Construction Success Story: Applying the Latest Technology to Mobile Project Management

by: Smith and Howard

June 26, 2014

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A midsize telecommunications contractor recently learned that the right mobile project management tools mean a lot more than increased convenience. The business, which operates over a large suburban area, employs roughly 60 technicians, 15 sales representatives and managers, and eight executives (including the owners). Suffice it to say, being able to work collaboratively on the go is a must.

Making the move

Three years ago, the company undertook a comprehensive effort with their financial advisor to set a budget for a major technology purchase: tablet computers for the sales team and technicians. They eventually found a supplier offering a feasible payment plan. Although it was a substantial investment, the cost was partly offset by a Section 179 tax deduction.

Employees raved about the increased convenience in using the tablets. No longer were they required to carry multiple pieces of equipment such as laptops, clipboards and training manuals to do their jobs — there were apps for that. Morale increased dramatically, along with growth.

Taking the next step

From its inception, the company used server-based project management software to allocate labor resources, track supplies, assess productivity and assign tasks. These tools also provided valuable metrics that management used to bid jobs and track employee performance.

There was just one problem: Until two years ago, all of this information was accessible only through desktop computers at the company’s headquarters or via glitchy virtual private network connections. So a second technology initiative was launched: vetting and soliciting bids from a new project management software service.

They found a suitable service within their price range that offered a Web-based system. It indeed improved connectivity, but it still required employees to establish an Internet connection and log in through a Web portal multiple times per day.

During a call with the software vendor last year, however, the office manager learned that the vendor would soon release a connectivity app for Web-enabled tablets. For a relatively nominal fee, the construction company was able to install the app across all of its tablets.

Now, with one tap of an icon, both sales personnel and technicians can access the project management system virtually anywhere, anytime. Plus, the vendor’s new cloud-based data storage offering will reduce the company’s IT budget by about 20%.

Finding solutions

The moral of the story? Shop carefully and find good vendors! By working with its financial advisor to execute a careful purchase process, the company was able to preserve its cash flow and claim valuable tax breaks for the tablets. And there’s no overstating the importance of finding competent vendors and nurturing good working relationships with them.

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