Free construction software... comes with a price !

We just got our hands on a report published by Software Advice on free vs open source vs proprietary software (that is, software with a price tag).

For the full report, click here.

For those of you who value your time, I'll summarize:

  • proprietary software such as BuildIT is worth the investment
  • project managers who use proprietary software report fewer challenges and are more satisfied with product features (98%), usability (91%), and support (81%)
  • you're more likely to be completely satisfied with a proprietary software purchase/subscription, rather than free or open source
  • while the lure of free software is appealing, chances are you'll be back searching for a better solution... and you will have wasted precious time and lost profits in the process
It's true - you do get what you pay for. More features, better usability, and customer support. You get your problems solved.

Some new kids on the block do offer free versions of their proprietary software (free for so many projects, sub contractors, etc.). It's a strategy to gain some users and help with their beta release. So while you may think you are getting a good deal, you are actually paying a price to help debug their software.

Questions you should ask yourself before going for the free option:

  1. When I need support, who am I going to call?
  2. If I do connect on the phone with a support guy, how is he getting paid?
  3. If I'm not paying for their free software, and other people presumably aren't paying for their free software, then who is?
  4. What happens when the party is over, and they change their pricing strategy and start billing me?
  5. What happens to my data when they close their doors?
Yes, software companies come and go. Some show up for a year or two, have their flash in the pan, then they're gone... leaving a wake of distraught users that have to retool and catch up with their competitors that bet on the right horse. Their software generally is feature poor, their contact details on their website vague, site links not working, stock photos on their website of smiling contractors in white hard hats or call center girls wearing headsets, their site is void of resources to help you win at your business (contrast with BuildIT's 100+ blog articles like the one you're reading now)... these are the tell tale signs to run quickly in the other direction!

NO construction software exists that is purely free and is paid for by advertising, or is free for the express purpose of attracting a critical mass of users (like mass appeal social media giants Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc.) - these tools just don't exist in the construction project management space. 

If you search for "free construction software", you will get lots of hits... but most are offering a "free trial" of their system; you will eventually be moved into one of their paid plans. 

Yes, some software is fully free, but (BIG but)... it comes without support, with difficult-to-navigate manuals, or is so vague (like a general calendar system with some task tracking) that it's a stretch for most users to make the connection between the software and the construction world they live and operate in.

As they say, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch".

Having said that, with your super low subscription to BuildIT, here's what we do offer free/complimentary:

  • free 15 day test drive (and we're easy to persuade, if you need a bit more time to try us out)
  • free activation
  • free setup/configuration of your account
  • free training (phone, email, Skype, chat support)
  • free importing of your data (job list, contact database, schedule templates)
  • free customizations to the many pre-formatted construction document templates in the system
  • free construction calculators (these crazy things get used daily all over the planet!!)
  • free "relevant" advice given our background in construction - you speak to someone who speaks your language, not a generic commissioned salesperson whose sole purpose it is to sell you their software
  • free construction scheduling consulting - we'll help you get your first construction schedule out the door
Take BuildIT for a free test drive, and learn about the advantages of our "proprietary" construction software for yourself.

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

Pay per Project ? No way !!

We get asked this question all the time...    

   "Do you charge per project?"

Short answer - No.

Thanks to our competitors, many of whom charge "per project" pricing, it does drive a chunk of business our way. Many of you see that being charged more and more for the same software seems a bit odd.

And what's really fascinating is that the market by and large is willing to accept this. Some of your competitors are on the hook monthly for their project management system, and what they pay fluctuates depending on the number of projects they do.

One of our software competitors recently announced a multi million dollar round of investment (curious why they need millions more if they are also boasting a huge user base... shouldn't their revenue cover their operating and development costs!?). And in that press release, they claim they stand out by offering construction software tools in a single platform, charging per project rather than per user.

Imagine if Microsoft found a way to charge you "per Word document", or "per Outlook email"... same software, yet they get into your pocketbook each time you click [save and close] or [send] !! I think if that were the case, many of you would be hitting the road looking for alternatives.

And we're seeing many users of such project management systems jumping ship... they may like the software, but they're only using a fraction of the features available, and they need to stop hemorrhaging from the high monthly charges. The party may be soon be over for software companies that charge too much. And adding more features won't be the remedy - there are many solutions out there that will meet your scheduling and project management needs, question is, who can do it without breaking your bank each month.

