Construction Management Software User Research Report

New Capterra research reveals just how people find and use construction software.

Published by Rachel Burger, April 28 2016

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For far too long, we've been relying on anecdotes and reviews to convince potential construction managers to take the plunge and invest in construction management software.

Seeing as over half of all construction companies use some form of project management software , many may choose to invest in it just to follow the crowd.

But that wasn't enough for us.

So we took a deep dive into the data with this construction management software research report. We discovered not only how effective this kind of software really is, but also who buys it and why.

Construction management software is software that helps construction managers organize their construction projects and workforce. The software typically includes tools for project management, financial job tracking, forecasting, change-order management, document management, collaboration, and estimating.

Our construction management survey found exactly how construction management software helps construction companies manage their processes, what software worked best for which organizations, and how you can make sure that you're getting the best software for your company.

We detail the answers to all these questions and more in the survey below.

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Key Takeaways

  • The average spend on construction software is $2,700 annually.
  • 30% of respondents spent more than they expected to on construction software.
  • A plurality of managers have kept their construction software for two years or more.
  • It takes more than twice as long to conduct an estimate without proper software.
  • Construction software rarely improves communication with subcontractors.

Who uses construction management software?

We found all types of construction companies were represented in survey respondents.

We found all types of construction companies were represented in survey respondents.

Type of construction company.

All construction industries are closely represented, with general contracting taking slightly more representation (24%) than other industries (as it's the most common job title). The second, third, and fourth most popular industries are residential building (17%), residential remodeling (15%), and building construction (13%), respectively. The data that we collected has a bit of a residential tilt compared to the rest of the construction industry, which wanes commercial. This may be because general contractors did not specify that they are commercial contractors in the survey.

Underrepresented construction industries include heavy and civil engineering (2%), land subdivision (3%), and "other" (2%). Civil engineering can easily be labeled as another kind of construction industry, resulting in its low prevalence in the survey.

Which revenue band best describes the size of your organization?

Which revenue band best describes the size of your organization?

Most (79%) construction organizations participating in this survey make less than $50 million per year, with almost half (44%) earning between $5 million and $50 million.

How much did you expect to pay for construction management software? How much did you actually spend?

How much did you expect to pay for construction management software? How much did you actually spend?

Respondents expected to spend about what they actually ended up spending on construction software. Most respondents (55%) budgeted accordingly, almost a third (30%) spent more than they were expecting.Almost a third (30%) spent more than they were expecting.Tweet This

As there are not many quality free construction management software options, most construction companies choose to pay for their construction management software. The average respondent spends $2,700 a year on construction management software (or $225 a month). The median spend on construction management software is $750 a year (or $62.50 a month).

How much do different industries spend on software on average?

How much do different industries spend on software on average?

With that said, construction industries tend to spend more or less based on their speciality; general contractors spend the most at $3,198 per year (or $266 a month) whereas land subdivision contractors only spend $1,375 a year (or $114 a month). Because we assume most GCs are in the commercial construction industry for this particular survey, it makes sense that they are spending the most on their software, which tends to have more features.

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Which construction management software do companies use?

In direct contrast to what we found in our survey of The Top 20 Most Popular Construction Management Software, there is no distinct industry leader in construction software.

Which construction management software are you currently using?

Which construction management software are you currently using?

According to our survey, a plurality of construction firms use BrickControl (11%) and Viewpoint (10%)A plurality of construction firms use BrickControl (11%) and Viewpoint (10%)Tweet This. However, these top-two options are closely followed by BuilderMT (9%), BuilderTREND (8%), and Build in the Black (8%). Unlike other software industries, construction is not obviously dominated by one software solution.

With that said, there is an obvious reason for this: construction covers many sectors. Civil engineers don't necessarily need the same software as remodelers, and vice-versa. Because the industry covers a huge umbrella of construction-related activities, so too does the software.

It would also be unsurprising if many contractors choose to use software that's not construction-specific, like Microsoft Project or Smartsheet.

Is your construction management software web-based or on-premise?

Is your construction management software web-based or on-premise?

Like its sister software (project management), construction management software is almost evenly split between web-based software (47%) and installed software (53%).

This finding is somewhat surprising as there has been an increased emphasis on mobile technology for construction since it is a field-based occupation. But as more construction workers adopt smartphones and cloud-based construction software increases its security, expect more construction companies to start preferring software hosted online. Installed software is the winner for now, but likely not for long.

