Making Sense of the Cloud for Construction and Development
Consider Five Key Categories When Choosing a New Enterprise System
By Michael Mullin, President
Construction and commercial real estate development professionals know that the right equipment is key to a successful project – and ultimately to the long-term health of a company. It is a given they would never use a shovel for a job that calls for a backhoe. Yet many practitioners continue to rely on legacy accounting systems instead of stepping up to the new generation of cloud-based solutions with software designed specifically for theconstruction industry.
Today’s best enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can handle the full range of project and accounting management needs, providing real-time views and consolidating data in one complete back-office system. They also deliver seamless integration of multiple processes – including job costing, contracts, change orders, document management, compliance, retainage, inventory and customer management. And they make all this available on any device, wherever and whenever it is needed.
In short, cloud-based construction accounting software can help general contractors, homebuilders, subcontractors, specialty contractors and land developers increase margins and tighten project control from estimating through closeout.
With that in mind, the choice between hanging on to a decades-old legacy system that is limited but familiar, or stepping up to a next-generation cloud-based solution may seem obvious. Yet change – even change for the better – is never easy. And once the decision is made to adopt a new system, there are several competing product options (many with similar features).
Deciding what is – and isn’t – important
Consider five key categories when evaluating a construction and development core accounting system. Here are just some of the questions to ask:
- Productivity: What can the product do to make you and your staff more productive? What’s the learning curve like? Is there 24/7 accessibility from anywhere on any device? Does it work in multiple languages and currencies? Does it automate workflow and facilitate information sharing?
- Functionality: What features does the product have that perform daily accounting and business management functions? Does it support a multi-entity environment, including financial consolidations, intercompany eliminations, and reconciliations? How about support for standard accounting functions? What about end-to-endconstruction project management? Does it offer strong third-party software support to extend product functions? Can it combine CRM with ERP into a single shared database?
- Technology: Does the product leverage technology for usability, customizability, and maintainability? Is it fully cloud based (with no need for additional software licensing)? Does it support both on-premise and cloud deployment, allowing you to switch models when you are ready? Does it offer responsive design, a contemporary user interface and a full relational database?
- Value: How does the product maximize features and functions vs. cost for the usable lifetime of the product? What is the total cost of ownership? Is the system scalable? Are the licensing options flexible? Will you be charged by resources used or by user count?
- Risk: How does the product minimize risk and facilitate security? Can you count on predictable monthly costs? Can the system be deployed quickly? Will it integrate with other web apps? Does it provide rock-solid backup, failover and disaster recovery functions? Can the vendor handle updates and upgrades? Are client references available for your review?
Choosing a new system is a decision that impacts a business for years. Above all, take the time to make it an informed one that both meets your company’s specific needs and enables your team to take full advantage of an increasingly mobile and interconnected world.