ACTIVITY UPDATE ON APPS
Over the past year we have developed a series of APPS in response to your requests. I take this opportunity to give you an overview.
Site Personnel – Android App for phone or tablet that is designed for site staff and allows you to access drawings from your local devise and get notifications of updates when you are connected to the internet. For subcontractor estimators there is a Windows Desktop App that allows you to manage all your drawings and automatically allocates drawings into the correct client / project and category folder. Can be stored on a network drive.
CATProjects (2.50 per month if you have current login)
Site / Mobile Personnel – Android App that has functions for Contacts, Photos, Check Sheets, Site Diary, Time Sheets and File Notes. The photo function is exceptional and all allows for annotation of photos (draw or highlight with your finger)
CATCheckpoint (one time affordable purchase unless enterprise)
Main Contractor, Consultant, Subcontractor and Client – Android App for site personnel, create an inspection and update remedial work, add photos and comments. Do a full inspection without typing is the goal and monitor progress from the comfort of your desk. Apple App coming in a couple of weeks. This App would have been the ideal tool in my site manager days to reduce the time out of a not so fun process.
Your project management software is the driving force behind project management and project profitability. Improve your knowledge and use of industry leading software, and become a Certified User of CATProjects after doing an Accredited Training course.
Four different certificate courses are on offer, there’s an option to suit both operational and administration staff. Give your team the opportunity to improve their skills and get the most out of CATProjects for your business. Courses include; Power User, Project Management, Site Operations and Admin / Accounts.
Accredited training is available in Auckland, Melbourne and Christchurch twice yearly, contact one of our trainers at [email protected] for further information.
ELECTRONIC SIGNING OF DOCUMENTS – APPROACH WITH CAUTION
Electronic signing of business documents is really convenient and saves a huge amount of time for both the originator and the recipient. Using a subcontract agreement as an example you can save 20-30 minutes per document as you eliminate; upload, email cover, download, countersign, upload again, email again, filing and endless follow up.
But… before you go down this track ensure that you are covered legally in the event of a dispute. Both New Zealand and Australia have a specific Act that covers the electronic signing of documents so compliance is essential. Carefully research the solution you are considering as there are a number of systems out there that simply are not compliant with local legislation and will not stand up if there is a legal dispute. A great solution if you get the research right!!.
MIGRATING TO THE CLOUD
Small and medium construction businesses are turning to cloud systems to accelerate growth and drive productivity. The flexibility and scalability of the cloud platform gives construction industry businesses an advantage over their larger competitors. Add to that, the huge cost saving in comparison to legacy software systems, cloud software really can give your business the competitive edge. Check out this video to give you an overview of the possibilities of CATProjects.
SELECTING A JOB MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Selecting the right system for the company appears to be a daunting task, on the surface when you first start to look there appears to be so many options but in fact there are very few that are relevant. The key is to use a senior operations person to manage this process and not an accountant or IT person as there is unlikely to be a happy ending if you do that. To whittle the options down actually isn’t that difficult if you break the process down to a few logical stages such as: –
Preparation – The Initial List
1. Make a list of the functionality you think you require, dont be too rigid as often you dont know what boxes are available to tick and different might be good.
2. Identify 5-10 companies that are similar to yours that you consider successful or efficient and give them a call, find out what they are using and get feed back
3. Google ‘Construction Management Software’ then create a list of anything that catches your eye, dont spend more that 2 minutes or so on each at this stage.
4. Cross reference your Google search with recommendations from similar companies plus add anything from your search you really like the look of
Stage One – The First Short List (you should be able to get these answers from recommendations and/or websites and live chat)
1. Does the software appear to be the right type of software without detail (a surface look)?
2. Is the software cloud (written for a web browser)? as server based software is likely to have a short life span
3. Is the software compliant with local legislation including retentions?
4. Is the software locally supported?
5. What is the turnaround time on support, is it less than an hour?
6. Is Training available locally if requested?
Stage Two – The Second Short List (you should be able to get these answers from live chat)
For software to reach stage two you need to have “Yes” as an answer to all questions in stage one above. So now it is time to look a little deeper to establish if the content and functionality appears suitable and that the software is affordable. At this stage you will probably need to approach the vendor unless this information is on their web page which is unlikely though live chat will often provide the answers you seek. Find out the following: –
1. Does the modules and functionality listed for the software meet your outline requirements?
2. Is the pricing module SaaS? Rather than Purchase which needs major investment
3. Get ballpark pricing for SaaS and Purchase, in both cases the software vendor will need to know user numbers preferably with roles. Is it affordable?
4. What is the price for support and upgrades? Is it affordable?
Stage Three – The Final Short List
For software to reach stage three you need to have “Yes” as an answer to all questions in stage two above. Now it is time to actually look at the software. We suggest you request an overview demo for yourself initially to establish if this is a path you want to pursue before you involve the wider team. After the overview demo and general chat the software vendor should be able to give you a formal proposal for you to consider,
Typically this overview demo will occur interactively on line, beware if it is on premise as invariably this will reflect in the price of the software and ongoing costs. Once you have been through an overview demo your shortlist will likely be only 1-2 software systems so now you are in a position to present to the wider team with a full demonstration.
