With more construction companies looking to streamline preconstruction to prevent delays and costs during construction, more tech providers are creating products to meet those needs. The recently released 5th annual JBKnowledge #ConTechReport helps to make sense of the most popular preconstruction software and processes currently in use among builders. From the over 2,600 construction professionals who were surveyed, JBKnowledge, Makers of SmartBid, compiled the following data on how builders are using technology to manage their accounting, prequal, takeoff, estimating, and invitation to bid processes.
For the fifth year in a row, Sage’s accounting solution is the most widely used among construction professionals participating in the survey, followed by Viewpoint. Many survey participants chose to make a comment on this question and nearly half of those comments were looking for alternatives or actively transitioning accounting systems.
Unfortunately, the percentage of builders using spreadsheets and manual processes for accounting has climbed since 2015. This is most likely due to the fear of storing accounting data in the cloud and the tendency to stick to spreadsheets that are seemingly secure once saved to a desktop. These spreadsheets of sensitive financial data stored without change logs, notifications, error tracking, or other measures are therefore even more vulnerable to costly data errors and omission than information in the cloud.
The top 2 accounting software used by the ConTechReport survey respondents include:
The largest percentage of survey respondents prequalify subcontractors manually, through a process of paper, email and PDF attachments. The number of builders using manual processes dropped by 2% in 2016 from the year before, however spreadsheet usage increased. While manual and spreadsheets are not identical, they often go hand in hand.
As more construction companies expand where they build and what they build, firms are increasing the requirements for prequalification to avoid costly project delays later on due to financial instability, subcontractor defaults, noncompliance, etc. Respondents indicate that they continue to increase their usage on operational software systems however there seems to be a gap in the adoption of integrated prequalification and risk management solutions.
Tech providers are working hard to build their offerings in this space. Many invitation to bid software companies like Gradebeam, iSqFt and SmartBid offer a prequalification component for general contractors. However, this seems to be one of the most disparate areas in construction technology. There are no widespread standards of prequalification and firms are often conducting risk assessments with a combination of in-house resources and dedicated solutions that don’t allow for key areas of assessment such as comparative analysis (trending or benchmarking) or integration into other risk and estimating programs. This trend in prequalification results in firms assuming elevated levels of risk which can negatively impact profitability.
Companies looking for dedicated prequalification options are exploring online construction networks like SmartInsight, which help subcontractors consolidate their prequal requests and respond with centralized, current data more easily. Firms are also exploring integrated risk reporting solutions from their insurance brokers like Marsh (Subsecure Reports) or BM&B (COVReports) to aggregate and verify company documents and data, evaluate risk prior to awarding contracts and conduct ongoing analysis of risk.
The top 3 prequal software used by the ConTechReport survey respondents include:
With 27% of participants using OST and 21% using Bluebeam, these two popular software tools continue to maintain their standings at the top of the takeoff list. However, 19% of contractors still rely on manual takeoffs, followed closely by spreadsheets at 14%. Combine this heavy reliance on manual takeoff, with 29% of respondents using spreadsheets for estimating and 15% preparing manual estimates, and you have a recipe for a process that is both time consuming and fraught with opportunity for human error. As takeoff software and estimating outsourcing services offered by startup companies like STACK Construction Technologies become more prevalent, real-time collaboration and digital takeoffs will hopefully become the standard for all builders.
The top 3 takeoff software used by the ConTechReport survey respondents include:
Through the use of software tools, companies are able to increase the quantity and accuracy of bids, driving more opportunity into the sales funnel and leading to a higher win percentage as they become more competitive. There also seems to be hesitation to make the more tenured estimators abandon their manual process for new software, treating their process as more of a “craft” than analyzing it for efficiency and value to the company’s pre-construction process. Companies will soon be pushed into the next era of estimating and takeoff solutions when integrating BIM and estimating becomes more widespread. Estimators will not be able to deny the value add and time savings, and owners will demand the insight and visualization that BIM provides for the entire process. Builders should keep a close eye on the effect of the recent BIM mandates in the UK.
The top 3 estimating software used by the ConTechReport survey respondents include:
Invitation to Bid Software
Surprisingly, the number of construction professionals using a manual process for invitations to bid grew yet again in 2016 – the highest level since the survey was launched in 2012. No particular shift was seen in any of the other answer choices to account for this trend, so it is most likely due to the amount of subcontractors who participated in the survey this year. Since subcontractors are most often on the receiving end of bids, they are less likely to pay for a bid management software than a GC or prime contractor.
SmartBid was rated as the most popular invitation to bid software. Users of SmartBid appreciate how easy the software makes it to pull together information from their offices in varying geographic locations. Additionally, users praise the ease of access and ease of use for subcontractors thanks to the cohesive, and well-organized design of the system.
The top 3 invitation to bid software used by the ConTechReport survey respondents include:
The 2016 ConTechReport goes into greater detail in regards to the most popular software used by builders for project scheduling, project management, CAD/BIM, on site data collection software, and much, much more! To learn more about technology trends across the construction industry in everything from drone usage to the most popular software solutions you can download your complimentary copy of the 2016 JBKnowledge ConTechReport here!