For some time, integration between various software programs used by construction companies has been the holy grail of the industry. At first the need for integration was basic. Contractors were looking for simple connections such as moving costs from their estimating software into their cost management systems. Over the years, however, the demand for integration has increased as contractors have automated more tasks—from initial estimate takeoff to the final punch list.
Where are we today? According to the 2013 Construction Technology Integration Report, sponsored by JBKnowledge Inc., 82.8 percent of contractors said integrated software is important to their company’s overall internal processes and overall efficiency. Yet, according to the 2014 Construction Technology Report, today 31.7 percent of contractors surveyed still have no software integration, and 27.7 percent have only two integrated applications.
In construction there are essentially two types of integration needed. The first is integration between the software systems used within your own company. As your business grows this becomes increasingly important to break down communication silos that can easily form between various groups, both in the office and the field. The second type of integration is between software systems used by building team members outside of your company. Think of subcontractors, prime contractors, building owners, and suppliers you work with every day.
When you consider the number of individuals and companies involved in one project you can easily understand the importance and complexity of integration. If everyone used software from one vendor, integration wouldn’t be an issue. The reality, however, is that much of the software used by contractors and their business partners come from different vendors. Software has become more specialized and the pace of change too fast for one software vendor to develop applications that handle every aspect of a construction firm’s business. But how do you get these very different software applications to talk with one another—in technical terms to have interoperability.
That is where the Construction Open Software Alliance (COSA) steps in. (I introduced COSA before in my post “Let’s start talking.”) The goal of this relatively new organization is to build a community of software developers and providers who support the transfer of cross-application data. At Sage, we believe in software integration and interoperability and are a member of COSA.
What does all this mean for your company? Essentially, it will allow you to choose the software you feel best fits your business needs while allowing you to easily share information with internal coworkers and external members of the building team. True software interoperability will go a long way to remove the barriers to collaboration that you face today.
There is still work to do to achieve greater interoperability between many of the software programs you and your construction partners use. The key is a set of standards that software vendors can use to ensure the easy transfer of information. The dedication of COSA to make this happen is a major step in the right direction.
In my next post I’ll provide more information on the progress of COSA in developing these standards.
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.