Technology & Innovation

Software as a Service comes of age in construction

Before mobile devices and apps became popular tools on job sites, project managers and superintendents in the field had no other choice but drive to or call into the office when they needed certain information. FAX machines were still used to send paper documents such as time sheets, RFIs, and invoices. Job binders onsite were often not in sync with what accounting and other support staff had in their files.

This is the situation many contractors described to me just a few years ago. At that time, many contractors were starting to look for ways to improve field communication and collaboration. This prompted the early adoption of mobile Software as a Service (SaaS) applications.

Software as a Service is exactly what the name implies. Rather than purchasing software that you install on your computer or server, you pay a monthly fee to use the software “as a service.” Because the software is usually cloud-based you can access it with any web-enabled device, from anywhere, and at any time. Today, those in the field are using mobile SaaS products to do a variety of tasks such as obtain project information, share documents, submit and approve time worked, and file field reports.

Growing momentum

As I mentioned in my previous post “Four cloud computing trends that will impact construction in 2017,” SaaS applications designed specifically for construction (part of what is called the “industry cloud”) will continue to simplify work life on the job site. As a result, the already growing adoption of SaaS by contractors should speed up in the coming year.

Another big incentive for contractors to use SaaS products is the ability to enjoy the most up-to-date features and updates without the hassle of extensive software maintenance processes. The SaaS supplier takes care of all upgrades, system reliability, and security. SaaS products are also faster for contractors to deploy and the cost to get started is lower than software you buy. If you’re using products like Sage Construction Project Center and eSub, you’ve already experienced how SaaS products focus on the capabilities you need, not IT requirements.

Integration improvements

Despite the innovations already available with SaaS, there still remains, in many cases, an issue with integration. A SaaS product may be convenient and provide useful functionality, but it doesn’t always integrate with other software your company may use.  Tighter integration between SaaS products as well as with back office software will be more prevalent in 2017, improving the sharing of information throughout your construction company.

SaaS products are entering a new stage of sophistication, security, and acceptance in the construction industry. Both new products and existing ones will advance as contractors expect more from the technology they use both in the field, and in the office. One thing is certain, the ability for SaaS to improve communication and collaboration will continue to be the biggest driver of cloud computing within construction companies.