Home Builder / Remodeler Software and Online Selections

Word in the street is this: online selections aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Now, we're not negating the fact that some large volume home builders and remodelers have taken advantage of online selection systems offered by some home builder software packages. Given the market, the product, the type of builder, and the client, this approach to selections may make perfect sense. Certainly does in theory. Get the client to go online, and do the work of reviewing options, and nailing down their preferences. Click. Send. Done.

If this is what you’re after, and you cannot be convinced otherwise, call us and we’ll give you a recommendation or two. There are some good packages out there.

But, online selections are not for everyone. In fact, quite the contrary.

  :: Some homeowner clients won't go there -- they simply will not play ball that way.

  :: Some builders have tried it, and are dropping the service for simpler, less costly software solutions. 

Before you follow the crowd and pay a premium for a mid-level or enterprise level project management suite with all the bells and whistles including online selections, consider the following:

  1. Custom home builders and remodelers are typically hands on with their clients -- there is a trusted relationship and often the clients will want to get the builder's opinion before proceeding with a selection/upgrade -- like a sanity check. This is best done in person, or over the phone, not online.
  2. Generally home builders and remodelers work with their clients at the design stage, nailing down specifications in a typical specifications document. This is what they have used to price out the project. And this is what the client has agreed to when they signed the contract.
  3. If the client uses a design professional (architect, interior designer), chances are the specifications are nailed down well in advance of the build.
  4. Throughout the build, the client may well wish to make a change... that is what change orders are for. We have them. They are easy to fill out, and ensure the change is agreed to by the client and builder (along with the price difference) before the change is carried out.
  5. If you are building for a demographic that prefers face-to-face interaction (generally baby boomers and older, but there are folks in all age ranges that this applies to), they will exchange the online selection process for a call to your cell phone or a meeting on site... and they likely won't respect "normal business hours"!
  6. The online selection process is not intuitive for many people, especially those not up the technology curve. Imagine some of your clients that are self proclaimed computer illiterates attempting to maneuver around a 3rd party online selection website - they'll probably be on the phone with you. Congratulations, you are now in tech support!
  7. The process of getting to the 3rd party online selection website is wrought with friction. Consider that a client has to first go online, then go to your website, then click on a "client access" link if they can find it, then they have to remember a username and password... as if they don't have several others they are trying to recall. That friction will cause a percentage of customers to avoid that process altogether and call a real live person... so you need to account for that.
  8. Online selections are not applicable to the majority of construction businesses. For instance, they wouldn't be applicable to commercial/industrial project managers, specialty trade contractors, spec builders, or residential builders who have only a few jobs they do each year -- so you would be paying a premium for a system that has online selection features you wouldn't use.

I actually had a high end custom home builder tell me (within the last 12 months of writing this) that he would never force his clients to go to his website, log in to some 3rd party software system, and make changes to selections on their home. In fact, he felt that process would be damaging to his reputation, and a disservice to his clients. They were paying a premium for his knowledge and concierge service. Therefore, it made sense that they should have access to him at any point along the process.

Of course, this is one builder's opinion, and we're not implying that this is true for all home builders and remodelers.

Having said that, you ought to consider how you want to be perceived by your clients, and the way in which you want to interact with them.

For instance, you can use an online service called Houzz and share Ideabooks, and manage selections with your clients there. Some builders use Houzz to organize selections by room, and by indoors/outdoors. For builders like this, adding the online selection process to their website would only serve to complicate matters.

BuildIT customers (those who are home builders and remodelers – we have a wide variety of construction professionals that use the system) can use a specifications document with the client. It would be completed up front and stored in the project files area. Changes during construction would be dealt with via change orders. Simple. Easy to do. Has worked efficiently for years.

If you prefer the tried and tested approach, and need help constructing a custom, well formatted PDF specifications document that can be filled in with the BuildIT system, give us a call and we'll help you out.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

Big Guy Benefits without the Big Guy Pricing

I came across a testimonial from one of my competitor’s customers the other day (dressed for success I might add).  Here’s what he had to say about the benefits of his comprehensive "big guy" project management suite that he chose (shortened to bullet points for the sake of brevity):

  • Place where all staff can access information from any Internet connected device
  • Allows us to share project information
  • Can notify each other about issues
  • Can be used for creating RFI's (requests for information) among other construction documents
  • Place to store job site photos, job related documents, and daily job logs
  • Clients and sub trades can access files of all sizes, no need to email attachments

Great.  

BuildIT offers the same thing.

The difference -- price, and complexity.

We’re about 1/10th of the cost of this particular software behemoth. How do we know this? You tell us. Even though most large project management software companies do not publish their pricing, the word does get out.

When you shop around, you soon get an idea on where prices fall.  And you'll see that BuildIT subscription pricing is at the far low end of the pricing spectrum.

