Every construction company should have the freedom to use whatever software best fits its needs without running into roadblocks that prevent information exchange. As an early member of the Construction Open Software Alliance (COSA), Sage, along with other member firms, is steadily working towards this goal.
In my last post, I talked about how software integration has been the holy grail of the construction industry for years. Today, the quest for integration has only become stronger as contractors automate more tasks and software becomes more specialized.
How do we get the various software applications used by contractors to talk with each other?
In 2008 the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) developed the agcXML standard as the first effort to standardize and encourage the efficient exchange of data between software solutions in the industry. Then COSA, an organization of software providers, joined the effort in 2012. Working alongside AGC to develop complementary standards, COSA also served as a voluntary test group for agcXML. That partnership took on a new dimension with the recent AGC announcement that COSA will now lead the agcXML effort to better connect construction project data across independent software providers.
Since 2012, agcXML and COSA have developed five standard schemas for the exchange of data between software systems. As construction software developers begin to add these standards to their products, contractors will be the beneficiaries. Here are some examples of what these schemas will allow you to do:
- Contractor Record: If you’re like most contractors, contact information for your customers and business partners is often scattered in multiple locations (Microsoft Office, accounting programs, and customer and sales databases). This schema lets you easily share contact record data such as company names, addresses, trade designations, certificates, and licenses between various software programs.
- Timesheets: Accounting and payroll staff are often frustrated because it’s hard to get timesheet information into the office for processing. This schema will help by allowing time capture information such as employee ID, number of hours worked, where your employees worked, and what they worked on to automatically flow into payroll systems.
- Planroom: Wouldn’t it be nice to have plan room information automatically populate documents such as invitations to bid and submittals? This is just one example of how this schema will facilitate the transfer of project information such as descriptions, schedules, and owners and architect’s name from electronic plan rooms.
- ConsensusDocs 721: Think of the time saved if subcontractors could submit statements of qualifications directly from their software into a GC’s system. With this schema licensing and registration, experience, safety record, financial details, references and other qualification can be exchanged between software systems.
- RFI:The time required to review and respond to RFIs can negatively impact your project schedule. This new schema shortens the process by electronically exchanging RFI data between software systems used by contractors, designers, and owners. Data includes RFI name and number, issue date, project information, questions, relevant attachments, and requested reply date.
I have personally been involved with COSA over the past two years and believe that true integration in construction won’t happen without software developers working together to adopt standards. Only through this kind of cooperation can we give our customers the tools that will lead to greater collaboration in the building process.
About the Author
Dennis Stejskal has over 30 years of experience developing, supporting and selling software and technology to construction and real estate companies. His comprehensive product knowledge and understanding of customer and market needs propelled him into his current role as Vice President of strategy and customer success for Sage Construction and Real Estate. Dennis has been a member and co-chair on the CFMA Technology Committee and often speaks at industry events, including CFMA, AGC and NAHB meetings and conferences.