Slowly but surely, the construction industry is digitizing. From big data to something as simple as a digital signature, construction companies are picking up the digitization pace. For instance, many construction companies make use of some kind of web-based construction management software, also called ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS). This can range from SaaS solutions that are used in multiple verticals (such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, but also Slack or HubSpot) to solutions that specifically cater for construction professionals. In this article, we will discuss some of the most well-known construction software solutions, which may help you to manage your clients, documents, teamwork and time more effectively.
Software as a Service and Construction
‘Software as a Service’, or ‘web-based software’ can be used online and in-browser. In other words, you don’t need to install it before usage. Well-known examples of SaaS solutions include Office 365 and Google Docs. However, there are thousands upon thousands other SaaS solutions that are used daily by companies around the world. Regardless of vendor or brand, the choice for SaaS is often based on one of the following benefits, which you cannot find in traditional on-premise software:
- No upfront investment costs
- Automatic updates (which are often free)
- Allow employees to work remotely
- Automatic backups
- Integration with other software solutions
- Improve ease of collaboration
- New features
With regard to the construction industry specifically, there are a few types of SaaS that are often used. In particular, we can distinguish the following SaaS categories:
- Customer Relationship Management
- Enterprise Resource Planning
- Document Management System
- Project Management Software
- Architectural Design Software
- Other Web-Based Construction Management Software
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Let’s first discuss CRM, a type of software that is used in almost any type of industry. A basic CRM system allows you to store all your customer-related information in one place. Depending on the solution, this does not only include addresses and phone numbers, but also phone calls, emails, contracts, notes, and much more. Currently, the 4 biggest CRM vendors are Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft.
Regarding construction, there are only few solutions that specifically focus on this industry. Most construction companies use a CRM that is not industry-specific, created by one of the mentioned software vendors. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as TopBuilder Solutions CRM and JobNimbus, which do offer an industry-specific CRM solution.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
ERP software offers a combination of software solutions for enterprises. This may include inventory and order management, accounting or HR functions, and even a full CRM system. In short, the functions of an ERP depend largely on the ERP in question. Some well-known ERP systems include those by SAP, Oracle, Sage and Infor.
In the search for a construction-specific ERP, you’ll come across products such as Epicor and Maestro. These are specifically designed with the construction industry in mind. But note that solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics SL can be made to really fit your company, even though Dynamics does not focus on construction specifically.
Document Management System (DMS)
Document Management Systems come in all kinds of forms and sizes. What they have in common is that they reduce paper and paper waste. In essence, a DMS is software that you can use to share, edit and archive documents, often improving the way your employees and colleagues collaborate. One example of a DMS solution vendor that specifically caters for construction professionals is Aconex, though Aconex also offers other types of software.
Project Management Software
In contrast to the software types we have discussed so far, the holy grail of web-based management software for the construction industry is not regularly abbreviated. It is simply referred to as Project Management Software. Similar to ERP solutions, this kind of software offers a variety of features depending on the vendor. Numerous Project Management Software systems have been specifically created for the construction industry. Such systems include names like Procore, PlanGrid, and again, Aconex.
Architectural Design Software
Software is a must for architects, and that is why we discussed 5 free home design software programs for architects in a previous article on this blog. However, design software may need a lot of computer power, which means that it is often offered as an on-premise solution. Some vendors do sell architectural design software in ‘SaaS form’, such as SmartDraw.
Other Web Based Construction Management Software
It may be evident that there are a great number of SaaS solutions that can provide a real benefit to your business. In this article, we have discussed some software (and SaaS) categories that are often used by companies in the construction industry. However, there are many more types of software that can bring real value to your business. For instance, online software like Slack or HubSpot may provide a boost to team collaboration and online marketing. And startups may also bring new ideas to the table, such as our own GoFetchCode, which provides answers to your building code questions by making Building Codes searchable.