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Technology Improves Collaboration Between Office and Field

By Dan Lehman
Maxwell Systems

To improve project execution and maximize profitability, construction businesses must take advantage of technology innovations that enhance collaboration and workflow between those in the office and those in the field. The latest advances in construction software help contractors to efficiently share data, speed workflow, make better decisions, and gain a valuable competitive edge.

Choosing to use the best technology may be a no-brainer, but how does one choose the right fit? There are so many available options that it may seem daunting to begin the evaluation process and find the best solution for all those involved. Estimators, financial controllers, project managers, and owners all come to the table with their own set of criteria to find the right fit for their needs. These varying requirements have led many firms to purchase different solutions for each department, which can be costly, create silos within an organization, cause duplication of effort, and significantly hinder communications. They set out with the best of intentions to improve productivity, but created more challenges internally to accomplish it. A better fit has since emerged for construction companies seeking to find the ultimate single solution to satisfy the needs of all.

A complete construction business management software solution allows contractors to manage operations from bid to cash. A single solution offers applications for estimating, accounting, and project management, and so can be used by all departments, allowing the entire team to share access to the real-time information in one central location. Contractors choosing to ‘go complete’ are eliminating redundant data entry, streamlining processes, and increasing collaboration, and thereby are able to improve productivity, reduce costs, and increase profitability.

While complete construction software solutions were gaining ground in the industry, the advancements in mobile technology were gaining widespread adoption, too. It’s no wonder because mobile devices, like the iPad, help contractors bring the office and field together, are changing the way contractors communicate both internally and externally, and enhance how construction business owners manage operations.

The iPad’s ease-of-use makes it a convenient tool for the construction industry, which brims with a diverse pool of skills and a varied technical aptitude. Computer novices are able to adapt to the tool quickly, but it also provides the necessary sophistication for contractors to access comprehensive details from any place at any time, which expedites and simplifies the exchange of details between those in the office and those in the field.

Project managers greatly benefit by using mobile devices to conveniently access data and documents managed with a complete software solution. With real-time, critical project-related information at his or her fingertips, the project manager no longer wastes valuable time traveling back and forth between jobsites and the office. Rather, project managers can stay on the job, where they’re needed, to keep activities running efficiently and profitably.

With a complete solution, all job-specific information including: original plans from bid, project documents, budgets, contacts, employees, equipment information, change order requests, subcontracts, purchase orders, open payables and receivables, and document attachments are all in one place. The anytime, anyplace access via the iPad to all of these important documents, data, and up-to-date project information helps project managers better execute their projects, minimize risk, and optimize profit.

In addition to convenient access, there are numerous other advantages. Traditionally, all of these project-related documents are managed in a time-intensive paper process and kept in bulky paper job folders that are often incomplete and out of date. By having a virtual job folder accessible on an iPad, project managers save a significant amount of time. No longer do they need to waste time searching for files and answers; what they need is at a touch. And, with project attachments, such as drawings, available at their fingertips, project managers don’t need to sift through piles of paper and plans in the back of a pickup truck and question if they have the most current version needed.

The iPad provides quick and easy access. The field team no longer needs to call back to the office to obtain contact information; map and directions to a jobsite are just a click away. Plus, project contact information for job, customer, employee, vendor, and subcontractor information can be pulled up in an instant.

Another feature that contractors value is that daily field reports are accessible anywhere, at any time, and provide a detailed view of the whole day. In addition, users can capture timecard information in the field and easily share with the back office to keep project activities current, process payroll efficiently, and ensure work-in-progress reports are current. This helps contractors save time, increase accuracy, and manage with timely information to stay on top of every project.

Another valuable feature of the iPad is its camera, which can serve as a mobile scanner. Contractors can easily document damaged shipments or deliveries, site damage, or even safety and performance citations or violations using the camera and video functions on the iPad, and easily store these files in the central location with all other project-related data. And, with audio recording capabilities as well, contractors can capture and save verbal authorizations, approvals for changes, or work completed, potentially mitigating future risk.

Additionally, change orders can also be managed more effectively. As project change orders are being issued throughout the day, the whole team is working within the same solution, so that details pertaining to change orders is being received centrally and linked to the appropriate project, saving time and preventing potential costly mistakes.

No matter how far away a user is from the office, he or she always has timely access to valuable information with the iPad. That’s also true for documents that can be scanned and linked to the project, such as equipment specs, drawing addendums, and claim correspondence. With access to these types of documents, the project manager is aware of every turn and every update and knows what needs attention and when.

The advantages of this accessibility and flexibility go beyond day-to-day tasks. A complete construction management solution enables project managers and owners to quickly see how a project is performing at a glance. On the iPad, they can get a quick snapshot of each project’s contract, billing cost-to-date, cost to complete, firm profit, and profit percentage-to-date with a drill-down to details. Project managers can easily track progress and be more agile in the field and better account for all aspects of a job from beginning to end, helping them to proactively and profitably execute projects.

Ultimately, the latest in construction technology offerings allow easier collaboration anytime and anywhere. By leveraging these solutions, contractors can more efficiently manage projects, communicate faster, minimize risks, stay on schedule, save time, cut costs, and boost profit.

Dan Lehman is vice president, product management at Maxwell Systems, headquartered in King of Prussia, Pa. He can be reached at dlehman@maxwellsystems.com or by phone at 1-800-688-8226. For more information on Maxwell Systems, visit www.maxwellsystems.com.