The Why and How of Integrated Construction Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
January 25, 2022
In construction, it’s all about the data. More than that, though, it’s really about being able to connect and leverage the data across all business processes in order to more effectively and efficiently manage an entire project. But getting that data to move freely among different departments is the challenge. Fortunately, that’s exactly what construction ERP, enterprise resource planning, does.
What is it about construction ERP that makes it so compelling?
For some construction businesses, it’s about overcoming project-impacting pain points they’ve been experiencing when operating without an industry-specific ERP. These pain points can become particularly amplified in capital projects and include the following:
- Disconnected systems creating siloed information. Most construction data these days is still siloed in point solutions originally acquired to streamline specific business functions. This patchwork of solutions, each with their own functionalities and user interfaces, often winds up creating bottlenecks in project efficiency. The result is an incompatible system that can’t sync in real time or doesn’t share the same data structure, requiring data re-entry in multiple places.
- Inhibited communication. Too many apps, combined with a lack of data flow among them, inhibits communication and workflows among key departments that need to work from shared construction project data. Everyone is instead operating on their own variation of data truth, unable to discern which version is correct or to reference the same accurate information to collaborate effectively.
- Lack of data confidence. Inadequate real-time visibility into project data — such as performance metrics, change orders, labor productivity, billing and daily reporting — hinders timely planning, forecasting and risk management efforts. This lowers confidence in the data’s accuracy and timeliness.
- Data re-entry risks. Manually re-entering the same information from multiple departments incurs the all-too-common risk of data entry duplication and mistakes, while wasting valuable time, effort and administrative resources that could be applied elsewhere.
- Construction needs not being addressed. Generic ERPs are unable to account for construction’s unique needs, such as efficiently managing materials and equipment, tracking evolving planned and actual project costs, and recording data directly from the jobsite.
For other construction businesses, it’s about the benefits they stand to gain from an integrated construction ERP system, such as:
- Universal data access. Accessing all the carefully curated historical and current data that lives within a single source of truth ensures all departments, project team members and stakeholders can leverage its value throughout the project life cycle.
- Better communication. Connected data means connected teams, whether those teams are at the jobsite, in the back office or other remote locations. The business functions they’re responsible for benefit from the improved communication, collaboration and decision making that come from seamless data sharing.
- Real-time insights. Having better visibility into the status of all business functions yields greater capital project insights. A direct line of sight into cost and schedule performance metrics shows how a project is progressing against original estimates and highlights potential risks where developing deviations require extra attention.
- Increased productivity. Data sharing within an integrated ERP system eliminates the duplicated data entry common to disconnected business operations, and instead frees up the considerable time and effort of that administrative task toward more productive work that can more directly impact the bottom line.
How does a single-vendor, integrated construction ERP relieve pain points and provide all these benefits?
- A single platform for all business functions. It all starts with a single platform comprising multiple modules, each of which is dedicated to a single business process. So rather than signing into multiple apps from different vendors, there’s just one system to access with one interface. Those modules tap into one database that serves as a single source of truth for the entire construction company and their projects. It smooths the flow of data and project information among departments and stakeholders for dramatically increased efficiency.
- Cloud technology for data access. When a construction ERP is cloud-enabled, there are none of the constraints limiting the full actionable value of project data you’d otherwise find with on-premise and computer-based solutions. It’s what provides anywhere, anytime access to that data. So, there are no lost, misplaced or hard-to-find documents when they’re stored and accessed in the cloud. Those in the field can access, upload and update details that feed into ongoing performance metrics simply by using a mobile device. Cloud technology is what connects real-time data to the entire project team, which can then collaborate more effectively by relying on one trusted information source.
- Real-time project status. With time at a premium, comprehensive reports and dashboards help focus attention on what matters most by capturing, interpreting and sharing key information — progress, performance, risk factors — that project team members and stakeholders can use to make time-sensitive decisions. Logically summarizing project data from the modules within the ERP into more easily understood visual formats, these synopses of project progress can be customized with graphic format elements and by recipient group based on the level of detail they require. They’re efficient ways to keep everyone apprised of status and progress.
- One interface. Effective visual presentation doesn’t end with reports and dashboards. It extends to the user interface as well. With an integrated ERP, there are no longer different interfaces for each module; there’s just one consistent interface for all of them. It’s easier to navigate, making it simpler for those who operate within multiple modules to manage tasks and data.
Better manage all facets of your business with construction ERP
While much of the industry is still using individual point solutions, a growing number of construction companies have already turned to construction ERPs — like InEight’s project controls platform — to take advantage of the power of connected data, simplify processes and gain more control over managing the life cycle of their project portfolio. We invite you to see how you can leverage your data to streamline your business processes.