Data flows from many sources in construction. But regardless of where it comes from, it should be able to populate any and all functional areas that need the information. This is where the aspect of integration comes into play. All too often, programs ‘talk’ to each other but they are not really integrated so data flows throughout.

As Jakob Tornqvist, vice president for professional services, HomeFront Software, www.homefront-software.com, Calgary, Alta., explains, “The big advances over the last few years in the core software functionality have been the emergence of integrated solutions. A builder that is operating separate software for their estimating, sales, project management, and job-cost accounting may enjoy some enhanced functionality for individual users, but the true benefits in terms of efficiency and information sharing is not realized until these systems talk to each other, feed each other relevant information, and allow for cross-functional reporting. A great and common example is a simple cash-flow projection report, which is necessary to manage any business; you need information, estimating, sales, project management, and accounting.”

His advice? “Take a more holistic approach when you set out to evaluate software solutions, not as individual components but as a companywide platform. Don’t buy an estimating solution if it cannot communicate with your current or future sales or purchasing solution. Don’t buy a scheduling solution that can’t talk to your budgeting solution.”

He believes you would just be creating disconnected pods of efficiency but missing the benefits of automated workflow, information sharing, and corporate-wide reporting.

Jouko Vakiparta, CEO, Kova Solutions, www.kovasolutions.com, Woburn, Mass., agrees, adding, “You want to implement a system that allows cross-functional integration among accounting, sales, production, and warranty. But first you have to define your products. Which plans will we build? What options do we want to allow? What are the rules for options? You want to have clean data to answer these questions. Then you need to establish business processes using the software you implement and train the people who will be using it.”

In 2012 one of the names of the game is doing more with what you have in place with regards to technology. Perhaps this strategy can help better streamline efficiency and make for more profitable projects, among other factors, in the year ahead.