Major software vendors have long served sectors such as retail, manufacturing, banking, and education, to name a few. The Construction Industry, however, has been notoriously slow in adopting technology to automate its business processes. Consequently, the most prominent software vendors have shied away from developing industry-specific software tools tailored for Construction.
However, as leadership teams have transitioned and competition has grown in the Industry the world over; Construction Industry Companies have now more than ever felt the need to improve their “Sales Processes” and have begun to show more interest in automated construction-specific tools that manage their relationships thereby enhancing their ability to market, sell, service and deliver their products and services.
However, finding the right technology partner to transition, implement, and streamline their customer relationship management (CRM) process has proven difficult, tedious, and expensive. Consequently, companies have been conservative in investing in Software to improve daily operations and increase their competitive advantage.
The initial focus of technology companies in the Construction Industry has been developing ERP tools for Finance, HR, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). There has also been a focus on project-based collaborative tools, Estimation and Cost Management.
With this gap in the market, niche technology companies are now scrambling to create new easy to implement, cost-effective and user-friendly products to improve this massively under-serviced component of CRM in the Construction Market.
Who Needs Construction CRM & Challenges?
Whether Architect, Engineer, Contractor, subcontractor, or construction-related suppliers, the construction industry is viewed as a very dynamic and broad market that is highly competitive, cyclical, has daily emotional challenges, and is high risk.
One of the significant challenges for construction industry players in the management of the relationships with clients and the interaction within a company selling their products and services to the industry stakeholders and their communication and follow-up with their clients. These relationships are often quite complex, the following being examples of the challenges:
2. High volume (# of proposals),
3. Multiple proposals for the same Project,
4. Varying scopes (and hence proposals) for the same Project,
5. Multiple opportunities within the same Project,
6. Dealing with multiple price lists,
7. Automating bulk discount authority
8. Manual (and repetitive) preparation of proposals.
9. Use of Excel spreadsheets to manage / track sales.
10.Generation of sales reports
If some of the above characteristics apply to your daily sales processes, you should consider investing in a CRM tool to increase your efficiency. Many construction players (contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers, architects, and other service providers) who have already chosen to implement a CRM tool without carefully going through a solid selection process may have an expensive solution to tailor to the company project-based requirements.
Choice of CRM for your Construction Environment
The choice of CRM tool is a critical factor in its success to fulfill the organizational requirements. Companies looking to invest in CRM tools tend to look towards Blue Chip vendors. Rightly so, they have pioneered CRM technology after all. However, this choice can be met with expensive monthly subscription rates (per user), costly professional services, and often failure.
The reasons behind these elevated costs are centered on the following:
1. Getting the required project-centric functionality and the one-to-many functionalities that are critical to success; in the Software as a Service (Saas) model, these licenses required are the most expensive ones; often as high as $150 per user per month. These licenses are the ones that enable the users to have the required level of customization to suit the current Project that the company is bidding for.
2. Customizing these CRM tools to manage project-centric functionalities requires a significant change to the traditional CRM, which tends to be lead and contact-centric.
3. The one-to-many functionality calls for a tool that has a multi-relational database structure, one that can seamlessly connect:
a.New Leads (imported from portals such as MEED, Zawya amongst others)
d. Contacts e. Activities
All of the above aspects must be interchangeable. This means that it would be of tremendous value to see the required information from any one of the above vantage points.
Blue Chip vendors appear to struggle to achieve that level of customization at a reasonable cost and require a highly experienced consulting team, especially bearing in mind that most technology consulting firms have little or no construction experience.
There are other critical aspects that a construction-related organization would seek to achieve. Workflows, alerts on follow-up, preparation of quotes from templates, price lists, bulk discounts (including authorities on discount levels), integration (and access from) with MS Outlook, access from mobile devices, cloud vs. on-premise, project documentation, project delivery, and reporting.
All of this adds up to a complex implementation that requires the right CRM solution and partner.
To take your company through the steps required in choosing the vendor/partner right for you:
Identify the challenges that warrant addressing,
Decide on the desired outcomes of addressing these points,
Document the expected process – even at a high level,
Share your thoughts with trusted colleagues, ones who are in the Construction Industry. Ideally, they have gone through such a selection process,
Engage with vendors/partners, share your documented process and have them demonstrate an industry-specific CRM module,
Take note that the tool has in mind that in Construction, the Project is the “Center Of The Universe,”
Ensure that the desired users can access the tool from the locations that are required,
Decide between On-Premise and Cloud; choose the suitable accessibility for your business environment,
Look at your cost over five years,
Ensure that your short-listed CRM vendor/partner have construction domain expertise;
Have your chosen vendor/partner sign off to their commitments,
Leave your company with a fallback plan to alter course (at minimal cost) should the chosen party be unable/unwilling to deliver on their obligations,
Be ready to budget for 20-30% above the signed value of the contract. Changes happen, and if warranted, they should be paid for,
Be mindful of the internal resources that are required to deliver a successful implementation. This is often under-estimated and less often overlooked. Consider hiring a 3rd party to project manage the performance,
Consider investing in extra training/learning in internal resources. They can take on further changes/tweaks post-implementation.
Remember, the right vendor/partner reduces the risk of failure but does not eliminate it; the above checklist goes a long way in further reducing the risks; if there are one thing construction companies know how to do, it is to manage risk.