5 Construction Software Options for Small Businesses

Construction software for small business

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Enjoying construction software for small business. Paul Bradbury // Getty Images

While it’s tempting to rush towards lists of top ten construction management software packages with your credit card in hand, take a minute to think first about what you want. Software can be beneficial to a small business in the building industry, but trying to “bolt on” just any solution is risky at best. Top ten lists are general by nature: they may not apply specifically to your enterprise. Start with the knowledge of what you need and of your situation to improve your chances immediately of getting a software solution that suits your small construction business.

  • What does the software have to do? It should either solve a problem that is bugging you or open up opportunities for you to do better business. For example, many small construction businesses are already at a stage where they can use construction accounting software. There’s always a lot going on and software can help you manage it. But what about BIM? Business information modeling software might be a step too far for some SMBs; unless it turns out to be a vehicle for growth to let a company work on bigger projects with bigger partners. It depends on your business and your goals.
  • How simple should it be to use? Look around you. Which employees in your company are software or PC-literate, and to what level? While training is always an option, ideally a software solution should be intuitive to use without requiring specialist computing knowledge.
  • What will it need to connect to? A construction-costing program that lets you print a list of materials, prices and totals might be all you want. However, with more complex projects, there might be opportunities to save time and effort by having the program link to CAD software to pick out automatically items to be costed; and then link to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to organize building material and equipment procurement.
  • What about costs? Growing construction companies may be strapped for cash. Paying a little at a time rather than a lump sum all at once may be a more convenient option. Remember also that a software solution may attract additional charges in the form of a new PC or workstation to run it, or for maintenance and upgrades.
  • What return will you get?  Whatever your cash situation, think about your software return on investment (ROI) too. Compare the results you can get with the outlay you have to make to see if a particular solution makes sense.

Five Options for Construction Software

When you have the answers to the questions above, you’ll be better positioned to choose from the options below:

  1. Buy. Some specialist construction software is only available for installation on your computer with a one-time license fee. However, intensive use of software may make a one-time license option more economically viable than a pay-as-you-go agreement.
  2. Lease. If this option is available, it may offer tax advantages. You’ll need to get your calculator out and compare leasing terms (check what the package includes) and tax breaks with other options.
  3. Pay-as-you-go. Cloud-based solutions typically use the pay-as-you-go model, which can be highly advantageous for occasional or less-intensive use. In addition, files and data you generate from the software may automatically be stored in the cloud for reliable data backup, as well as being available to you on your PC or mobile computing device.
  4. Free. Software in the cloud or that you install directly on your PC doesn’t always have to be paying software. On the other hand, depending on the free small business software on offer, don’t expect too much (or even any) support.
  1. Write your own software. Although full-scale software development may not be appropriate, many programs let you easily create additional modules or “macros” using instructions that look similar to everyday English.  You can then customize the program to accomplish specific tasks of particular interest to you.