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Six trends shaping construction software solutions

Six trends shaping construction
software solutions

by BASSEM HANDY, CMiC | April 1, 2015

Construction software tends to evolve in stride with the world of enterprise IT, with leaders in the sector interpreting overarching trends in a way that benefits their unique goals. Enterprise resource planning solutions are perhaps the most significant benchmark of progress when it comes to developments in the software realm, as these services play a central role in every firm's tech strategy. ERP systems also typically reveal the technological savvy of an organization, as smaller IT trends are often reflected in these deployments.

It is through continuous evaluation and revamping that construction firms can gain competitive advantages with ERP, a process that includes understanding the most impactful advancements in the field. These six trends are making a splash across the ERP environment, and here's how contractors can use them to gain an edge. 


1. Collaborative channels: As construction operations grow more complex and rely on a wider variety of business units to function optimally, ERP must be easily accessible by a range of end users within and outside of the organization. Since enterprise-level contractors are handling several projects, clients and subcontractors at any given time, ERP needs to function as a channel for collaboration as well as productivity. IT leaders should assess their deployments to ensure smooth and consistent communications from one team to the next. 

2. Predictive capabilities: Since ERP is a primary tool for financial decision-making, analytics that offer predictive insights will be invaluable as these systems develop over time. Next-gen platforms should be able to forecast materials and inventory needs in real-time, while providing a deeper understanding of the supply chain's strengths and weaknesses. An article from Enterprise Apps Today noted that analytics are a must for any new ERP deployment, and legacy solutions may require an upgrade if intelligence capabilities are lagging. 

"Business intelligence and analytics features are becoming more of a standard function in ERP systems," said Derek Hitchman, solution consultant at SCS Cloud, as quoted by the source. "This trend is being driven primarily by executives who are expecting intelligent data from their software that can be used to make decisions rather than simply the raw numbers." 

3. Mobile developments: Employees across the construction sector are already taking full advantage of the BYOD policies introduced by their employers, but many contractors still don't deliver a complete set of ERP functions to the mobile environment. This severely limits the flexibility and productivity of staff members on the job site, meaning that future deployments must feature a wider range of capabilities if mobile objectives remain a priority. Contractors should focus on bringing back-office ERP fully into the mobile environment. 

The types of devices expected to connect with ERP systems are also expanding in variety and scope, a recent article from ERP Software Blog pointed out. For instance, wearable technologies are just around the corner for the manufacturing sector, a field commonly linked to construction as far as tech developments are concerned. Additionally, the Internet of Things is bound to impact construction operations, introducing a plethora of sensors and equipment add-ons that feed continuous streams of data into unified systems.

4. Cross-platform integration: Standalone ERP deployments still offer value to an enterprise operation, but organizations miss out on several powerful advantages by keeping these platforms separated from project management and CRM systems. In other words, contractors need to integrate their resource planning tools with other software solutions early and often, ensuring that data can flow seamlessly from one domain to the next. Enterprise Apps Today noted that breaking down application barriers is a critical success factor for all firms. 

"Previously, many companies wasted a lot of time hunting for insights across siloed departmental databases," said Victoria Adesoba, BI Market research associate at Software Advice, according to the source. "So being able to aggregate CRM, accounting, and HR and conduct predictive analytics in one suite is highly convenient and efficient. It's a function that businesses want, and in most cases need."

5. Greater BIM functionality: More than four-fifths of construction and design firms have some form of Building Information Modeling system in their arsenals, according to Building Design Construction's 2014 BIM survey, and these software components are proving critical throughout the project lifecycle thanks to real-time guidance and quality control. Still, many of these deployments are underpowered, leaving much to be desired in the way of ERP enablement. 

The BIM platforms of the future will deliver ERP-based insights including cost and schedule functions, adding new dimensions of control where designers and construction teams need them most. 

6. Future-proof support: Business leaders can't rely exclusively on internal tech teams to navigate them toward ERP success, especially with so many developments to juggle at once. That's why, according to Deloitte analyst Bill Allison, the best systems will evolve using learning functions that optimize efficiency wherever possible. This "process automation based on scale and repetition," will ensure a company's "adaptable response to often-changing events," in the words of Allison. 

Based in Toronto, the author is chief marketing officer for CMiC. This article first appeared on the company's Construction and Capital Project Management Blog.  

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