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Hidden Costs of Construction Software

Jan 31, 2008
The cost for new construction software is not as obvious as you might think. While the price for the software itself is usually stated up front, there are a number of "hidden" costs associated with buying new software that aren't always talked about. These costs, which can be hard dollar expenses or less tangible economic expenditures, should be factored in to arrive at your true cost for new software

Here are five "hidden" costs associated with construction software.

1. Training and Implementation Costs
Construction software buyers are often naive about training and implementation costs, which are usually a 1:1 ratio to the software cost. (This means that a $10K system will probably cost about $20K by the time training and implementation expenses are added in.) The more complex the software system is, however, the higher the ratio will be. The ratio for these costs can go as high as 1:5 or even 2:1 for systems on the highest end of the complexity scale. One of the biggest mistakes made, especially by smaller companies, is to try and save money by skimping on training and implementation assistance. Not planning for this cost almost always comes back to haunt you.

2. Staff Upgrades
Although existing employees are usually expected to operate new construction software, sometimes it's necessary to hire people with greater skills to run the system. If this happens to you, expect increased payroll expenses. As part of the software evaluation process, you must evaluate your staff capabilities carefully if you wish to avoid this "hidden" cost. Who seems confident and ready to take on a new system and who is frightened or holding back? The competence of your staff and their willingness to learn the new system are every bit as important as the software itself.

3. Ongoing Maintenance Costs
Once you buy construction software, you will most likely incur an annual fee by your vendor for maintenance. Annual software maintenance fees usually cost between 18 and 24 percent of the software price. But there are other, "hidden" maintenance fees to be aware of such as paying to having custom reports written. Put money in your budget for these items so you're not taken off guard when the bill comes in!

4. The Cost of Buying Wrong/Less-Than-Optimum Software
Although buying the wrong software, or a system that is less-than-optimum for your needs, is not a true out-of-pocket, measurable cost related to construction software, it is a real expense. Suppose, for example, that certain types of ongoing transactions are very cumbersome to perform in your new system and take an extra hour per week to do. This drags down staff efficiency and adds to their frustration. Another example would be running a project management system that's not integrated with accounting. This will require duplicate data entry to keep both applications synchronized. Consider these "hidden" costs and avoid them if possible.

5. Spreadsheets
Another "hidden" cost of construction software relates to employees using special spreadsheets to manage data because they don't like the way the new system performs. For example, if the equipment module lacks certain features for maintenance scheduling, your staff will be tempted to use spreadsheets as a workaround instead of trying to make the software work. Another common example is using a custom spreadsheet for estimating rather than an industry-specific estimating program. Work toward eliminating spreadsheets.

No Cost Surprises
Taking a realistic look at the true costs associated with new construction software will save you from surprises down the road. Training pays for itself very quickly and various maintenance costs protect your investment. Wean employees off their favorite spreadsheets and focus on using your new software to increase efficiencies throughout your organization.
About the Author
Sheldon Needle is President of CTSGuides.com and helps construction companies
make smart technology decisions. Get your free Construction Software Selection
Kit and Smart Shortlist(TM)Consult by visiting

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