While walking the IBS exhibition floor, I was amazed at the high level of traffic at the booth of a construction management software company. As a market researcher and occasional exhibitor, I thought how many of the other companies on the floor would love to have 30 or more builders and contractors having meaningful interactions with booth staff throughout the day. So, I stopped to ask how they had attracted such a large audience.
No doubt the information they were exchanging was incredibly valuable, but no one at the booth was able (or maybe just not willing?) to identify the secret to their incredible booth traffic. I was left to assume their “secret” was more about their product than their presentation. The concept of integrated construction management software is obviously becoming very popular.
With a new Omnibus Survey of Home Builders ready to launch upon my return from IBS, I decided this topic that had drawn so much attendee attention was worthy of a deeper investigation. Our research team drafted several questions on software usage among builders and included it in the Omnibus Survey we fielded in late January. Below are some of the findings I found particularly compelling.
To my surprise, and somewhat contrary to the observations I made at IBS, a sizeable majority of new home builders and general contractors are NOT using integrated construction management software (77%), and they seem not to have plans to do so anytime soon. (This is why it’s always worth investigating something you think to be fact – seeing is not always believing!)
It seems that while most builders embraced desktop computing decades ago for email communications and researching new products, as evidenced from the results of past NAHB studies, use of computers for other facets of running their businesses has not evolved much. Of the 300 builders participating in the survey, only 23 percent are currently using an integrated business management application of any type. About a third said they are using computers and mobile apps to manage their business in some way, but said they mostly use separate applications for each business function. Most surprising, as shown in the chart below, is that 43 percent said they are not using computer applications at all for managing their business!
Not surprising, larger builders were more likely to use integrated software than smaller builders. Sixty percent of those reporting 100 or more homes per year said they use an integrated solution; 36 percent of medium-sized builders (25-99 homes per year), and only 18 percent of smaller builders (<25 homes per year) reported using this type of software.
Let’s begin with the 23 percent who are using integrated construction management software. Overall, these builders shared many benefits they enjoy—time savings, fewer mistakes, better cost control, employee and subcontractor accountability, communications platform, information sharing, and organizing/simplifying their jobs. One respondent summarized the benefits:
“Having project schedules, finish/fixture selections, drawings, permits, budgets, and billing all in one place is much more efficient and greatly reduces the possibility of errors. Field personnel now can find information without having to call the office. Client access has streamlined the selection process and made change order preparation and approval easier. Tracking of project tasks assigned to staff is easier for managers. Daily site logs provide transparency and accountability for project managers.”
Not surprisingly, the most popular software application cited by builders in the study was the same company with the impressively busy booth at the International Builders’ Show—BuilderTREND. This application had nearly double the number of users in our survey as the #2 software, ProContractor by Viewpiont. The #3 and #4 positions were held by CoConstruct and Sage, respectively. One third of respondents, more than selected any of the top four brands individually, selected “Some Other Software Application” after reviewing the list provided in the questionnaire—many larger production builders may be using custom platforms designed for their businesses.
As for the hardware platforms used for integrated construction management software and apps, two-thirds of respondents indicated they are using both PCs and mobile platforms (e.g, tablets and smart phones); one-third are using a PC-based platform only; and none of the respondents reported using a mobile-device-only hardware platform.
The sheer number of builders and new home general contractors not using an integrated system signals an opportunity for software providers. In my next summary of these findings, I’ll provide details from the hundreds of respondents who gave us reasons why they are not using integrated business management solutions. I’ll also summarize the comments of the integrated construction management software users that indicate the business functions where users find the software most useful and effective.
We are fielding another Omnibus Survey of builders in March. If you’d like to know how a representative, nationwide sample of home builders feel about something related to your specific product or product category, contact me to discuss creating the best questions to get the information you need from the March Omnibus.