Stage Four – Making a Decision
After the full demonstration there are likely to be a few questions so these should be gathered and put back in writing after the demo, this will be a mix of functionality questions that were unanswered during the demo and questions on a couple of technical things such as :-
1. Where is the data stored?
2. What is the situation with backups, when, where and can we access backups?
3. Security statement and what style of security is in use?
4. What is the turn-around time from confirmation to Go Live
5. What is the expected / historical implementation period?
After you have gone through the above process the selection will be straight forward.
WHY YOUR ONSITE EMAIL SERVER IS SLOWING DOWN YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION
Almost any start-up company today will choose to host their emails in the cloud – simply because the cost (not to mention the reliability) is really not possible to argue with. Put simply – no company faced with the choice of spending countless thousands of dollars on an in-house email server will choose that route over the vastly more cost effective option offered by an almost limitless array of providers.
However, having said that – the equation is often viewed differently for companies which have pre-existing email servers in-house. The cost proposition can look different for those companies (at least on the surface) because the enormous expense of setting up onsite email servers – often done in the days prior to externally hosted email being widely available – is a sunk cost. The cost of keeping that server online and servicing users can look cost effective on a month-by-month basis against the option of going hosted.
But have you ever considered what hosting your email on-premise does to your internet connection? Email is one of the absolute worst things which you can host onsite in this respect. An otherwise perfectly adequate and fast internet connection can be almost entirely consumed by sending, receiving and distributing emails. Take for example sending out a PDF to a list of 10 or 20 people – when your email is hosted onsite that PDF has to upload from your office a full 10 or 20 times (out to the different mail servers of the recipients). Of course when you’re on hosted email it has to do so as well – but only once!
Take another example which is more and more common – your staff who are syncing their emails on multiple devices outside the office (home PCs, Laptops, Tablets, and of course the ubiquitous smartphones). When the central store of their mailbox is in your office, this creates the same problem. A single email with a simple attachment arrives (downloads) and then has to sync to all those devices (uploads) – so again that one attachment might have to upload across your internet connection 3 or 4 or more times. When hosting in the cloud the email arrives and distributes to all those devices without even crossing your office internet connection – except of course just once to download to the PC in the office.
This is all worth keeping in mind when it comes time to look at options for the internet connectivity at your premises. Yes, of course it is fantastic to have ultra-fast fibre or similar but if that isn’t an option then the other side of the coin is to ask what capacity can you free up – and if you’ve got a ready-for-retirement email server in the back room – it is definitely target number one.
BUILDING WITH TECHNOLOGY – CLOUD SOFTWARE
The Construction Industry is as tight as it gets when spending money on technology. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is the mantra and rightly or wrongly a lot of skyline has been built using this catch phrase. In recent times however small margins and a competitive market have forced players to look for an edge through innovation, technology and cloud software. Modular building design is paving the way in construction and the web is being leveraged for technology. Both are looking to save costs through efficiency gains.
Software in particular has been stagnant for a long time. Now with the emergence of genuine web based software, real time data capture of operations is possible and usability of web based and cloud software is actually increasing productivity. Construction and trade based companies are faced with the dilemma of taking up new software just to stay in touch with competitors. Added to the mix is that legacy style software vendors are starting to recognise that they can’t compete with the technology, functionality or affordability of new web based solutions. These vendors face spending millions on rewriting old software combined with requiring staff with a different skill set so it is ominous for them to say the least. Many are exiting the market or selling their client base to international players who are struggling with market entry due to poor local infrastructure including non local web servers and a lack of training and support personnel.
This situation is leaving clients with no choice but to review their current software so It is crucial to gain a full appreciation of what is now available that is specific to the local industry before making the huge decision of taking on new Construction Management Software.
New pricing models are available that make transition more affordable. Integration to other ‘best of breed’ software systems capitalise on the web environment. Storage and security of data in case of disaster and full functionally via the web to mobile devices are just some of the standard expectations of what software technology should be in today’s environment. If you are stuck on an old system, now is the time to take a look at these new and local web based technologies. Keep an eye out for our article on “Time Saving Tips for the New Software Search”.
CLOUD BASED SOFTWARE VERSUS REMOTELY HOSTED
A true cloud software product is designed and developed to run right in a web browser – wherever you have a device with an internet connection, you have a web browser and therefore you have access to cloud software natively. Because all you need is a web browser, that means the software adapts to wherever you might be using it. So while on a PC you can drag-and-drop documents into the software, on a tablet you can use touch gestures to scroll and enter data. No separate apps or separate versions are required – true cloud software automatically adapts to your devices and the features built into their web browsers.
Contrasting that experience with using a remote desktop the difference is clear. Hosting a desktop-based software on a remote server might give you rudimentary ability to access and run the software from multiple locations such as on a tablet, but it remains limited by the original software itself and the confines of the desktop environment. Taking the example above – a remote desktop situation won’t give you the ability to interact using touch from a tablet – the capability simply isn’t there. Even accessing the remote desktop at all from a mobile device is dependent on the right client application being installed on all your devices and the server being compatible.
Aside from the difference in end-user experience, there is a clear advantage of true cloud software in terms of the server infrastructure which powers the software. Cloud software is typically powered by dedicated and purpose-engineered web application servers, so that the full power of the equipment is going to running the features of the software, transparently to the user. With a remotely-hosted desktop, all the traditional infrastructure and overhead of an IT environment has to be maintained, leaving users open to the same performance and reliability issues that have always been present in such environments.