10 years ago, you'd be hard pressed to find many residential construction professionals giving serious consideration to desktop construction software. Web-based construction software was in its infancy and contractors were generally reluctant to delve into these unproven digital power tools.
About the time the "dot-com bubble" peaked in early 2000, the founders of BuildIT saw a need for a "mobile office" approach to managing construction businesses. A laptop computer or tablet PC, connected wirelessly to the Internet via an "air card" would give contractors access to their critical business information, job schedules and communications from literally anywhere at any time.
Since then, there has been a convergence of trends that has made web based construction software a hot ticket item.
Convergence of Trends
Wireless internet access has expanded to the point of being ubiquitous, and expected.
Laptop computers have come way down in price, and up in speed and screen size, and have built in Wi-Fi.
Handheld wireless devices such as Blackberries and iPhones are becoming standard issue for mobile construction professionals.
Web based construction software tools like BuildIT have been in development for years, building on user feedback from a growing group of "first mover" construction professionals.
As we end this decade, those that were still in school during the "dot-com bubble" of 1998 through 2001 are now in project management and supervisory positions; many of them now own their own construction business. And these folks were raised on technology, so web based construction software is a natural fit for them: short learning curves and high adoption.
As for construction scheduling software, it's important to have a rich feature set. However, there is always the risk of ratcheting up the complexity factor too much, to the point of losing those who just want a simple tool to get their job done. When it comes to residential scheduling, there are a host of options available. Time and time again the feedback we get is that most construction scheduling software is too complex and way beyond what is needed.
Many potential users suffer from "feature shock" after checking out corporate websites, demo versions, and free online trials of construction software – an enormous number of features that literally bog down the user.
Our approach at BuildIT is simple - we focus on 3 main areas: organization, scheduling and communications.
Organization – Time and time again, searchers that connect with BuildIT say they are looking to get better organized. They understand that a organized and well run business is a profitable one. BuildIT has a logical place for every piece of information on the job.
Scheduling – Our system allows construction professionals to run multiple projects concurrently, and see the schedules for these projects in one view. This gives them the big picture. And since the system is web based, they can share the schedules with other stakeholders (vendors, subcontractors, clients, design professionals) and realize the benefits of a real-time collaborative tool. Gone are the days when you'd rely solely on a printed schedule. In residential construction, a printed schedule is generally out of date about an hour after it has been printed!
Communications – It is one thing to create a schedule, it's quite another to make sure the right people get the right scheduling information at the right time. Web based construction scheduling software allows the construction professional to disseminate time sensitive information to their key contacts, in their preferred method of communication – email, fax, text message, or a website "notice board" where assigned tasks, and related files are readily available 24/7.
Some trends we're seeing:
Pricing - While "enterprise level" construction software packages (software + setup + training + maintenance + consultants + customization $$$) are priced well above the budgets of most small to midsized (SME) residential construction firms, the web based software companies are jockeying for position for the SME marketplace. Competition from agile players like BuildIT is likely having an impact on boardroom discussions – you're hard pressed these days as a construction software company to get away with charging $1,000's per year (some well over $10K), or hundreds of dollars per project per month when that same customer can get a similar feature set and all the main online scheduling benefits from BuildIT for $85 per month.
- Schedule creation – Many construction professionals that come to BuildIT are looking for a solution to their problem... today. Rather than mastering a particular software program, what they really want is their problem solved. It's the old adage about the guy who buys a drill bit, but what he really wants is a hole. And their problem is simply this: they need a schedule to satisfy someone – the owner, property manager, design professional, lender, investor, etc. Sometimes, they need this to submit with their bid, and in those instances, time is of the essence. So we offer a service to help them create a schedule, often right there on the spot when they call. They get their problem solved, and they get usage of the web based system, and our support, to help them along the path from "problem solved" to "loyal BuildIT customer".
Handheld devices – Construction professionals are mobile. The days of being anchored to a desktop computer are over. With the advent of Blackberries, iPhones and other handheld wireless devices that can access the Internet, the construction professional literally can have his entire business at his fingertips. BuildIT has strategically invested in building a strong, robust application over the years. With the release of version 4.7 in October 2009, we have the underlying architecture and code ready for a new "mobile development" phase, currently underway and to be released first to our lead users in the next couple of months. Users with small handheld devices will be able to more easily access key information in their BuildIT account.
Disruptive innovations – There is an emergence of free applications, like Google apps, that offer generic solutions. Construction professionals who have the time to configure and master these solutions may find some of the benefits they need. Presently, we’re not seeing anything on the market that fits the specific needs that our customers are demanding: like job-centric organization, related construction timelines, construction-specific terminology, etc. However, the challenge for all construction software companies will be to continually improve their apps, and deliver value which ultimately helps their customers become more efficient and generate greater profits.
BuildIT Systems is a great company (we’re biased) that builds even greater construction scheduling software (so say our customers). We started a lean company while the air was quickly escaping the dot-com bubble to provide SME construction companies with an online scheduling, information management and communications tool. Today, many of our first customers are still with us (thanks, we’re honored, really!), and are joined by construction professionals around the world who want better control of their information, and job scheduling. We get up each day eager to meet our next customer, while servicing the dickens out of our loyal user group.
BuildIT Systems sells BuildIT – a web based application, on a subscription basis. We also do custom software development for clients who use BuildIT… and others. Have an idea you think our team can help you with? Call us.
1 866 585 5050 ext 1