by Fred Ode

Q:
I am the owner of a general contracting firm that specializes in commercial and industrial construction projects. Currently, our company is pretty efficient when it comes to internal controls: We use numerous reliable software programs for accounting, estimating, scheduling and project planning. 

Next, I’m thinking that we need to invest in a web-based project management system that will help to streamline our processes and improve collaboration between project participants. However, my fear is that if I don’t get 100 percent cooperation from all involved parties, it will be a waste of time and money. Do you think this is worth pursuing? And if so, how do I select a program that everyone can (or will) use?

Terry


A:
I applaud your forward-thinking attitude! Online project management, while still in its infancy, is definitely the wave of the future.  Any company that manages to ride that wave and take advantage of the many benefits could easily surge ahead of their competitors. By putting all project data under one digital roof, this technology gives everyone involved in building projects the information and collaboration capabilities that they need to complete their work correctly, efficiently and on time.

 

Nevertheless, Terry, you have every right to be cautious. I am not an expert in this area, but I do know that without a firm commitment from employees, subcontractors and other parties, your investment has little chance of paying off.  Don’t underestimate the challenges. It’s probably going to involve a great amount of time and effort because you must convince all parties to accept a new way of working and become diligent users if you hope to see any productivity gain.

So where do you start? There are many good products out there, and the technology is improving every day. Just as you did with the selection of your other applications, I would suggest that you clearly define your goals and must-have features in order to develop a short-list of products for consideration. And because collaboration is key to this technology, make sure you choose a product that’s user-friendly, integrates easily with popular third-party software products and comes from a reputable vendor with excellent customer support services.

Yes, implementing a web-based project management software is sure to be challenging, but don’t let that be the deciding factor. Remember: Only companies that can efficiently coordinate the flow of information and interaction between all team members are likely to deliver their jobs on time and on budget. 

Construction Business Owner, August 2007