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How do construction companies choose their software?

When choosing construction management software, support, company reputation, and implementation training were hardly a factor when compared to the software's functionality and ease of use. The emphasis on robust, easy to use software is a reflection of the construction industry's culture of self-reliance and desire to get the best product.

The most important factors for picking construction management software

The most important factors for picking construction management software.

Construction managers prize functionality (30%) and ease of use (23%) when picking construction software. In the mid-range, respondents listed software popularity and price closely together, likely demonstrating that while construction managers value quality products, there is a point where they get too pricey.

The emphasis on popularity is a sign of the construction community putting trust in other contractors' experiences. For example, when people buy project management or field service software, they tend to rank popularity as the least-important criterion.

Why companies switch to a different construction software option

Why companies switch to a different construction software option.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest reason respondents switched from their previous construction management method was because it was "too hard to use."

Behind difficulty of use, construction managers found that previous construction tools were both too expensive and did not offer all the features they needed.Companies are willing to spend a little more for construction software that offers more featuresTweet This

With that said, this construction management research also suggests that companies are willing to spend a little more for construction software that offers more features.

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The most popular construction management software features

What users use is often different than what they actually look for when selecting software.

Construction management software: most wished for features

Construction management software: most wished for features.

Construction management software: most used features

Construction management software: most used features.

When using construction management software, respondents are most likely to use time sheets, job scheduling, estimating management, job costing, and document management features—and are far less likely to use accounting or permit management features.

Construction managers are more likely to "wish" for permit management (14%) than any other feature—the same feature they are least likely to actually use! They also are likely to wish for common features like submittal, subcontractor, and estimating management services (all 13%), warranty and service management (12%), and, unsurprisingly, document management (12%).

Construction managers are also less likely to wish for job scheduling (3%), job costing (3%), and budgeting (2%) construction management software features. This may be because they are using a separate accounting software tool for their construction business.

What caused people to purchase construction management software?

Before buying construction management software, construction managers relied on dated project management techniques to run their business.

How did you manage your projects before construction management software?

How did you manage your projects before construction management software?

Most project managers relied on handwritten notes and spreadsheets to manage their construction business before investing in construction management software—a practice that often leads to human error.

Further adding to the problem, construction managers are likely to rely on complicated project management methods to ensure project completion.

What project management system do you use?

What project management system do you use?

They are most likely to rely on the critical path method, which uses complicated scheduling, accounting, and resource planning calculations. When using such a formalized project management system, it's not surprising that these construction companies opted for construction management software to help automate and simplify the process for them.

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How do people buy construction management software?

Most construction managers were more conservative when seeking and testing software.

Length of time looking for construction management software: reality vs expectations

Length of time looking for construction management software: reality vs expectations

A plurality of construction managers spent around a month (4-6 weeks) looking for construction management software. Yet over half expected to spend less than four weeks looking for software. This indicates that construction managers should likely double the amount of time they expect to spend looking for software, especially if they're doing their due-diligence (see demos, below) to find the right solution.

Because construction project management is necessarily a complicated field — from managing subcontractors to bids to equipment to estimates to actual projects — many managers don't realize how much software can do for their business until they've started the software shopping process. The wide range of functionality that construction software can cover forces contractors to look through a host of options instead of just one or two — possibly another reason why they rely on popularity as a heuristic for their final purchasing decision.

However, compared to other industries where software searches can take six months or more, in construction most contractors finished their search by the 7th week of looking.

How many options did you demo before deciding which software to buy?

How many options did you demo before deciding which software to buy?

Most construction managers demo only one (30%) or two (36%) solutions before making their final purchasing decisionMost construction managers demo 1 or 2 software solutions before making a purchasing decision.Tweet This. While this may seem low, past software research has demonstrated that fewer demos often leads to higher consumer satisfaction.

However, doing so few demos can also lead to an uneducated buying decision and potentially higher prices, or a tool that just doesn't meet the needs of the construction company as well as it should.

Expected vs actual time it took to implement construction software

Expected vs actual time it took to implement construction software

Our construction survey shows that most construction buyers had a good handle on how long it would take to implement their construction software. Most companies (69%) were able to successfully install and adopt their new construction management software in the course of just three months.

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Construction software buyer satisfaction

A strong majority of construction managers are happy with their construction software purchase.

