiny fraction of what they will add to the bottom line.

Don't get passed up by companies that are more dedicated to improving their company's efficiency. Put these tools in place and your team will be headed in the right direction.

I did some rough math for a company of about 20 employees and the total annual cost for all these tools comes to about $7,000. Put it this way - if one of these tools saves each of those 20 employees one hour a week, you're looking at a savings of $33,000! What!? That's not even to mention the intangibles, like happier employees and better work/life balance.

For more information on any of the tools listed - click on the links provided or contact us at Frontline and we can help get your team set up.