Always Innovating—How Beck Technology Develops New Products
When you think of innovation, what words come to mind?
People often consider innovation to be this mind-blowing futuristic technology, but innovation doesn’t always have to be these big miracle-like inventions. There are innovations even in the mundane, everyday things we now take advantage of. Innovations are as simple as the backup camera on your car, or for us, the number of clicks it takes you to perform takeoff.
We believe some of the best innovators are those who use their experience to problem solve for a better future.
Without innovation at our core, our DESTINI suite of preconstruction and construction estimating software products wouldn’t continue to be one of the leading construction estimating software on the market. We must not only adapt and grow at the same speed our customers are, but we must also anticipate the future needs of current and potential customers.
And it’s not just so we can stay relevant. It’s because we believe we are changing preconstruction with revolutionary and innovative ideas and products. Since one of our core values is innovation, it is something we feel passionately about. Beck Technology was founded on an innovative and disruptive idea and we work hard every day to continue to bring that spirit to everything we do.
We base our innovations on the concept of the preconstruction data lifecycle. The preconstruction data lifecycle is the progression of data throughout the life of a project from beginning to end. Being able to store and track data throughout the preconstruction process allows estimators to analyze how the data collected at the start of a project impacts the rest of the project, leading to better project decisions.
Sometimes innovation doesn’t result in a tangible product. Sometimes innovation leads to something you can’t physically touch but is invaluable nonetheless.
Take Life Time Construction after they implemented DESTINI Estimator. The accuracy and efficiency Estimator affords them in less time has given the preconstruction team at Life Time their time back. DESTINI Estimator removed the burden from their estimators and allows them the flexibility to react to changes when needed, as well as give them back their nights and weekends to step away from work and recharge.
One of the ways which we do this is through our Innovations Lab. The Innovations Lab focuses on advanced prototypes and future technology. Eric Fritsche, head of the Innovations Lab, works on expanding features and experiments with potential features to get them rolled out as quickly as possible. He also makes sure our software is meeting the needs of our clients and helps resolve issues and bus within new features before they enter development so that our dev team can spend more time updating our product rather than dealing with roadblocks.
“Somebody Needs Something”
One of the ways we develop new products is through original ideas from our founders and leadership to solve inefficiencies in the preconstruction process. Another way is through feedback from our clients, like our partnership with Sundt Construction to develop our flagship construction estimating software, DESTINI Estimator.
The most exciting aspect of our Innovations Lab is the development of new products and features. Eric says, “The exact ways we come up with product ideas vary. But it all basically comes down to somebody needs something and either they say, ‘I need this' or we recognize the need.”
With our newest upcoming software release, DESTINI Bid Day, we recognized that preconstruction teams were needing to be able to compare multiple bids at the same time and automate their bid leveling process, but didn’t have the right tools to do it.
Multiple clients told us they needed a way to level their bids in DESTINI Estimator, so our President, Stewart Carroll, developed a bid leveling spreadsheet that could be used in the profile view feature in DESTINI Estimator. It proved to be popular and we found a gap in the market. There wasn’t any other software available that could handle the bid leveling process.
Ideas are Great, But…
Once you have an idea for a new product, you then must find a way to make it. When we were developing DESTINI Estimator, we met with Sundt to learn about their estimating process. Similarly, we approached customers who were utilizing DESTINI Estimator’s bid leveling spreadsheet and asked if we could look at how they were using it.
From there, we looked at the commonalities of all their processes and figured out the necessary functionalities required of bid leveling software. Then, we came up with a minimal viable product or MVP. The potential features we can add to the DESTINI product suite are endless, meaning that we can’t simply put everything in a single product.
What is a Minimal Viable Product?
We create the MVP from what Eric says, “is the smallest set of functionalities, that if you put it into a client’s hands, they could be successful…without going back to what they were before.” Once we identify the MVP, we then break it down into separate tasks in the order we want the different functions or features developed.
The MVP is then handed over to our development team.
Making the Perfect Software
One of our biggest challenges as software developers is that most preconstruction teams use Excel to make estimates. Since Excel pretty much does what you want it to, every precon team we talk to has a different way of using Excel to fit their individual needs. And since everyone thinks their process works best, it’s extremely difficult to create the “right” process. So, we must get down to the core of what the estimating workflows are and try to make everyone happy with how our software works—which we all know isn’t always possible.
This is what is so awesome about DESTINI Estimator. If the built-in function doesn’t work for how your team estimates, we can customize it to work best for you. For example, we developed the team estimating feature as a request from Balfour Beatty. Team estimating allows for every estimator to work in the same estimate at the same time.
After the development stage and the product is released, Eric works on future features and functions, and helps fix issues based on user feedback. We are consistently maintaining and updating DESTINI Estimator with new versions that offer improved workflows and features that make estimators' lives easier.
Automatic Pricing in DESTINI Estimator
One of the latest updates to DESTINI Estimator that we are working on is Automatic Pricing, which originated from a quote from Landon McQuestion from Balfour Beatty. He said, “I just want to dip my pen in the cost database and draw my costs.”
Once he said that we realized we could streamline the takeoff process and turn it into one step. Eric’s job was to figure out how to do this. After developing a working prototype, he took it to Landon and other customers to receive feedback. Once we refined it based on customer feedback, we moved Automatic Pricing to development.
As Eric says, all products are developed based on a need, whether that need is voiced by users or if a company decides the customer's need. We rely on our experience in the construction industry and close relationships with our clients to provide solutions to problems.