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Apps helping to digitise the construction industry

construction industry

Walking onto a construction site these days, you’re unlikely to see a tradie swinging a hammer. The wide adoption and efficiency of the nail gun has largely seen to its demise. The same is increasingly true of the many managerial and administrative elements of the construction industry.

Apps like FormitizeBuildxact and ServiceM8 are broad in scope, bringing the many processes of the construction business into centralised software, making project management simpler and more intuitive at each stage of the process.

SmartCompany spoke to Formiitze CEO Matthew Burge, ServiceM8 communications manager Michael O’Neill and Buildxact acting CMO Chris Rennie about how new apps are changing the construction game.

All-in-one construction solutions

Formitize began as a digital replacement for paper forms and has since evolved to include features like job proposals, health and safety, and a sales pipeline. ServiceM8 provides a suite of tools to tackle administration and communication — subsequently adding features like asset management and contactless payment — while Buildxact is designed to facilitate takeoffs (the initial estimation for types and quantities of building materials) and other key functions like quoting and estimates.

“We’ve moved from being a fairly niche, paperless form solution to now being an all-in-one solution looking to eliminate jumping from app to app and software to software,” says Burge.

The broad focus of software like ServiceM8, Buildxact and Formitize is a testament to the complexity of modern construction. The industry is a web of stakeholders and these apps are designed to smooth the way they interact.

“The big game changer for us is integration,” says Rennie. “We’ve got the homeowner, we’ve got the builder, we’ve got the trade, we’ve also got the accountants and the bookkeepers sitting here with Xero.” The idea is that each stakeholder is linked through these apps, with processes increasingly automated. Sole traders and small businesses can particularly benefit when an app’s broad power is coupled with simplicity.

Expanded functionality in these apps isn’t just a bonus, either — users expect it.

“We’re constantly looking to solve more problems, leverage new mobile and cloud technologies, and support the latest iOS features,” says O’Neill. “It’s not something we only do ‘sometimes’ — our customers count on us to keep innovating and solving problems to help them work smarter and stay ahead.”

Saving time through automation and simplicity

The automation at the core of modern construction apps largely means that sole traders and small businesses can avoid the feeling of spinning plates. Take Formitize, for example. One function is job management, providing significant oversight on job progress, communicating not just with the construction team, but the client too.

“As the job is moving through its stages, Formitize can update both the client and the internal team with customised wording at each trigger point through those stages,” says Burge. This communicates everything from how the job is progressing to post-work surveys and even alerts when a contractor is running late.

“By automating these tasks that are just so time consuming, not only are you saving time, but you’re dramatically improving the customer relationship and their experience,” Burge says.

With Buildxact, the simplification of the takeoff and quoting process makes for significant time saving, too. One client claimed that the process previously took 24 hours but was now able to complete the same task in just four hours, and Buildxact claims that takeoffs, in general, are 80% faster. In both cases, the app removes the need to manually enter data or communicate.

Along with convenient automation, O’Neil raises a key point: even the most automated app needs to be user-friendly if it’s going to make a difference to a business. “Keeping our product easy to learn, and super-efficient to use, is a big part of our design values,” says O’Neill. “If it’s not easy to use, staff won’t use it.”

Boosting the bottom line

Ultimately, for business solutions to be worth adopting they have to save money or make money. Formitize’s sales pipeline, for example, was built to manage sales leads and enquiries. “When we first built it it was all about winning new business,” Burge says.

“But a lot of the feedback from clients has been that it’s great for growing opportunities within existing clients as well, cross-selling and up-selling the services they provide. So within a construction company they might go in and do the initial build, but then they can follow it up with maintenance and service-type work beyond that.”

The flipside of winning new business is conducting current business in a cost-effective way. Cost-tracking functions keep a handle on how a project’s budget is progressing, reminding the user as they go.

“It’s keeping a daily track of where you are in the job relative to the timeline,” says Rennie. “The cost tracking’s a key component so they know, ‘we’ve identified we want a 10% margin on this job, we’re actually tracking at 8%’. And also, ‘hold on a second, we’ve spent it all, we’ve still got another month of labour.’ You want to know before then, right?”

Final thoughts

Formitize, ServiceM8 and Buildxact are just three of the apps changing the game for the construction industry. Each has a speciality — digital form solutions for Formitize, job management for ServiceM8, construction takeoffs for Buildxact — but their utility is in their breadth and simplicity.

Particularly for small businesses and jack-of-all-trades sole traders, the combination of broad functionality and simple operation can make a serious difference to business efficiency. Whatever the goals of a business, simplifying and consolidating processes through an intuitive app will always create an advantage.

Source: Xero

 

Although these apps are far from equipment finance, we still enjoy helping our clients in their business success journey. If you do need finance for your business – our team are always ready to help – call  07 4639 1011 or submit an enquiry

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