The Role of IT in Preconstruction—PARIC Case Study
When we think of preconstruction, we often tend to think of it as being in an isolated bubble, off in its own world. But the truth is that there are a lot of different departments that touch preconstruction. That’s especially true when it comes time for the preconstruction team to update its tools. Any time a department invests in a new piece of tech, they’ll need approval and help from IT in setting it up. With preconstruction, this is particularly critical, as many software requires licenses to be installed and servers to be set up and given access to.
Preconstruction departments are often the ones who need to update their tools most urgently. It’s not unusual for a department to be using software that just can’t keep with what’s currently available, or even a tool that isn’t even supported anymore, like MC^2. Beyond that, demand for new projects is currently unprecedented. Construction Dive reports that the Dodge Momentum Index—a monthly measure of the first report for nonresidential projects—is at a 12-year high. In particular, the industry is witnessing a 77% climb in institutional building projects, driven primarily by the healthcare and education sectors.
So, when a precon team finally finds a construction estimating platform that can keep up with their demands while simultaneously streamlining their workflows, time is of the essence. But before they even sign on the dotted line, several common obstacles can pop up. One of these is getting support from IT. Why might this be the case? Let’s take a closer look.
Most estimating solutions come in the form of what is known as an “on-premise solution,” often shortened to “on-prem.” Essentially, what this means is that the software must be hosted on a separate server located at the company’s office. As a result, you are tied to that server. You can’t access it remotely, you can’t make any on-the-fly changes, and you can’t always show the project owner the latest version. You also need licenses to access the software. That can be particularly cumbersome if you accidentally miscount the number of licenses you need.
Moreover, on-premise solutions tend to be expensive and require a lot of time invested in setting it up. A general contractor’s IT team will need to establish the server, set up the software, and then support and manage any potential issues that pop up. Practically, this means that if your preconstruction team hits a bug in the estimating software, it could take hours or even days to get a fix because the vendor may not always have access to the data it needs to solve the bug, since some of the data may be behind the company’s server which is inaccessible without IT’s permission. Additionally, if anything goes seriously wrong—whether with the software or the server—it’s going to be primarily the IT team to shoulder the burden of repairing it.
This amount of investment and maintenance can frankly be very off-putting to a preconstruction team’s IT department. But estimators can’t move forward with a new piece of technology without buy-in from IT and moving forward often means the difference between losing a bid or winning more.
After receiving feedback from both prospects and clients about the impact of having to deal with an on-premise solution, Beck Technology worked to develop a better alternative: what we call a “cloud-hosted” solution.
Rather than existing on a server that must be set up and maintained by a general contractor’s IT department, a cloud-hosted estimating solution is completely run by the software vendor instead. Not only is this a less costly and time-consuming investment for a company, but it’s also a much more flexible offering. A cloud-hosted solution means that a preconstruction team can easily scale up or down depending on their growth, overall usage, and user requirements. It also means that support requests can be solved a lot more quickly since the vendor no longer needs to wait to be granted access by IT.
Perhaps most importantly, though, cloud hosting as opposed to on-premise means that estimators will immediately have access to the latest version of their estimating solution as opposed to waiting for weeks, maybe even months. Additionally, estimates can be accessed from anywhere when they are hosted in a cloud system. If a project owner requests changes to the estimate, those changes can be immediately applied in real-time.
One of Beck Technology’s clients, PARIC Corporation, shared how a cloud-hosted solution has already positively impacted their team. Ryan Meyer, Estimating Technology Manager says,
"One obstacle PARIC faced with an on-premise Estimator setup was keeping the software up-to-date with a large estimator group,” said Ryan Meyer, Estimating Technology Manager. “Logistically, updating 50 computers with the latest software gets challenging, especially in a profession where any software downtime is unacceptable. In addition, user experience varied greatly when using Estimator in the office versus at home.
With our core software already cloud-based, the clear solution was to get Estimator in the cloud. PARIC reached out the Beck Tech in collaboration to make this vision a reality and we have been utilizing a cloud-hosted Estimator for over a year. In this environment, software and server updates happen all at once with minimal user disruption. Another benefit is by leveraging cloud computing our user experience is consistent no matter if we are working from home or in the office or even if our physical computer hardware differs from group to group.”
Although it can be easy to see preconstruction as isolated from other departments in the company, it definitely isn’t—and when it comes to investing in new technology, it’s critical to get buy-in from those departments, especially if they’re going to be helping you set it up and maintain it!
This is why it’s important to consider looking for estimating solutions that take the burden off your company’s back and handle most of the workload themselves. If you’re interested in learning more, explore DESTINI Estimator’s offerings by clicking the link below.