Construction projects require a lot of coordination and management to ensure that everything stays on track. To this day, a lot of activity around construction project management still takes place over phone calls, emails, and, yes, even paper.
More and more, we see all involved parties of a construction project adopt new software platforms to help them manage their projects. Putting aside the advancements in 3D design and modelling software that benefits architects and engineers, we will focus on software platforms for two major groups in construction:
- General contractors (e.g. builders of construction projects)
- Construction owners (e.g. the organizations that initiate & “own” construction projects)
The needs of construction owners and general contractors (”GCs”) can differ significantly, which means that the software platforms they use are often different as well.
Construction Owner Platform Features
Construction owners are responsible for overseeing the entire construction project. This means that they need software platforms that can help them manage everything from the initial design phase to the final inspection. While owners might delegate certain construction management responsibilities to 3rd party consultants or firms, they are ultimately still the most interested in the successful outcome of the construction project and lessons learned for future projects.
Some of the key features of construction owner platforms include:
- Collaboration Capabilities: Construction owners need to be able to collaborate with architects, engineers, and other members of the project team (including GCs!). As a result, construction owner platforms must include tools for sharing files, communicating with team members, and tracking project progress.
- Financial Management: Construction owners are responsible for managing the project budget and spend, they need software that tracks expenses, invoices, and manages the flow of payments.
- Document Management: Construction projects generate a lot of paperwork, from project plans to permits to inspection reports. Construction owner platforms should include tools for managing documentation, including version control and sharing.
- Reporting: Construction owners might have numerous construction projects on the go at the same time. In this instance, where an owner is managing a “portfolio” of construction projects, it is important to have quick and accurate reports at all times. Having a centralized platform for all this data to be tabulated and presented is crucial.
- Contracts: Construction owners need to manage contracts with numerous different parties involved in the construction project. This includes both the initial drafting and signing of the agreements, tracking ongoing modifications, and ultimately being able to see the historic changes over time. All of this needs to be done in one, simple, and accessible place for the construction owner both during the lifetime of the construction project and long after its closure (for any legal disputes, etc.).
General Contractor Platform Features
General contractors, on the other hand, manage and execute on the day-to-day operations of construction projects. This means that their software platforms need to help manage specific task areas like scheduling, resource allocation, and labor management. Some of the key features of general contractor platforms include:
- Scheduling: General contractors need to be able to schedule tasks for workers, equipment, and materials. GC platforms often include scheduling tools that allow users to assign tasks, track progress, and adjust schedules as needed.
- Resource Management: General contractors need to be able to manage resources like workers and equipment. Therefore GC platforms often include resource management tools that allow users to track availability, assign resources to tasks, and manage labor costs.
- Time Tracking: General contractors need to be able to track the time that workers spend on the job. GC platforms often include time tracking tools that allow workers to log their hours, which can then be used to generate invoices and manage payroll.
Here are a few extra functional areas that both construction owner and GC software will have and should be considered for your needs!
Ever heard the saying that “data is the new oil”? Data ownership is different for construction owners and GCs.
As mentioned, construction owners might manage a portfolio of construction projects that all belong to them. They want accurate information on each individual project so that it can roll up to a clear picture of the entire portfolio. This includes being able to leverage historical project data to better budget, plan, and forecast for the future.
GCs on the other hand, will have an array of projects that they are involved with. The ability to harness their own project data will help the organization to work more productively or identify areas for improvement on future projects.
In either case scenario, construction owners and GCs should strive to have their own platforms where they retain direct ownership over data for the long term. Don’t be surprised to see more and more platforms integrate for accurate data sharing!
Another key difference between construction owner platforms and GC platforms is the environment in which they are accessed.
Construction owners typically have the benefit of working in an office environment, in front of a computer. This means construction owner platforms can be designed and delivered to work optimally on larger screen devices like computers and monitors.
GC platforms on the other hand might be accessed directly from the work site. This leads platforms to be designed where certain, or all, components work on smaller screen devices like smartphones, tablets, or more portable computers.
Lastly there is the matter of platform costs or license pricing.
Construction owners at the business or government level (e.g. not an individual homeowner) are generally always facing construction budgets that range in the tens to hundreds of thousands, if not millions! Undertaking a construction project is not cheap.
The platforms they use to manage these large investments must meet a minimum level of sophistication, reliability, and feature-set. It is not shocking then to see construction owner platforms cost anywhere from a few thousand a month to millions per year just for access to the platform. The way to look at this is that if an owner is spending that amount on the software, they will be saving multiples more in lost productivity, setbacks, or overbudgeted projects!
GC platforms can be much more inexpensive as the economics for general contractors range greatly. A roofing company might only do a few thousand dollars in work a month, therefore it is unreasonable for software to cost the same amount. GC software will typically range from a few hundred up to a few thousand for more advanced platforms or features.
While both construction owners and GCs need software platforms to manage projects, the specific needs of these two groups are often quite different. As a result, construction owner platforms and general contractor platforms often have different features and functionality. Understanding these differences will help you choose the right software platform for your needs, which can help save time and money while improving project outcomes.
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