Your (Candid) Guide to Selecting the Right Contractor Software
Feb. 16, 2021
Software implementation projects are like no other. As a contracting company, you may not have much experience in this area. That’s why many of the large organizations opt to hire tech experts as project managers to spearhead such projects.
With or without a technology project manager, the whole contractor software adoption and implementation process must start with a plan. Even the best projects with high odds of success may be full of pitfalls at every step that could derail the whole process.
What you need is a plan based on expert experience. This step-by-step guide is designed to help commercial contractors find, and implement, the ideal software stack to help them achieve their goals.
Many contractors approach the process carelessly, resulting in failed implementations that end up being a waste of time and money for everyone involved. Since we at BuildOps offer our own Field Service Management software, this is not something we take lightly. Our emphasis is on lasting strategic partnerships that provide long-term benefits for every commercial contractor, whether they choose BuildOps or a different vendor.
The journey to such a fruitful relationship starts with these five simple steps.
1. Create a Proposal for the Contractor Software Adoption
You would be surprised at how many contractors approach the software acquisition journey with a “let’s get this over with” mindset. Granted, it’s exhausting to have to muck through all the numerous options available in the market, each one trying to outdo the other’s marketing game.
However, knowing precisely what problems and opportunities you’re looking to deal with helps to provide a trustworthy reference point in your search. Even before you start looking at software options, create a comprehensive proposal of what you are looking to address.
- Identify the shortcomings, challenges, and pain points associated with your current process. These are the core issues you plan to solve with the new software.
- Identify the possible benefits you stand to gain. Start with what’s most important, potentially even mission-critical, then expand your horizons into pros you might not have initially considered. Spell them out accordingly.
- Talk to your team, the people who will be using the software the most. Find out what they think about a potentially useful software. Chances are, someone already has experience in the area and can help provide clarity and direction in the process. What your team actually needs matters. A LOT.
- Set up a clear list of the goals you ultimately hope to achieve with the potential software. Outside of easing pains, what does a system need to accomplish? Think sales goals, business growth, customer service efficiencies and improvements.
- Set realistic expectations for the implementation and onboarding process. These could include lack of employee enthusiasm, budget concerns, integration issues, etc.
- Set up a list of questions you want your vendor lineup to answer as well.
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2. Feasibility: Results vs. Cost
Operational software is meant to provide a cost-effective solution to a set of problems its users experience. However, it’s also very easy to fall into a trap, adopting expensive software that ends up being a white elephant because it’s not the right fit for your business.
This is why weighing potential benefits against total cost of ownership is necessary. Oftentimes, upfront fees are only the beginning of the TCO, just as potential cost-savings do not reflect the whole picture of the software’s benefits. You want to flesh out both of these with your vendors in the evaluation process.
Here are some considerations to get you started.
- Ongoing support needs. Even with “free” support, some vendors put in a ceiling because support costs them money as well. Ask about how much this could add to your monthly costs.
- Scaling can be difficult when the software isn’t designed to grow with you. Consider vendors’ product roadmaps and how pricing plans scale as your organization’s needs grow.
- Installation, configuration, customization, data migration, and training are all usually covered in an onboarding package. Get clear on what to expect with each of these and how much it will cost you in the short and long run.
- Cost of deployment. Do you need to buy new equipment? Consider the cost of things such as data plans, new mobile devices, and even time away from working to learn the platform.
- Management and staffing. Will you need to hire or train people specifically to maintain the software?
These costs need to be weighed objectively against potential gains from cost savings, increase in profitability, risks averted, time saved, reputation gained, etc. A complete understanding of the total cost involved will help you evaluate the value proposition of each contractor software vendor.
3. Create a List of Possible Vendors and Refine it
This is probably the easiest part of the process. You likely have all kinds of vendors already vying for your attention via email, phone, LinkedIn, and more. Most of them are probably generic marketing ploys, but sometimes you’ll find a clever salesperson who took the time to understand your company and speak to your needs. That’s your first clue at how a vendor will treat you as a customer.
You can also look for recommendations from peers and colleagues. Software vendors themselves, along with so-called “analysts” or consultants, are often inherently biased, but you can still add their recommendations to your shortlist, pending further investigation.
Some criteria to help you refine your list to a manageable amount:
- Industry fit. If a platform caters to a wide variety of industries, that lack of focus will hold your business back. You want a provider that’s innovative in your industry, keeping you ahead of the curve, rather than being spread thin to appease a range of customers. If it’s a true fit, you could be looking at the last software platform you ever need to purchase.
- Ease of implementation. Have an ideal timeline and cost by which to gauge the vendors. If a platform needs 6 months to onboard and doesn’t even handle data migration, that’s likely an inefficient pattern that will continue.
- Integration capabilities. Depending on the new platform, you could potentially eliminate some existing software you use. However, the systems you’re keeping in place (e.g., accounting) should be able to play nice with your new system. Pro Tip: Ask each vendor to SHOW you their integration because they’re not all created equally. Many vendors like to say they have an “integration” when really it involves an import/export or more manual effort than you’d assume.
- Security. Any red flags, such as lack of access control, data segmentation, or unclear security protocols gets the boot. This is also a good time to eliminate on-premise software. It’s all about the cloud now.
- Availability of support. Poor or unavailable support is asking for trouble, no matter how good the solution.
4. Conduct an In-Depth Analysis
If only there were a way to objectively measure your options against a standard point system… As we set out to build the first all-in-one operational platform for commercial contractors, we spoke to countless leaders in the industry, as well their technicians, their customers, and our own employees that were once in the field. In the process, we figured out what’s important to contractors, what they’re missing, their pains, needs, and wants.
From that, we built a software scoresheet to help guide contractors through the software buying process. We’re not saying we score 100% in every field, but you can be the judge of that. And there might be more criteria you want to include, there’s room on the sheet for that. Regardless, it’s a pretty handy tool for keeping track of how your options stack up..
Important to note: In addition to technical functionality, you also need to think about the vendor as a company and partner. As this will be an ongoing strategic relationship, you want a vendor that’s reliable, secure, and stable — not to mention has their finger on the pulse of the industry, continuing to invest in growth and innovation
5. Demo. Launch. Adjust.
At this point, you have your lean list of top contenders. You always want to demo each one, including as many people from your leadership team as possible.
When you’re confident you’ve found the right one, jump in. Lean on your provider to move you swiftly through the onboarding process, train up your team, and start seeing wins from the get-go.
Selecting the right operational contractor software doesn’t end at this stage, nor even with the last training. You have a customer success representative for a reason (or at least you should have one). If you feel it’s not working out, be honest with them. Sometimes the problems you’re experiencing are really just the result of not leveraging a key function of the platform. Communicating this helps your provider help you.
After all, even boiled down, this was still a costly investment of time, money, and resources. Ideally you want to get it right the first time.
Are You Ready For BuildOps Contractor Operations Software?
If step #1 points you in the direction of upgrading your operational technology, you as well start here. We invite you to consider a free BuildOps demo where you’ll get a chance to experience exactly how our multi-functional platform can help you digitize, streamline, and level up every aspect of your contractor operations.