As construction companies begin to grapple with what exactly is the “cloud,” one question is at the top of the list for many construction companies today: What construction processes make sense to move to the cloud today?

While CRM (customer-relationship management), sales, and project management seem to be obvious areas to move to the cloud, Julie Meeker, project manager, Kitchell, www.kitchell.com, Phoenix, Ariz., says anything that requires collaboration or workflow could be well suited for the cloud.

In particular, Kitchell recently began doing bid management in the cloud. Prior to using new technology, the company used a fax server to send out notices and an FTP site to provide access to drawings. The company then had to manually collect metrics such as who accepted an invitation and who downloaded plans and spec.

“In fact we weren’t able to even keep track (of bidding details) over the life of working with a particular subcontractor—how often they were invited, how often they accepted the invitation, how often they actually proposed once they accepted—and SMARTBIDNET gives you all of that capability built in,” says Meeker.

About three months ago, Kitchell began using SMARTBIDNET, www.smartbidnet.com, Bryan, Texas. This SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform doesn’t require additional infrastructure or servers.

One of the biggest benefits of doing bid management in the cloud is the fact that SMARTBIDNET supports all of Kitchell’s subcontractors.

Meeker says, “If they have trouble with login, etc., we are not using IT resources, which are extremely limited to begin with, to support the subs. They just contact SMARTBIDNET directly and they are assisted with whatever they need.”

Being able to move bid management to the cloud helps minimize the downtime and total cost of ownership. Meeker points to a recent graphic she saw of an iceberg comparing cloud-based solutions to in-house solutions. Licensing is about 10% of the total cost of ownership for an in-house solution, with a giant piece of ice hanging under the water that nobody thinks about—personnel to do backup, downtime, hardware, etc. With cloud-based applications, the licensing is about 30-40% of total cost of ownership. The cloud also gives companies the ability to better manage costs and scale as needed.

According to Meeker, the company is entering its second phase. Kitchell had previously been using electronic forms to capture prequalification information, and is going to be phasing that out and moving that to the SMARTBIDNET platform as well.

Why consider doing bid management in the cloud today? The ease of entry, scalability, support for subcontractors, minimized hidden expenses, and the ability to keep track of the specific details of working with a particular subcontractor are just the tip of the iceberg.