Why You Need Construction Planning Software

Learn how construction planning software can increase project certainty and return on investment on site

This deep dive outlines how construction planning software can increase project certainty and return on investment on site. You will also find a comprehensive guide on what to look for when selecting construction planning software, what to avoid, and how to implement the right program for your projects.

What You’ll Learn

  • The challenges that can persist if you do not use a construction planning software
  • The benefits that can be reaped from using a construction planning software
  • The elements you want to look for when researching construction planning software
  • How to best implement a construction planning software

Life Without Construction Planning Software

 The truth is nothing is ever executed precisely how it was envisioned. Nothing is ever certain, and it’s no different in construction. There is always the risk that an owner’s vision of the construction project’s result will not align with what the GC and trades deliver.

Unfortunately, this dilemma is more likely to happen when no project management processes exist. Without these processes, builders risk losing predictability, incurring longer delays, and sacrificing real collaboration and communication.

Here are some quick facts to digest:

  • 30% of DATA created during design and construction is LOST by project closeout–and when we lose this data, we can’t use it to predict future project results.
  • 77% of projects run 40% late. Delays occur when proper planning doesn’t happen and there’s no predictability.
  • 52% of project-related rework is caused by poor project data and miscommunication.

Put rather simply; No collaboration + poor communication = more delays = less profit

The Problem:

Delays are a persistent problem in the construction industry. Chaos is the status quo–with little project certainty. You’ve got to complete your project on time, the first time.

As a construction project manager or trade contractor, you are facing the following problems:

  • Everything Keeps Slipping. Compounding problems like labor shortages, material availability, and rework are causing your schedule to slip. 75% of all projects fail to come within 10% of the original deadline, and only 31% come within 10% of the budget.
  • Hard to Collaborate. Your subcontractors can’t coordinate with each other or with suppliers. Nobody but you knows your project slipped (including upper management)—and it takes dozens of calls, texts, and emails to re-coordinate with your suppliers and subcontractors. In fact, construction is one of the only industries to experience a reduction in productivity in the last 50 years.
  • No Project Insights. You have no way to quickly identify potential problems that will cause delays. Management can’t identify what is causing current delays, so they can’t prioritize their time to fix the issues immediately.
  • Wasted Time…Waiting. Crews get to the jobsite, but it’s not ready. They could be working at another location or activity but don’t know about it, so they are waiting (again) with nothing to do. Unfortunately, this is too typical; only 27% of a construction worker’s day is spent doing direct work.

Enter Project Management Software

Real-time tools can augment and support construction project management steps, such as scheduling, tracking the progress, and recording project information for resource allocation. The right platform is critical for planning, analyzing, and evaluating success.

Web-based construction management software is accessible anywhere, anytime. The software allows contractors to seek solutions that can be transferred and used by anyone associated with the project, from specialty trades and general contractors to owners, architects, and engineers. Commercial and residential construction management software has similar features, but larger builds require expanded functionality. Free construction project management software can be helpful but is typically offered for a limited time and may not provide valuable analytical data.

The Benefits of Construction Management Software

Cloud-Based Solution

One advantage of cloud-based construction management software is tracking and documenting an entire project from start to finish. Providing a cost analysis or project update to a client with the click of a button adds value, professionalism, and loyalty.

Centralization

Having project scheduling software to generate pertinent information is crucial to a successful project. All the information is in one place where all stakeholders will review or make changes to the project flow when needed. In addition, construction scheduling software creates real-time project updates to keep everything running smoothly.

Decision Making

Construction management software houses project data in one place for easy access and timely decision-making. The software helps make the right decisions at the right time, keeping the budget and schedule intact.

Real-time Updating

Technology makes it easy to keep track of things without human error. Avoiding errors helps with collaboration, productivity, efficiency, and communication throughout the team.

Integrations

Different projects may have different schedules and worksheets from other programs. Construction software allows certain portions of project information to integrate into the system for overview and insight into current and future projects.

Resources

Managers use construction planning software to avoid wasting resources and make better decisions.

Cost Analysis

Construction management software is an excellent tool for assessing planning, resource allocation, and potential cost inconsistencies.

