Evaluation Criteria for Web Based Construction Project Management Applications

Evaluation Criteria for Web Based Construction Project Management Applications

Evaluation Criteria for Web Based Construction Project Management Applications

EADOC has developed this guide as a way to assist Facility Owners and CM/PM firms in evaluating project management applications. This guide is based on experience evaluating software applications for our own use as well as our experience selling the EADOC project management application. This guide is only intended to be a starting point for organizations looking to evaluate project management applications for capital projects. You can request a pdf version of the guide by contacting EADOC through our website or emailing sales@eadocsoftware.com

Defining The Objectives
Before researching project management applications you need to define your objectives for the software you are looking to procure.
Consider size and types of projects or programs you are looking to use the application on. If you are a CM/PM firm, you need to look at the types of client projects you work on in establishing your criteria. Are you looking to standardize on a single application or select a couple of tools that fit your various types of projects?
Core Functionality Areas
Document Management

  • Track and control all your project documents or just some of them?
  • Submittals, RFI’s, Inspector Daily Reports, Meeting Agendas/Minutes, Quality Control, Special Inspections, Punch List, etc

Financial Management

  • Budgets, Funding Sources, Change Orders, Pay Estimates, Allowance Orders, and Risk items are standard construction management finance module functionality.

Schedule Management

  • Integrate with MS Project and P6 or build schedules within the application.

Collaboration

  • Are you looking to have project participants actively participate in the system? For example Contractors and their subs are uploading submittals, RFIs, and pay application into the application for you to review.
  • Are you looking to have every project participant using the system? Consider Specialty Testing firms, Environmental consultants, stakeholders, and the public.
  • Be sure to define your expectations carefully here as many vendors market their software as collaborative but they provide the same level of control and functionality as an FTP site.

Paperless Projects
If you are looking to truly go paperless then you will need to select an application with strong collaboration functionality.

  • Also consider support for digital signatures
  • Workflow enabled Payment applications and change order process.

Customizable

  • Customize standard forms and add new ones.
  • Who makes the customizations? If made by vendor, what are the costs?
  • Customize form labels, fields, and general UI nomenclature.
  • Who makes the customizations? If made by vendor, what are the costs?
  • Can users build their own reports? If so, do they require special training? If vendor builds reports, what are the costs?
  • Can the workflow be customized? Within my firm? Across multiple organizations? Across the
    entire team?
  • Can outside participants add their subs? If so, how is workflow impacted?

Ease of use and Usability

This is highly subjective and depends a lot on your ability to customize the application to meet your requirements. You will also need to balance the need for features with keeping it simple. More features and functionality in your application will typically lead to a more difficult user experience.

Training
Investigate what types of training are offered by the vendor and how long they are. This is typically a good indicator of how easy the application is to use. Training from various vendors can range from a couple hours to weeks.
Training should be done on the application after it has been configured for you. Many vendors will train users on a generic version of the application causing user frustration and leading to a poor experience. You want user training to occur on your configuration

Scalable
Can the application scale from 20 to 5,000 concurrent users? This range depends on whether or not you intend to involve all project participants or just a select few.

Reliability
Vendor SLA should stipulate scheduled down time, system availability and disaster recovery time.
The vendor should also have a hot disaster recovery site, not just tapes stored in a vault.
If you are going to be hosting the application yourself, your IT department should have a hot disaster site. Your team in New York is not going to accept an outage because there is an earthquake in California.
When was the vendor’s last unscheduled outage and how long did it last?

Security
SSL 128 or 256 bit is mandatory in today’s web environment.
Password strength should be configurable. Your team working on a highway repaving project should not have to change their password weakly because you are also working on a military base.
Vendors should provide a security statement outlining their security procedures and protocols.

End of project deliverable and data ownership
How do you get your data out of the software and delivered to the client in a format they can use without having to buy special software? Typically this can be accomplished through PDF.
Whether you buy software or subscribe to a service, you should always make sure you own the data and can retrieve it from the vendor at any time.

Cost Savings
Budgeting for software should be based on the cost savings delivered. For example, going completely digital with a collaborative application saves money by reducing headcount needed to manage project information as well as project overhead costs.
Cost savings also help sell the cost of your solution to the client if you don’t want it in your overhead cost.

Pricing
Software pricing should align with how you bill your clients and do business if you are planning to pass the cost on. There are many different models to choose from. Also make sure the vendors pricing matches your intended use. For example if you are looking for collaboration across your entire project team you do not want to purchase based on users. You want a solution that encourages you to add users and project participants. Below are a few examples:
Lump sum
Per month
Per named user or concurrent user
Per gigabit of disk space
Many other variations combining those previously listed

Selecting a software application follows the same principle of selecting an Engineering or Construction firm:  Start early, define your requirements, and invest the time up front to make an informed decision.