How to Be Successful with Construction Project Management Software

Software Advice surveyed 230 AEC professionals to find out about software adoption and effectiveness in the construction project management industry. The 2013 Construction Project Management Software Benchmark Report reveals some interesting facts about the benefits and pitfalls of project management software adoption. One key finding from the study was that specialized software users had the best track record for delivering projects under budget.

In addition to household names like Primavera and Prolog there are over 100 other project management (PM) programs on the market. According to Software Advice’s survey over 94 percent of the participants use some type of software to manage projects. The majority, 61 percent, uses specialized software while 25 percent rely on generic PM packages, and 8 percent have a homegrown solution.

Over 50 percent of the respondents were general contractors and construction managers. The survey covered firms with a few to over 500 employees. Most participants managed between one and ten projects each month.

Generic PM software does not deliver

Companies using generic project management tools seem to be least happy with their systems. Only 18 percent reported that these systems met their needs, which is even less than those who rely on manual practices. Most satisfied are the users of specialized software that is designed to serve the AEC industry specifically.

Cloud services are booming; 57 percent of survey respondents use their applications over the internet. The shift has been dramatic in the last two years, says Software Advice.

Project performance varies a lot

The benchmark study reveals some interesting facts about how the users of different systems perform. Around 29 percent of participants using specialized software report that they deliver projects under budget almost all of the time. For homegrown software users, that figure falls to 6 percent.

When it comes to finishing projects ahead of schedule, the homegrown software users take the lead. However, here the differences are not as dramatic as in the financial comparison.

Software Advice asked the respondents for the reasons why projects were not delivered on budget and on schedule. The top three factors that the participants face most often are:

  1. Inaccurate initial project estimates (bidding too low on the project)
  2. Working from incomplete design plans
  3. Scope of work definition disputes

None of these are directly attributable to using project management software, but they emphasize the importance of proper planning and being proactive.

Standardization brings benefits

Software Advice asked the participants how they rate commonly cited benefits from the use of PM software. Standardizing project management, improving access to documents, and enhanced collaboration led the way. On the list, improved risk management and project profitability came last.

The respondents were most happy with RFI tracking, document management, and submittal/transmittal management features of their software. Bid management, job costing, and resource management were ranked last in this respect.

The three key takeaways

ERP Analyst Derek Singleton of Software Advice highlights these three key takeaways in the benchmark report:

  1. Construction project management software produces superior outcomes
  2. Survey participants are embracing Cloud-based software
  3. Preconstruction planning is a top challenge and top priority for 2013

As we know, PM software can be useful only when everyone in the team is using it. I found it interesting that the respondents considered software adoption to be the most often encountered challenge in project management.