Green Construction

Going green is vital within the industry, but real-time data on how your project complies with LEED standards helps get projects done correctly.

Accountability

Construction software helps with accountability throughout the project – from scheduling to accounting. This software is also helpful in keeping track of contractors, when and how they work, and any costs attached to their roles.

Time management

Construction scheduling software helps with project planning and delivering those projects on time. Unfortunately, many projects fail in this area due to poor planning. With this software, firms can forecast issues, errors, and delays during the process. Tracking when tasks finish ahead of schedule allows for quick adjustments in the project timeline.

Return on Investment

Read the results of a recent ROI survey Touchplan conducted with industry leaders on the impact that construction planning software has on construction project management.

What to Look For

When searching for construction planning software, here are the four features you should look for:

1. Reduce Delays with better construction planning

Software for construction planning will help you seamlessly manage all aspects of your project without the hassle of manual entry and endless phone calls. It can also recognize and remove roadblocks before they derail your project. This includes:

  • Live Task List. View and edit tasks in real-time—from the field—to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Phase, Look-Ahead Weekly and Daily Planning. Use digital tickets to create daily & weekly production plans faster. This breaks down milestones into detailed tasks to keep your project on time and under budget.
  • Project Management. Maintain a unified view of your project to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal, knows what to do, and can do it.
  • Constraint Management. Project managers can assign tasks to team members, and they can confirm acceptance. It is easier to delegate and ensure everyone knows the work that needs to be done.
  • Trades/Roles. Segment tasks by roles to maintain accountability and a clearer view of who is doing what and when they’re doing it.

2. Easy Collaboration

Collaboration throughout a project improves handoffs and communication between trades. According to McKinsey Global Institute, enhancing collaboration can improve productivity by 8-9%.

  • Mobile Access. Access your schedule and plans from your phone or Tablet. Plus, update tickets, assign tasks, view the weekly look-ahead plan, and make changes to the plan—even from the comfort of your couch.
  • Create Effective Handoffs. Link dependencies so handoffs are discussed, hashed out, and completed with fewer headaches when people work in a collaborative, easy-to-use environment.
  • Team Participation Tracking. Track who is doing what and how it is getting done? A clear view of team member performance increases accountability and efficiency.
  • Virtual Pull Planning. Take your pull planning from the trailer to the cloud—coordinate quicker with your phone or tablet–no need to re-order sticky notes, take photos and email the team. Plus, construction planning software enables remote planning if a team member can’t be onsite.

3. Data-Driven Insights

Construction planning software provides constant updates of your project’s status, allowing you to learn from your data and improve for the future. On-site productivity can be increased by 50% by incorporating data & analytics tools.

  • Real-time Updates. Automatically send real-time updates out to specific team members based on project events. Keep everyone informed automatically.
  • Data Visibility. Monitor, display, and analyze project data in real-time to immediately assess if you are on time and quickly identify ways to improve project efficiency.
  • Data Visualization. Converts numbers into graphs and charts to better visualize your project status.
  • Data Across Multiple Projects. Visualizing and analyzing data/trends across a portfolio of projects is perfect for mid to upper managers to know exactly which areas need the most help.

4. Increase Value-Added Work

According to a Construction Industry Institute study, only 27% of a construction worker’s time is spent doing direct work. The software reduces time wasted planning & communicating to maximize Time-on-Tools.

  • Empower the team to collaboratively create detailed plans allowing team members to own their activity to ensure accountability and responsibility.
  • Collaboration Tools. Enable your team to collaboratively build detailed work plans with other subs for the day, week, and month. Subs own their tasks to ensure accountability. Spend less time in meetings and more time on tools.
  • Mobile Ticket List. Encourage your team to quickly view and edit tickets directly from the field to reduce meeting time and keep everyone on the same page in real-time.

What to Avoid

Not all software for construction planning is the same. Many options for construction planning software presently on the market can present serious challenges. It’s essential to consider the following factors when evaluating options:

  1. Some won’t auto-detect issues and re-plan. When you hit roadblocks in your project, some systems cannot automatically detect the delay and re-plan to stay on schedule.
  2. Missing detailed analytics. Many don’t have detailed project data and analytics, so you have no visibility into variance reasons, labor, materials, health and safety issues, and overall project health. You’re left in the dark without a way to improve.
  3. Missing collaboration. Some software is not truly collaborative because everyone in the field does not use it due to cost or difficulty of use. Too hard to use. Some software is complicated to use and “doesn’t look like Sticky Notes,” so it is more complicated, not easier.
  4. Poor Support. Many companies sell software, assuming “you can figure it out.” There is no dedicated customer support team to help with onboarding, product updates, and additional training.