How satisfied are you with your software?

How satisfied are you with your software?

A whopping 80% of respondents are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their current construction management software80% of construction managers are satisfied with their current construction software.Tweet This. For those who were "very dissatisfied" or "dissatisfied," 50% reported that their displeasure with their construction management software stemmed from it being "hard to use." (An additional third listed that their software lacked certain features, and the rest pinned the dissatisfaction on "poor support.")

Construction managers have also stuck with construction software that works.

How long have you been using your construction management software?

How long have you been using your construction management software?

A plurality of managers have kept their construction software for two years or more (37%). Because buying and implementing construction software is time consuming, it's no surprise that managers want to make a purchase for life. Construction also tends to have more Boomers in places of leadership, who, unlike Millennial ‘digital natives,' find learning new software a challenge; as of 2011, only 74% of people between the age of 50 and 64 and 41% of 65+ year olds use the internet, compared to 94% of Americans between 18 and 29.

In short, because construction is an aging industry, it is notoriously slow to pick up on new technology (and always has been). Managers like to stick with what works, making them slow to change over their construction software.

Construction software satisfaction vs. length of use

Construction software satisfaction vs. length of use

After making a construction software purchase, construction managers stick with it. A majority (64%) respondents have been using their construction management software for a year or longer. As users grow more comfortable with their software over time, satisfaction increases. Because buyers spend the first six months implementing the software and training their staff to use it, construction-specific software can initially feel like a chore. As more comfort sinks in and the software feels more familiar, satisfaction increases.

Though that growth in satisfaction is neither exponential nor logarithmic; as new technologies emerge and construction companies learn their chosen software's limitations, their satisfaction rate begins to dwindle and they wonder what they can accomplish with new and different software.

Construction software and ROI

Construction businesses have seen a stark improvement to business processes with construction management software.

Which aspects of business were significantly improved by construction management software (respondents selected all that applied)

Which aspects of business were significantly improved by construction management software (respondents selected all that applied)

Astonishingly, 21% percent of respondents saw a significant improvement in estimating accuracy above any other feature offered in construction software. The report also found that the average estimate takes 5.9 hours to conduct, so ensuring that those numbers are accurate is saving construction managers a substantial amount of time. We also broke down how many hours by industry it took to build an estimate.

Hours spent on an estimate by industry

Hours spent on an estimate by industry.

An interesting insight is the people who use estimating management software take 4.5 hours to conduct an estimate. Those who don't average 9.3 hoursConstruction managers save 4.8 hours conducting estimates when using estimating software.Tweet This. That's more than double the amount of time it takes to do an estimate without software!

Other areas where construction management software improved business process included quickening project completion time (16%), bidding (14%), and client communication (13%).

Construction management software was least effective when attempting to improve takeoff (4%) and helping smooth communication with subcontractors (3%).

Where else can construction management software improve?

Construction management companies should pay attention to these unaddressed pain points.

We asked construction managers what is most likely to cause a project delay at their company. The response was overwhelmingly skewed toward "change orders."

Which of the following is most likely to cause a project delay at your company?

Which of the following is most likely to cause a project delay at your company?

Following change orders, subcontractor errors and weather were most likely to cause construction delays. This means that if you're looking for construction software, prize options with change order management.

In addition, we found that the average respondent spent 3.95 hours writing up a bid. While bid management has substantially improved with construction technology, there is certainly room to bring that number down.

Conclusion

As the data clearly show, construction management software has proven to be a sound investment for construction companies across all building industries. Whether construction managers were looking to decrease the amount of time spent on projects, make more sales, or simply save money by streamlining their processes, construction management software has finally proven to be the right choice.

For managers that have been using the same software for five years, new features that have come out or become more popular (namely cloud computing and mobile apps) may not exist in your current software, though they have proven their usefulness in the field. While the initial six months of adoption construction software may be strenuous, managers tend to be satisfied by their purchase thereafter.

Methodology

This 28 question survey was commissioned by Capterra and received 100 qualified respondents over two days in 2015.

About the Author

Rachel Burger

Rachel Burger

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Rachel is an expert on the construction industry. She writes for Capterra's construction management blog, which acts as a free online resource for construction managers looking to buy construction software. She also contributes to About.com's construction management site, which touches on a wider range of topics in the industry. Feel free to reach out to her on Twitter or LinkedIn!