There are many advantages to being a small construction firm. Unlike industry behemoths, smaller players can move faster and be more nimble because there’s not a lot of corporate red tape.
But there are also some unique painpoints. Like most SMBs, small-scale construction companies run on fewer resources. Their teams and budgets are leaner, so every investment must be carefully considered—particularly when it comes to tools like construction management software.
Digital solutions have become “must” haves (vs “should” haves) for construction management over the last few years. But with the numerous options in the market, it can be difficult to figure out which solution to choose.
In this guide, we’ll offer insights to help you navigate the realm of small business construction management software. You’ll learn the fundamentals of construction management solutions, the problems they solve, and how small firms can benefit from them.
Let’s get started.
Jump to sections below:
- What is Construction Management Software?
- Unique Needs of a Small Construction Business
- Challenges Facing Small Construction Companies
- How Small Business Construction Management Software Solves These Challenges
- What to Look for In Construction Management Software
- Construction Management Software Made for Small Businesses
Construction management software refers to digital tools and platforms that facilitate the various processes involved in managing projects. These solutions often come with features that enable users to streamline and automate tasks like managing budgets, setting schedules, and communicating with stakeholders.
Not all construction management software is created equal. If you’re a small construction firm, you have unique needs, and finding a solution that adequately meets those requirements is essential.
Consider the following.
You Need to Build and Maintain Strong Relationships
Many clients like working with SMBs because smaller players provide a human touch to projects. Clients don’t feel like they’re just another number; they value the personal attention that smaller contractors provide, which earns trust.
If you’re an SMB in the construction industry, you’ve likely built a strong reputation that helps you win new and repeat business.
As such, you need small business construction management software that makes it easy to provide that personal touch. Solutions with robust communication capabilities enable you to do just that because these features pave the way for closer collaboration between you and the client.
Flexibility is Critical
Projects and clients come in all shapes and sizes. While some projects are quick and straightforward, others may be larger in scale and require a lot more resources. The same thing can be said for clients, as companies may have different preferences and procedures.
That’s why flexibility is important when you’re a construction company handling multiple projects and clients. You need to be adaptable to various conditions, and you must equip yourself with tools that support the need for flexibility.
Having to Balance Quality with Growth
Scaling a business comes with growing pains, chief among them is quality control. As you scale your company, you need to ensure that the quality of your work and services remains high.
One of the best ways to avoid quality issues when growing your business is to implement standardized procedures and leverage technology to automate and streamline your workflows.
When considering what solutions to adopt, you must factor in the hurdles you face as a small business. Doing so will help you determine which tools are a good fit for your needs.
Small businesses have leaner budgets and teams. Those who work at SMB companies often have to wear multiple hats and must be skilled at extracting more value out of their resources.
These challenges are magnified by labor shortages and inflation. The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) estimates the construction sector would need to bring in nearly 650,000 additional workers in 2022 to meet labor demands.
Unfortunately, the industry is struggling to accomplish this.
As Anirban Basu, ABC Chief Economist said in a statement, “The workforce shortage is the most acute challenge facing the construction industry despite sluggish spending growth. After accounting for inflation, construction spending has likely fallen over the past 12 months.”
Now, more than ever, SMBs need solutions with flexible and transparent pricing that enable them to do more with less.
In the last few years, we’ve seen more bidding activity on fewer jobs, indicating an increase in competition for construction projects.
This puts more pressure on contractors. To win more work, firms must be able to quickly deliver competitive bids that stand out.
Part of doing that lies in discerning which bid invitations are worth pursuing, so firms can direct their limited resources towards the jobs that matter most.
Cash Flow Issues
Not getting paid on time puts many SMBs in a cash crunch. Unfortunately, this problem is quite pervasive in the construction sector.
Industry data indicates that 83% of contractors have filed liens because of delayed payments and 46% wait 60 to 90 days for payment. What’s more, 46% of contractors would tap into their savings or personal credit lines to meet their business’ financial obligations.
Technology may alleviate these issues by enabling SMBs to create smarter budgets and forecasts. Streamlined workflows also empower teams to complete projects faster, thus preventing payment delays.
Risk of Disputes
Disagreements between parties in a construction project can lead to legal disputes. These disputes are a major pain, as they take an immense amount of time and money to resolve.
Research shows the average value of disputes globally hit $54.26 million in 2020 and took average of 13.4 months to complete.
Disputes that drag on can cripple small businesses, so it’s essential to equip yourself with solutions that enable you to avoid disagreements from happening in the first place.
Because of limited resources, many small construction companies lack a strong data strategy. This means they don’t always have access to valuable project data and insights.
Over time, not having a data strategy hinders a firm’s ability to be competitive. When you don’t have the right information, you’ll find it difficult to make critical decisions quickly, ultimately hurting your performance.
Small businesses in the construction industry are clearly facing a lot of challenges. The good news is these hurdles can be overcome with construction management software. Consider the following benefits.
