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

Which machine are you gonna feed?

We all vote with our dollars.

It's important that we get value for our dollar. As economists point out, we all want to maximize utility (or satisfaction) from our expenditures. Quite frankly, we want to pay the least amount possible, and get the best bang for our buck.  

When 2 or more products appear to offer the same thing (meet a need, solve a problem), but the prices are all over the map, then what? Choice. And there's lots to choose from.

Let's cut to the chase and focus on why you're reading this - you have a choice of which construction scheduling package to choose. So, which machine are you gonna feed? Who gets your dollars?

There's BuildIT - a niche software laser focused on construction scheduling. With the lowest subscription pricing on the planet (thank to all our secret shoppers out there for that intel !!). And our structure (agility, contracting arrangements, investor partnerships) allows us to invest way more of your dollars back into the product that you use.

And then there are some big players out there who offer scheduling... but it's only a small part of a huge feature set that can leave your head spinning. It's like being thrown into the cockpit of a 747... when all you need is an ultra lite. And when you choose them, consider where your dollars are going.

We continually get compared to a couple players out there. One company with focus on commercial project management software proudly displays a fancy building with dozens of employees, and recently announced they had over 1 million users. OK, could be true, impossible to prove... and are these "users" or "paying customers"? Big difference. Another home builder software company boasts over 25 support staff, and 60+ other employees ! Imagine the payroll. And guess who pays for that!? Complex software requires warm bodies with headsets, engineers and programmers on standby, and a bunch of suits at the C level. All paid for by contractors who may not realize there is a better, far less expensive way to get the job done.

If you've already taken BuildIT for a test drive, you've seen that you can get right to it - create a job, add tasks, and share them with others online. Get a construction schedule printed to PDF within minutes if that is your goal. Or take advantage of real time scheduling, where changes you make are automatically shared with others (with the added bonus of email notification if so desired).

If you're already on the hook with some other package, and you're looking to solve your scheduling challenges AND reduce your monthly/annual costs - then pull the pin, and get started with BuildIT.

Let's recap:

BuildIT

  • focus on construction scheduling
  • sharing schedules in house, and with outside contacts
  • lowest pricing in the construction software space
  • speak directly to one of the owners
  • easy help videos plus phone support 7 days per week
  • your dollars get reinvested into your system
  • customizations available
Big Guys

  • offer the world, scheduling is a small part of 100's of other screens
  • higher pricing, often indexed to the # of jobs you do
  • sold by commissioned sales staff 
  • support staff required if you want to get lift off (check to see if they have any construction experience!)
  • your dollars pay for fancy office space and payroll, executive bonuses
  • not set up to offer you concierge service
Which machine are you gonna feed?

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

New kid on the block... takes the $ and runs

In the market for construction software?

Good chance if you're reading this you are, and you're waiting for the pitch. Not now. This is more of a "buyer beware" article.

And the story goes like this...

We get lots of folks coming to BuildIT. We are easily found, have been for over a decade. If you are looking for construction scheduling software, you will find BuildIT. As did "Joe" (yup, name changed out of respect for privacy). Joe had been using Super Software (not their real name, but it would suit them just fine) for the past year. Spent around a grand. And it didn't perform. Nor did their team perform when Joe kept calling and asking for bugs to be fixed.

Joe put me on to Super Software - I had never heard of these guys. Sotware companies like this have come and gone over the years, it's hard to keep track of the ones that fail. But the more I delved into Super Software's website, the more I thought I should sound the alarm... and do my part to get the word out for folks like you doing their research.

We've been around since 2000, so we (as my kids would call me) are OLD. It took us about 2 years just to get a product on the market. And that product was "cloud based" from day 1... before the word "cloud" was hip.

Super Software was "founded" just a few years ago. That means that they started the company... then started to build something. And what I love about America and the Internet, is anybody can start something, then make outrageous claims about "being the best" or "being the first"... and nobody can stop you. Anybody can throw a website up, add stock photos, which you'll find everywhere online (yes, those photos of smiling girls with headsets on, and men in dress shirts wearing hardhats do NOT work for Super Software, and the smiling couple looking over a set of plans are NOT their customers).

Fortunately if you dig around, you can find a few red lights that should send you running in the opposite direction. Here are a few I found, and you'll find them on other sites as well:

1. When someone says they are the "first cloud construction platform" and they've only been in existence this decade, then they are about a decade late to the party. Like BuildIT, there are many cloud construction platforms on the market today. Your job is to find the best fit for your company while avoiding becoming a "beta tester" for software that still is in its infancy and will need a few years to either grow up, or crash and burn (and take your data with it !).

2. When a software company claims to be the "best", "best of breed", "perfect tool", or "voted #1 software on the planet" - quite frankly, they're not, and never will be. And you can prove it by test driving their software "without obligation" (that means, don't pay a dime) until you are either ready to risk being one of their beta testers, or concede that going with the tried and tested guys will be a better bet for your business.

3. When a software company has links on their website that are broken, blank pages, pages with "coming soon", server application errors, stock photography, no fixed company address, and a Twitter account that is just a shameless self promotion of their software system, those should send you packing right away.

4. If you are reading text on their website, and after a few minutes, you feel like you're reading the same thing over and over again... like this: "our cloud based construction management software is the greatest construction management software for construction managers that want to manage their construction projects with construction management software that works", and you see buzz words scattered all over their site... well, they are more interested in getting Google's attention than yours.

The unfortunate thing is, they got Joe's money and they will get Tom, Dick and Harry's at some point.

Hang on to your wallet, and make sure you compare and contrast options. Get referrals. Get an understanding of who is behind the company. And make sure they have your back and are there to help you succeed with their system. Don't pay for what you'll never use - determine what you need to grow your business/solve your problem... and go after it with surgical precision.

Now for the pitch. Call me - I'm one of the owners, and one of the veterans in the construction software space. Let's see what we can do to help you out.

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