Implementing Construction Planning Software–A Guide for Getting Started

So, how do you leverage software that can auto-detect issues and replan, provide actionable insights, make coordinating easy, is dead simple to use, and stands behind their product?

Here is a basic guide for implementing construction management software:

General Contractors and Construction Managers

  • Establish a transparent process for your planning (long-range and daily)
    • What software will this be replacing? – or –  Are you replacing manual sticky notes?
    • Who are you going to have accessing the plans?
    • What steps in your process will this affect?
    • Avoid loading more “stuff” onto people, and make sure you remove things from the workload.
  • Set clear expectations for your trades and other team members
    • If you have trades involved with planning, be clear about what is expected of them while using the software.
    • Who will be the one “in charge” of updating the status or facilitating the planning meetings?
      • If multiple team members interact with the plan, it’s imperative to set responsibilities to ensure that the team is clear on who needs to do what so nothing gets missed.
  • Establish an implementation plan with checkpoints for progress
    • Set up goals to determine how well you have implemented the changes.
      • Do you have ten users up and running by 2 weeks in?
      • Is all weekly planning done in the software by week 4?
    • This will give you goals to shoot for, and the team can see they are making progress.

Owners and Developers

  • Establish a clear “why” for using the software
    • Why do you want your teams to use this software?
      • Do you want visibility across your portfolio?
      • Promote more collaboration?
      • Better predictability?
      • All of the above?
    • Communicating this “why” to the entire team will align them with this goal and let them know your intentions leading to better buy-in and success.
  • Create a plan for each project where you will be using the software and what determines success.
    • Are you going to be doing a single project to pilot it out?
      • 2 or 3?
      • A whole portfolio?
    • Having multiple projects will allow you to compare different teams and situations and share learnings between projects.
  • Have some patience with the “ramp up” of new team members
    • If you are choosing a team that has never used construction planning software before, there will be an adjustment period.
    • Be patient during this adjustment, but set clear goals for the team to ensure they are progressing as needed for the project and beyond.

Specialty and Trade Contractors

  • Define which departments will be involved
    • Do the field and shop need to stay coordinated on the plan? What about the PM and billing and purchasing?
    • Chances are almost every department can benefit from having a shared planning space to stay coordinated, but it helps to know what parties will benefit most.
  • Is this just internal, or will it be shared outside?
    • While there are obvious benefits to having your internal operations on the same page, most CPS will allow outside users to see and collaborate. Is this desired or needed?
  • Understand what information and processes you want to include
    • Planning goes beyond just what activity is happening and when.
      • Do you want to use it for manpower/crew sizing forecasting? Equipment? Material?
    • This can go hand in hand with the thoughts behind who will use the software.
      • If a process can be brought into the planning space that isn’t usually there, it can bring others into the planning and better coordinate with everyone.

Designers

  • Determine what planning processes will be in the software
    • Will you use the software to plan out the handoff of deliverables between disciplines, or will this be for each team to manage the tasks required for each deliverable? Maybe both?
    • The software will likely be flexible to accommodate whatever the need, but establishing what will go in the planning space can help organize the project better for communication.
  • Bring others into the software.
    • Generally, the designers are some of the first on the project, which means you can establish good lines of communication.
    • Bringing others into the planning space early keeps them on the same page, exposes them to your practice, and likely draws them in to participate.
  • Be clear on what is being handed off.
    • We are often vague in what each discipline is developing to hand off to the next.
    • This can lead to miscommunication on what is being done and what you will be receiving from each other (ex. 50% Arch drawings, HVAC calculations)
    • In a CPS, you can be very explicit on what is needed from each person, so there is no confusion. This may require everyone to think about their packages differently but will ultimately lead to a better outcome and a clear understanding of what is needed.

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