How to Implement New Construction Software

Undertaking the task of identifying and implementing a new construction software package is not an easy thing to do. To be successful, you need to have a complete understanding of your business objectives and how the software fits in to those objectives so that you can develop a plan to meet those objectives.The purpose of this article is to discuss several elements that are of key importance in getting new software installed and implemented in the fastest and most effective manner possible. By following the advice given here and developing a strategic plan prior to making the switch to new software, you will have a “implementation blueprint” that will give you control over the entire process.Converting DataWhen you install new software, there will inevitably be a time when you’ll need to get all the data off of your old system and put it on to the new system. There are essentially two options for this data conversion: manual conversion and electronic conversions. Ultimately, the choice you make will depend on the services that your vendor offers and how much of your old data you want to transfer over to the new construction software system.Manual Data Conversion: Converting your data manually is exactly what it sounds like – you, or someone at your company, manually reenter the data in to your new software. Of course, the main disadvantage of doing the data conversion this way is that it is a very time and labor intensive task. It can be helpful to use a team approach and have the entire staff tackle the job at once. In cases where a company decides to move a minimal amount of data over to the new system, manual conversion can be more than adequate as it may not take as much time as it would to move many years worth of data.One thing that companies that opt for manual data conversion need to be aware of is data entry errors. Working long hours copying data from one system to the other can be very tiring. If there is a deadline on top of that, you are almost asking for mistakes to be made. If you choose to do manual data conversion, you need to ensure that there are quality control procedures in plact to verify the accuracy of your data.Electronic Data Conversion: Likewise, electronic data conversion is pretty self-explanatory. It involves using some sort of software to transfer the data from your old system to the new one. This is the ideal solution in most cases because it is quick, it requires little more than a “set it and forget it” amount of labor, and generally copies the data as accurately as possible.If your construction management software vendor offers an electronic data conversion option, you should probably seriously consider it. They should be able to provide you with guidance necessary to retrieve your old data from your system and they should be able to explain how to convert it to the new system.One thing to be aware of when you use electronic data conversion is the quality of the data and the formatting of that data. You need to understand exactly what your vendor can and cannot do with your old data and the new system before signing on for an electronic conversion.Electronic data conversion can usually import master files, customer information, job cost history, open invoices, and other common data. However, it does require some technical knowledge to oversee the electronic data conversion. If you do not think you can handle this task, you may want to speak with your vendor to see if they offer technical consultants that can help.Data CleanupWhen converting data, it is important that you’re only transferring good, clean data to your new system. If you put garbage in to the new system, it’s going to send garbage out. In other words, the performance of your new system will be directly related to the quality of data that you put in to it – both initially and on an ongoing basis. This is true whether you use manual or electronic data conversion. By taking the time to clean up your data before conversion, you have an opportunity to:* Get all of your data standardized
* Identify and delete duplicate records and find missing records
* Delete unnecessary data
* Reformat data where necessary
* Search for and fix corrupted information
* Test the validity of the data when you export itTestingOnce you have converted your old data to the new system, you need to test it. This is a crucial step in the overall “data cleanup” operation. Whether data is manually or electronically converted, you need to test the data to ensure that it is accurate and to give yourself a chance to evaluate the critical processes that the construction software tracks and reports on.It may help to think of testing as a “dry run” for the real deal. Run the same reports using your old software that you run in the new software and make comparisons. Use these opportunities to identify and correct issues to avoid problems after you “go live” with the new software.You may want to consider hiring temporary help during the conversion process to assist with data entry or to provide the day to day support that is necessary to keep the business running smoothly while you focus on the software conversions.TrainingOnce you have installed the new software, training your staff to properly use the software should be your top priority. It cannot be said enough – DO NOT cut corners on training. Having adequate training for your users is the only way that you can ensure that the software provides the long term benefits that you desire.On-site training will almost always be the best option. It gives end-users the ability to work with real data and get comfortable with the new software in an environment where they will ultimately be using it. It is best to start training on the core modules – job cost, payroll, accounts payable, and so on. Once your users have mastered these modules, you can begin to move on to the more complex things that the new software offers.Follow up training is equally as important, but can be done using a combination of phone call, online training, and on-site sessions if necessary. Learning how to use the software should be done proactively and not reactively, and ongoing training is the only way to ensure that is accomplished. This growing knowledge of how to best use the software will give your company a competitive advantage over your competition that cannot be matched.Finally, it is always a good idea to have on-site training “refreshers” once a year, after software upgrades, and if/when you experience a high employee turnover to ensure that you don’t fall behind.Continue Your Relationship with Your VendorAfter you go live with the new software you need to make sure that you maintain a relationship with your vendor. Talk to their development team and tell them about ways that the software can be improved. Attend conferences. In short, do anything you can to nurture the relationship you have with your vendor – it will come in handy when you really need it to.Construction accounting is a complicated thing. The time and money that your company invests in upgrades are commitments to your long term success. Only by having a positive relationship with your vendor can you ensure that you get the most from your software for as long as possible.