Cost and Time Efficiency
Small business construction management software can help you be more efficient with your resources. Your teams (who are likely pretty stretched out), can do things faster thanks to tools that automate their tasks and reduce human error.
For example, rather than creating your budgets on a spreadsheet (or worse, using pen and paper), construction management software can digitize the process, so teams don’t have to do manual calculations and data entry.
Not only are you spending less time (and money) on tedious tasks, you and your teams can devote more resources toward revenue-generating activities.
Communication and Collaboration Enhances
It’s easier to work together when you’re using cloud-based construction management software.
Team collaboration and workflows are centralized in one environment, so stakeholders stay on the same page. People get the answers and info they need faster, leading to higher levels of productivity.
Software that enables better collaboration can also reduce miscommunication and disagreements, which lowers the likelihood of disputes.
Quality of Work Improves
It’s difficult to produce great work when teams are stretched for time, lack resources, or are constantly going back and forth with each other.
Small business construction management software can solve these issues by helping teams reduce mistakes, prevent defects, and improve the quality of their output.
Small construction firms must answer questions and make important decisions daily. What jobs should bid you bid on? How many people do you need at the job site? What projects or clients are yielding the highest profits?
A good construction management solution can help you answer these questions, through data collection and reporting capabilities. The right system sheds light on the data, metrics, and insights you need to make smarter decisions.
As a small construction company, there are a few key elements you should look for in construction management software that meets your key business needs.
Cloud-based with Centralized Data
Your teams are always on the go and need access to the latest docs and plans. With a cloud-based solution, your team can work from anywhere – even the most remote locations. Teams collaborate in real time, or even offline when in remote locations.
Using a cloud-based system with centralized data also enables you to continue to build strong relationships with your clients and partners. With information always up to date, you can build stronger trust through transparency.
Mobile-First and Easy to Use
For teams in the field, it’s especially important to have mobile access to documents, forms, templates, and centralized communications.
When searching for construction management software for your small business, make sure it’s made for mobile. That means the solution was purpose-built for mobile devices and not desktop-first. When a tool is mobile first, it’s more intuitive and accessible for all teams.
No matter mobile or desktop, also ensure your construction management software has an intuitive interface. Your team members are likely switched thin and wearing many hats in your small business. They have limited time available and if a tool takes extensive training or a certain level of mastery, it might be a roadblock to adoption. Look for software that makes it easy for your team to access and input data and exchange project-critical information.
Integrated and Connected
With the sheer volume of technology supporting the industry today, the truth is there’s no single solution that can “do it all” (even though some solutions can get close). As a small business, you may have multiple tools that meets your many needs and that’s okay – as long as you can connect critical project information. For that reason, identify a software partner that supports a robust integration ecosystem.
Scalable and Flexible
Beyond integrations, you’ll want to look for a construction management solution that can scale with you over time. That means choosing a solution that connects data and workflows across the entire construction lifecycle – starting in design. As your build your business and specialities, this enables you to benefit from additional capabilities of a tool. It also encompasses standardization capabilities like forms and templates. Small construction businesses that grow over time need processes and structures in place that enable them to efficiently manage that growth.
It’s also important to think about tools that support future advancements in the industry as you don’t want to be left behind as the industry evolves. Predictive analytics, machine learning, and AI will play a significant role in the industry. The best construction software for small businesses anticipate these advancements and are already adding capabilities that will allow your data to work harder for you.
If you’re looking for a solution that can help your small business succeed, Autodesk has got you covered.
Autodesk Build is flexible construction management solution that firms of all sizes can rely on. Our platform helps you save time and money, improve collaboration, and achieve better project outcomes. With affordable and transparent pricing options for firms of all sizes, Autodesk Build is construction software small sized businesses love to use.
Case in point: Oahu Metal & Glazing (OMG).
Established in 2014, OMG specializes in glass and glazing for commercial projects in Hawaii. Before adopting Autodesk Build, the company dealt with issues like inconsistent documentation, inefficient processes, and lack of data visibility.
“We didn’t have a standard way to document and share project information, which created a lot of guesswork and uncertainty. We knew we needed to move from being reactive to proactive on projects, so we’d have more control. This would also create uniformity in our reports distributed to clients,” says Alvida Surpia-Jones, Operations Manager at OMG.
“We didn’t have a standard way to document and share project information, which created a lot of guesswork and uncertainty.”
– Alvida Surpia-Jones, Operations Manager at OMG
After evaluating different construction management solutions, OMG chose Autodesk Build because it had all the features the team needed. Specifically, OMG valued the common data environment that allowed teams to work and communicate from one centralized location.
Autodesk Build enabled OMG to create structured operating procedures and checklists, which improved the accuracy and quality of work.
As Alvida puts it, “The biggest benefit of Autodesk Build is creating consistency across all projects. We have more transparency to see what’s working and where we can improve. The data we’re gaining from Autodesk Build is invaluable and will help us be more competitive as we scale and win new work.”
Discover how Autodesk Build can help your small business win in today’s competitive construction landscape. Get started today.