September 6, 2017

5 Features to Look For in a Construction Project Management Tool

Written by
Megan Pacella

Construction project managers have a lot of details to keep up with—from running meetings to tracking change orders and managing the budget. To help manage large crews and multiple projects without missing a beat, project managers should consider using construction project management software.

These tools keep important details organized in one place, so every project can move forward on time and on budget. They also help team members and stakeholders collaborate and communicate along the way.

Before you make a purchase, sit down with your buying group and decide what, exactly, you’re looking for in a solution. What kinds of projects do you handle, and what features would help your teams work more efficiently?

ALSO READ: 12 Signs You Need Construction Project Management Software

If you’re considering investing in construction project management, you should, at the very least, look for a tool that offers the following essential features:

1. Estimating

In most cases, an estimating tool is the number-one feature sought by buyers of construction project management software. That makes sense, considering that operating within a budget is one of the most important success factors of a construction project. At the same time, you want to make money and stay profitable. Look for a platform that helps you deliver higher price bids and back them up with benchmarking and integrated scheduling. Some of these may even integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, to provide more accurate estimates based on your outfit’s capabilities and timeline.

2. Project Information Modeling

Most projects in the construction industry are highly complex, involve numerous stakeholders, and span long periods of time. Over time, the data models and drawings associated with the project pile up. It’s important to have the ability to draw from this expanding repository of data at any point during the project lifecycle and find the insight you need. That’s where project information modeling comes in handy. Some vendors may also refer to this as “design data management.” Look for features that help you easily share models and business information between operations, finance, and leadership, with built-in analytics and reporting.

3. Cost Management and Accounting

Nearly every construction PM system will offer basic budgeting and benchmarking capabilities. However, a more robust cost management solution will include estimating and forecasting to give you an overall picture of each project’s financials. When you can effectively track and manage these details, you minimize the chance of surprises. This is also a must-have feature if your company handles accounting in-house. Excel spreadsheets are great for tracking costs and payroll, but it’s not always easy to access important data from the field or share up-to-date files with other key decision makers. Many construction PM tools include accounting capabilities that let you track budgets, payroll, invoicing, and billing so you can see your cash flow at a glance. Ideally, you’ll be able to select different forecast methods based on the type of item, using performance trends and goals stored in the same system.

4. Field Management

As job sites start to add up, it can be difficult for a project manager to oversee field work at every location. Look for software that offers field management and execution features to help create and communicate daily work plans, keep in touch with crew members, and capture the results of the workday at the end of each shift. Some software can even help you stay compliant by managing inspection forms, and streamlining the process for equipment, safety, and quality inspections.

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5. Actionable Data Analytics

Most construction PM tools will help you organize your workflow, keep track of client communications, and manage projects. But if you want the most bang for your buck, find a tool that will make it easy to review data in order to improve your processes. Some tools offer reporting features that will give you insight into your productivity and utilization of assets. You may be able to monitor resources and measure earned value by tracking processes on a cost and schedule basis. This can help you increase productivity, improve performance, and enable strategic insight. If you have a labor shortage (a serious problem for most construction projects), you can spot it faster and take action immediately. If you are searching for the best construction project management software, check out our Product Selection Tool or contact one of our trusted Technology Advisors for free. 

Megan Pacella is a software writer specializing in project management, and sales. She has also written for USA Today, Bearings Guide, 10Best Nashville, and other publications.