There may be some features that your company needs over and above what we offer. In that case, I'd be happy to make some recommendations. We make no apologies -- we're a niche construction scheduling system, not an "end to end" full project management suite.

There is no "one size fits all" construction software silver bullet. On the contrary, there are dozens if not 100's of solutions that may work for you… the key is to nail down what you need, and find something that gets as close to the bulls-eye as possible... for the least cost.

Many customers already have their estimating and accounting systems nailed, and they don't need a soup-to-nuts package that will grind things to a halt at the beginning, and has a high likelihood of stalling in the implementation.

If what you need is basic construction scheduling, file management/sharing, and a collaboration "platform" where you can keep your staff, trades, vendors and clients in the loop, then start with us first... it'll be easier on your pocketbook, with a greater chance of success!

Unless of course you want to pay an extra $8,000 for some additional bells and whistles (and I’m rounding down here).

BuildIT -- construction scheduling and project management software for the 81% crowd !

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

Gantt charts

Gantt chart basics 

When you search for “construction scheduling software”, you will likely end up here on our blog, or at www.builditsystems.com – and you need something that can generate a Gantt chart for construction. 

A Gantt chart is commonly used in construction project management as an easy way of showing tasks/activities as they relate to time (days/weeks). Sometimes referred to as construction timelines, or construction bar charts, Gantt charts help you and others see how a project is tracking. Construction tasks are shown on the left of the page, vertically in sequential order, and the time is expressed in days (or weeks) along the top of the chart, from left to right. Each task is expressed by bars of time… and you can see relationships between tasks - which ones can run concurrently, and which ones need to finish before the other ones start.

Brief history

It’s an unfortunate name really. Hard to pronounce, we are often asked for a ga-nat chart or gnat chart (where the “g” is silent and I picture flies buzzing around a spreadsheet !!). The Gantt chart was the brainchild of Karol Adamiecki, a polish engineer around 1895. Originally named a “harmonogram”, it had limited appeal until an American engineer and management consultant named Henry Gantt created his own version in English around 1910… it quickly gained traction in project management circles (construction, government, education, manufacturing, etc.). And thanks to his last name, “Gantt” chart is what we are stuck with (could be worse).

For decades, Gantt charts were created by hand. Each time a change to the schedule took place, they would have to be redrawn. The process was time consuming, arduous… a real pain. And despite their value, most projects involve managing change. This kept those pink eraser companies humming, and generated a lot of frustration when sub trades didn’t show up, things took longer than expected, and you got a couple feet of snow the day before you were to sheathe the roof trusses.

Gantt chart software

Today, you can create Gantt charts using tools like Microsoft Word or Excel. However, they are the wrong tools for the job. You’ve just replaced the pink eraser for dozens of key presses, back spaces, deletes, copy/pastes... frustration builds, and time is consumed. If this is you, congratulations… relief is spelled B-U-I-L-D-I-T 

Scheduling software makes creating Gantt charts a breeze. Microsoft Project has been around for years, and it tends to be the one that comes up with our future customers that are making the switch from paper based, and whiteboard scheduling. Click here to review the differences between Microsoft Project and BuildIT.

There are several options available to help you create a printed Gantt chart. Heck, we can help you do it. As a matter of fact, many customers who come to BuildIT get a printed Gantt chart (PDF) before they even subscribe to our service. It’s simple really, and we’ll help you do it. But… a printed Gantt chart becomes stale quickly, like, within hours. And if you have staff and sub-contractors relying on a printed schedule that is out of date, that’s when costly errors and delays occur.

BuildIT scheduling "system" vs static Gantt schedule software

Some specialized spreadsheet programs and online Gantt software claim they are the answer to creating Gantt charts for your team. While they may be easier to use than Microsoft Project and cost less, the benefit that sets BuildIT apart from the rest is the ability to collaborate in real time.

BuildIT’s schedule is online, and can be shared with anyone on your team. You make a change to the schedule, your contacts are notified, and they see that schedule in real time, just by clicking a link within their email. When they add a note to a task, you (the BuildIT user and master of the schedule) get that note, date and time stamped by them. Everyone is apprised of changes, and nothing gets missed.

Simple. Automatically configured by BuildIT. Your clients and sub-contractors/vendors do not have to go to someone’s website, find the right place to login, and try to remember a username or password combination – that is a pain, and it’s the big reason the other guys still are dealing with costly screw-ups. BuildIT’s approach is super easy – all you do is create a schedule, assign the contact to one or more tasks, then email that contact a link (by pressing a button) – you don’t even have to write the email – we do it all for you.

Gantt charts are great, and there are times when you want to print to a PDF, and send to a client or contractor. BuildIT is better… for those who want to keep everyone in the loop, and notified of changes. 

Try us on your next Gantt chart. And start scheduling the easy way.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1