PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog

6 Traps to Avoid When Buying Mobile Construction Software

There are quite a few reasons you may find yourself evaluating mobile construction software for your company right now. Maybe a superintendent won’t stop raving about their favorite app, or perhaps you’ve received just enough calls from salespeople. Simply put, there’s a lot of noise surrounding mobile construction software.

Still more challenging is that you may not have a dedicated IT person to help you evaluate your options. In fact, JBKnowledge’s 2016 construction technology report found that nearly half of all construction companies lack a dedicated IT department. A great way to do your due diligence without an in-house subject matter expert is to expand your search criteria from “What do I need and why?” to include “What should I avoid and why?”

Investing in technology for your team is an exciting step, so don’t get bogged down by the draining details. Let us help make the process a bit easier for you with our handy list of six traps to look out for when considering mobile construction software:

1. All-in-one suites with “good enough” products

A vendor may promise you the world with their suite of products ranging from project management to cost controlling, finance, accounting, and more—but then throw in a mobile solution as an afterthought. This is particularly compelling for CIOs or CTOs who want to consolidate their company’s bills. But if you’re prioritizing your field team’s productivity, you can’t afford to make that investment an afterthought.

For companies that need to equip field teams with mobile construction software to be more productive, “good enough” doesn’t make the grade. Instead, it’s time to start looking at more established and proven options.

Also, the money you invest with an all-in-one company is spread out to support different products that compete for resources. If the company builds products for project management, finance, and more, then they’re not focused on the problem you’re paying them to solve. Conversely, if you buy from a company that’s entirely focused on mobile construction software, all of your investment goes towards making your team more productive. You want to invest in mobile construction software that won’t sit unused and become a loss on the balance sheet.

2. Technology that the field team won’t use

Field teams can end up with clunky mobile software that they simply don’t use, especially if it’s just a supplemental feature in an all-in-one solution. The question of “will my team use it” is a legitimate one—you don’t want to be part of the 32% of companies that report “employee hesitance” as an obstacle to adopting new technology.

When exploring different options, make sure to include a director of operations, superintendent, or stakeholder from the field team to provide feedback on what features would encourage a high adoption rate. The conversation might come down to whether the software is easy to use, specific features, offline capabilities, and more. They can also help you craft a plan for how to get the whole team on board.

3. Giving up control of your data

The data that you create and collect over the course of a project is one of the most valuable assets you have. It feeds the as-builts that you submit at the end of a project and documents what happened over the course of the build. If you relinquish control over this data, you risk losing it.

It may seem convenient to allow a contractor or owner to host the project data so all you have to do is submit your part of the project without worrying about things like footing the bill, archiving documents, and vetting security. But if there’s ever a disagreement or litigation, you could lose all of the data that you submitted to their software at any time. “Free” sounds nice, but as the saying goes: “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

4. Revenue-based pricing and hidden costs

Believe it or not, some software providers set prices based on your company’s revenue. This is bizarre for multiple reasons. First, while your company aims to earn more revenue next year, this pricing model actually penalizes you for doing just that. If you make more money, you pay more money.

Imagine negotiating with a salesperson for a new car at a local dealership. But, they ask you to provide your W2 and give you a price based on how much money you made. Meanwhile, the person next to you interested in the exact same car just pulled a price 50% lower than yours. Either the other person is getting a screaming-good deal, or you’re being overcharged and unfairly treated.

Consider additional questions, like how many of your employees will it take to manage and support the software? How many hours per week will your employees potentially spend on unproductive set-up, onboarding, support, and other tasks? The cost of maintaining your investment can exceed the original price tag.

5. Poor scalability

When sheet revisions are available, you need to get them out to the field immediately. If your team uses tablets to access sheets on the go, you don’t have all day to wait for your project documents to load. Every minute or hour of delay in distributing information to the team presents rework and miscommunication risks.

Ask for referrals and see what existing customers have to say about load times and crash frequency. Do they encounter the infinite loading ring? What works and doesn’t work when they disconnect from wifi or the internet? Basically, you need to know if the software is fast and reliable enough for your business needs.

But don’t just rely on other people’s’ experiences. Test the software yourself—set up a trial and upload a full project to make sure it syncs and works quickly. Any mobile construction software that’s worth buying should be more than happy to accommodate this request.

These questions are critical because these considerations directly impact your team in the field and therefore your project’s bottom line. And if the software comes up short on any of these, you can guarantee that the team won’t use it.

6. Inability to measure the return on investment (ROI)

At the end of the day, it should be easy to quantify the value you of your mobile software investment. Will it save your team time on certain tasks? Which tasks? How many hours per week? Ask software providers to back up ROI claims with evidence, and ask to speak with existing customers about it. If you can’t find proven customer ROI stats, that could indicate a fundamental lack of value and experience.

From communication between the office and field to as-built handoffs to owners, your investment in mobile construction software will fundamentally change how your business operates. To learn more about what it means to adopt mobile construction software and go paperless, check out our ebook, “How to Transition to a Paperless Construction Company.”

Pete Schott

Pete is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at PlanGrid where he is passionate about bringing innovative products to market and crafting stories that showcase the value PlanGrid brings to construction companies all over the world.

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