Guest post from Cliff Mitchell at ClockShark
There’s a whole new slew of software tools available to your field service or construction company that didn’t exist 10 years ago. By picking the right tools, you’ll provide a better product or service while doing business at a lower cost. You’ll want to revisit it often too, since timely good choices here can create or support ongoing competitive advantage. What was the right answer last year, may be different today. But, there’s a trick to getting it right.
There’s been a paradigm shift over the past five years in software. What’s changed? All vastly different are how software is made/sold, who it’s for, and how deep the problems solved go. The reasons are too numerous for this post. The easy explanation is, the move to the cloud has allowed a fast evolution of software business models due to lower barriers to entry and ability to nimbly provide products designed for finer niches at a tiny fraction of the old costs.
So, there’s now more diverse and more numerous software products than ever, delivered via the SaaS model (web and mobile apps). It’s a new opportunity for small businesses to adopt industry-specific awesome solutions to painful everyday business problems that were until recently, solved only for large companies by expensive enterprise software.
The right software will reduce your costs of doing business and improve your product/service. The last thing we want are competitors getting ahead of us. But adopting technology due to a fear of being left behind, or because competitor “x” did, is a wrong and dangerous mindset.
The trick to getting it right, is choosing to implement software to achieve a specific goal or solve a specific problem. That’s the right mindset. Doing it to solve a problem or gain an opportunity is a guided, smart strategy. Doing it because you see everyone else doing it is a blind, fearful reaction.
What are the specific problem and opportunity areas for a construction or field service business to consider adding software to? They include (but aren’t limited to) keeping tabs on resources, controlling costs, tracking production and reducing risk.
No one tool does it all, and not every company needs every benefit provided by the various tools. So, putting together a suite of tools that matches your goals, is the way to go. Luckily, you may no longer have to shell out big bucks. Most of these tools can now be bought on an affordable monthly subscription.
Here’s a short list of software a construction or field service business should consider as part of their strategy:
- GPS Fleet Tracking – Not knowing where your trucks and equipment are is not only unsettling, it’s a huge risk. Any construction or field service business owner knows that without some way to monitor movement, you’re in the dark. Some employees make poor choices, use vehicles after hours, take non-work related detours, and more. They’ll drive too fast. They’ll apply the brakes too hard, or even just take off with your truck. Fleet tracking can greatly reduce the risk and cost of this abuse. There’s a ton of companies providing this service, such as VehiclePath.
- Production Tracking (Aka Daily Reporting) – Ever feel like you don’t really know what’s getting done each day on your projects? Unless you’re always physically on your job sites, getting reliable and complete production information from the field to the office is hard. Most have relied on email and phone the past 10 years. But they aren’t ideal. Various tools such as Raken now exist that use mobile apps to collect the specific information you need, and relay it to the correct people.
- Time Tracking – If you’re still using paper time sheets, it’s likely that mobile time tracking will save time and money. Paper time sheets inflate labor costs by 2-8% according to the American Payroll Association. They’re also really bad at capturing job cost and billing info accurately. That’s because the information is most often written down at the end of the day or week, rather than as it happens. There’s a variety of good mobile time tracking apps, such as ClockShark.
- Project/Plan Management – Keeping projects organized and smooth is key to profit and a low-stress business. Making large sets of plans available in the field and getting back info about project issues and progress in relation to those plans, is something a mobile plan management and issue tracking system like Fieldwire can help with.
- Field Service Management – Field service businesses with jobs and service techs going in different directions, can bring it all together with a field service management solution such as Intuit’s Field Service Management an add-on for QuickBooks. You can schedule jobs, optimize routes, and bill clients in one platform.
- Expense Tracking – It’s a struggle getting receipts from guys out in the field, and knowing what projects they belong on. Not to mention, if you’re using credit cards, reconciling them and ensuring policy compliance on spending can be a huge headache. In order to automate it, and eliminate month-end expense reports, you can use a tool like Abacus. It even connects to accounting software, such as QuickBooks.
Remember to choose based on goals/solving problems, re-evaluate often, and make sure you’re taking advantage of the software opportunities to optimize your business, without blindly following tech just to keep up. Companies that get this strategy right, can gain a huge advantage.
Cliff Mitchell is Co-Founder and CEO at ClockShark, Mobile Time Tracking for Construction and Field Service.