Smaller, agile, low cost alternatives. Live support from someone who actually has a background in construction.

Speaking of which...

BuildIT. Our pricing is simple. Our customers pay a low monthly rate. And you can do as many projects as you wish without being penalized.

No long term contracts. And... you can suspend any time if you go through a season in your business where you don't require our service. We'll still keep your account backed up and ready to go... for when you return.

Pay per project... it's like paying through the nose. No thanks.

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

The best builders are the best schedulers

When we started BuildIT, we knew that companies with strong underlying systems were successful (think: franchise companies). We saw the opportunity to provide systems for small to mid-sized contractors and specialty trades to help them get control of their job tracking, scheduling and general organization. We heard loud and clear that scheduling was a nightmare... and the company that could provide solutions for better scheduling would find no shortage of customers.

It stands to reason that if your jobsites are a mess, if your scheduling tools are outdated (or non-existent), and if you end up with piles of waste materials at the end of the job (which completed days if not weeks after your projected completion date), then you're hemorrhaging profit. While you may not be this extreme, you wouldn't be reading this if there wasn't some opportunity for you to make gains in your scheduling and bottom line dollars.

Which brings us to our title... the best builders are the best schedulers.

Go to any jobsite that is well run, talk to any builder that is swimming in profits... and you'll find a "lean" builder, one who has mastered the art of scheduling, collaborating with trades, and "conducting the orchestra" of different moving parts on jobsites. They have systems in place, processes and procedures, and well trained staff who have bought into the vision of the company. They manage change, not react to it. They predict crises/weather events/holidays and seasonal realities... and have built in cushions for such disruptions. Successful builders have trades that WANT to work with them, because it is a privilege to work on their jobsites. The have tight schedules with dates that the trades can rely on... and they equip their trades, staff and clients with the right information well in advance so specifications can be nailed down, documentation is clear and accessible, and products with longer lead times are on order and arrive at just the right time.

Much has been written about the return on investment with scheduling systems like BuildIT. And there are great resources online to help you accelerate your scheduling success as we start a new year. One such resource that I've referenced before is True North Development, whose president Scott Sedam is a prolific writer and industry expert. We highly recommend his "Gospel of Schedule" article, in which he outlines his "25 Essential Scheduling Practices for Home Builders" (and while addressed specifically to home builders, other construction professionals will find some takeaways here). Below is a summary to whet your appetite for the full article (and seminars that he conducts):

  1. Simplify (the product, process, paperwork, etc.)
  2. Pre-construction checklist is a must.
  3. Schedule customer input pre-build and during.
  4. Get buy in from trades and suppliers up front in the importance of scheduling of their work and deliveries.
  5. Establish clear scopes of work, expectations on what 100% complete looks like.
  6. Develop a realistic schedule with input from trades and suppliers.
  7. Create a predicable schedule, whereby specific tasks start on specific days.
  8. Find trades that can adapt crew sizes to meet scheduled durations.
  9. Establish a system for weather events and other contingencies.
  10. Value engineer your plans to help eliminate waste at the end.
  11. Choose manufactured components to reduce production time.
  12. Keep your plans list current; omit plans that seldom get chosen.
  13. Limit options to those most customers will pay for.
  14. Provide unit pricing and upgrades up front.
  15. Provide firm cut-off dates, hold staff, trades and clients to those.
  16. Space out/phase your starts to help with trade conflicts.
  17. Provide superintendents with everything they need to build... at the start.
  18. Establish quality control guidelines, deliveries, daily logs.
  19. Keep building site clean with site plan/placement for deliveries of building materials.
  20. Superintendents to be in each unit daily.
  21. Endeavor to shoot for shorter cycle times ("turns").
  22. Broom sweep each unit at end of day.
  23. Have a schedule (like BuildIT displaying ALL JOBS) that shows where ALL units are at in production.
  24. Pay on time all work that is 100% complete according to the schedule.
  25. Pay for the best crews/suppliers.


I'm sure some of our BuildIT veterans out there could add to this list. Feel free to send BuildIT your success stories on how you used BuildIT to reduce cycle times, increase profit, or secure a new client.

The best builders are the best schedulers... and in our humble opinion... the best schedulers that we know use BuildIT !!

To your scheduling success,

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