Jim Flynn is president and CEO of Maxwell Systems, a provider of complete construction software solutions for estimating, job cost accounting and project management.
Hindsight is 20/20: Use end-to-end software to make better decisions for your construction business.
Foresight is critical in construction management—contractors must determine how to make bids competitive, execute projects on budget and on schedule and stay ahead of possible changes.
The ability to look back at something that happened in the past makes it much easier to see how it could have been done differently or prevented. This knowledge pinpoints the good and bad decisions that produced the result.
Consider how useful it would be to have historically factual data that reveals exactly how, why and when the business created estimates, negotiated bids, purchased materials, executed projects and tracked performance.
This type of data can help construction business owners cut costs, generate profit opportunities, expose shortcomings, maximize resources, increase productivity and build a competitive advantage.
Dig Up the Data
With paper-based processes, it is very difficult to review previous estimates or project information to evaluate why you won or lost a job or did not achieve the projected profit goals. Most established contractors have historical data that allows them to improve operations. However, where and how they have stored this data will determine its usability.
Even with software solutions that automate estimating, project management or accounting processes, companies typically have multiple sets of data in different locations. And the data cannot integrate, which makes it difficult to collect and analyze.
By using a complete construction software solution that provides end-to-end control of critical business operations—from takeoff and estimating to job cost accounting and project management—contractors have a central location for all company and project data. This allows owners and other team members to leverage historical data and gain deeper visibility into processes and areas that need improvement. It also increases accountability.
Leverage Previous Bids
Historical data can be tremendously helpful starting with the job acquisition phase when the business owner, estimator and project manager work closely together to evaluate the opportunity and submit a bid.
With an all-in-one software solution, your team can have a comprehensive database to find historical pricing on cost items including materials, equipment and labor. This provides one location for all pertinent estimate-related information necessary to produce the final numbers, plus it maintains a complete and accurate trail of what transpired (including any changes made). Contractors can easily reference details about projects won or lost to better prepare for future bids and jobs.
Data from previous bids may help determine whether or not to bid a specific project. Or if you lose a bid because it was priced too high, the estimator can forecast adjustments to lower the bid on future projects.
Using data from a previous bid for a similar project will also save significant time and energy and will allow more bids to be generated with greater accuracy. The data could reveal the bid was priced with outdated material prices or wrong labor information or that unpredictable forces (e.g., the weather) caused delays and issues.
Execute Projects Successfully
Once you win a bid, historical data from an all-in-one software solution can help the project manager successfully execute the project and achieve the planned profits.
For most contractors, this includes several coordination meetings between the estimating and project management teams exchanging the details that were established by the team involved in the bidding process.
Understanding what occurred during the estimating process and bid negotiations will help the project manager better manage the job. With a complete business management solution, the project manager has easy access to the takeoff, estimating and bid data and can thoroughly understand the client expectations and better execute the plan. Project managers can anticipate and proactively identify potential scenarios that could cost money if handled improperly—and, in a best-case scenario, they could propose change orders for additional profit.
With the ability to track and measure jobs correctly, problems can be promptly identified and corrected on the current project and future jobs.
Win/loss ratio information and knowing which estimators have been winning or losing more jobs can enable contractors to make necessary adjustments to win more business.
Bidding and estimating is an overhead expense, and doing it inefficiently can cost significant time and money. Automated solutions offer tremendous value to business owners. This data can be used to more efficiently and knowledgeably run the company from beginning to end, while reducing the overhead expense for bidding and estimating efforts.
With automated solutions, contractors can use historical bidding and estimating data to track performance by the estimator, customer, project type and more. Tracking true project performance, gaining better insight into variance items and having the flexibility to apply methods to execute jobs for optimal profit will give owners more confidence in their company’s performance.
With true job cost data easily accessible, contractors can see which jobs make money and drill into project details to quickly understand why certain jobs or phases of jobs are especially profitable for the business.
Leveraging valuable historical data available through complete construction management software solutions can help construction business owners better understand the reasons for their successes and failures and make adjustments for future jobs.
Construction Business Owner, November 2011