While service and construction management software can make work life easier and more productive for both office and field teams, finding the right software for your business may not be as simple.
With so many different functionalities and options to consider, finalizing a service and construction management software will likely require a collaborative effort from your management team and staff.
In service and construction management, many would consider accounting to be one of the most important aspects of a job and necessary for maintaining a profitable business. Under accounting functionalities, companies track expenses, review reports, and categorize their job cost to determine future budgets and job profitability.
As a new or smaller service and construction business, you may find that basic accounting software is sufficient for managing your day-to-day operations, but at which point do your business needs grow beyond just job cost accounting software?
In this article, we will examine service and construction management software with and without accounting functionality so that you can mitigate your risk and maximize your profit. In order to fully appreciate the differences, it’s important to review what you should expect with either Construction Management or Construction Accounting software. That said, if you’d like to jump ahead, we suggest heading to sections 6 and 7.
- What is Construction Management Software?
- The 10 Construction Management Features You Need to Know
- What is Construction Accounting Software?
- What Makes Construction Accounting Software Unique?
- Common Construction Accounting Features
- The Benefits of Construction Management Software with Accounting
- The Benefits of Construction Management Software without Accounting
- Summary – Which Option is Right For Me?
What is Construction Management Software?
Service and construction professionals use construction management software to streamline and track business processes in the office and in the field.
An effective construction management software will sync the business’ day-to-day tasks to provide an accessible, shared space of information on all jobs, services, and projects. With the integration of finance, inventory management, and scheduling, the delivery of well-executed projects and/or services can be greatly improved. As a result, businesses can also enhance their profitability and scalability.
Common Features of Construction Management Software
Increased productivity and efficiency are not the only benefits of construction and service management software. The multitude of features working in sync help make construction and service professionals more competitive. Tasks that were previously manually entered or completed on paper can now be automated and expedited with construction and service management software.
53% of businesses have implemented new construction industry-specific project management tools in the past 12 months. (source).
With a wide range of service and construction management software options available, how do you choose the right one for your service and construction business needs?
Top 10 Construction Management Software Features
Here are the 10 most critical features that create a robust and comprehensive service and construction management software core.
- Construction change order management: Track and manage change orders in real-time, contemplate change notices, and view the impact of change orders on your project timelines.
- Project scheduling: With better scheduling, you can avoid project delays by arranging the tasks in the right order, allocating equipment and workforce across multiple projects, and laying out a project timeline in order to predict critical inter-dependencies of labor and equipment.
- Job costing: With accurate job cost reports, you always know if you are making a profit on a job by keeping track of your expenses and sticking to a project budget. This feature also helps to break down the cost of materials, labor, and overhead.
- Service management: Optimize your service business by having a centralized place to manage and dispatch work orders and produce schedules. This feature allows for an efficient allocation of assets and construction equipment and also better management of your technicians.
- Field time entry: Timely and accurate timesheet tracking makes it easy for your field staff to enter hours and details about the job. With this feature, you can automate labor hour approvals and control hours and dollars straight from the field.
- Daily logs: Keep track of project details right from the job site. With this feature, you will feel secure knowing you’ve got a reliable record of all the events and activities on site. With daily logs, you can minimize mistakes and document everything as it happens in the field.
- Equipment management: Track and maximize your equipment usage. You can assess equipment profitability with expense and track revenue on projects and work orders. You can charge equipment costs to jobs and work orders, track rented equipment, and record depreciation to understand your equipment value better.
- Inventory management: Maintain full control over stock and materials across multiple storage locations. With materials management, manage the intricacies associated with maintaining job costs, optimal stock levels, and effective reporting. With this feature, you can keep the inventory organized with seamless integration to your purchase orders, counter sales, jobs, work orders, equipment, and general ledger.
- Work order management: Improve your cash flow by streamlining your service work order management. Quickly create, dispatch, and bill work orders and get paid faster. This feature helps to eliminate piles of paperwork and double-entry errors that are inevitable in paper-based work order management processes.
- Document management: This feature helps you stay organized, save time, and reduce paper waste. A centralized document management system also improves collaboration between departments, helping you share the latest version of any document at any time.
Construction software also provides a better insight into projects, statuses, and overall business profitability and efficiencies. With robust service and construction management software, businesses should be able to produce reports to enhance decision-making and summarize data to help identify areas that are at risk, underperforming, or falling behind schedule.
Among the reports available on service and construction management software, financial reporting may be one of the most important. After all, detailed and timely reports can help you monitor your job and project performance, track job costs, improve job profitability, and manage cash flow.
With that being said, it is evident that having accurate financial data is critical to your reporting, and that’s when accounting software for construction companies plays a significant role.
What is Construction Accounting Software?
Accounting software for construction businesses is a purpose-built solution to track money coming in and out of the business. It integrates general accounting features with a job costing module to track project costs and revenues, payroll management, and control billing and procurement.
Many business owners view accounting as nothing more than an administrative headache. Nevertheless, good construction accounting tools and practices are still essential for managing a profitable business. In fact, according to Sage, 91% of accountants say that accounting technology has increased their productivity.
With established accounting tools and practices in place, you can get a snapshot of where a job or project stands financially at any time, which allows you to detect problems and make the required changes before it is too late. Construction accounting software makes this complex task easy to execute and less time-consuming to complete.
At this point, you may be wondering what differentiates construction accounting software from general accounting software? And why should it matter to a service and construction business if they use construction accounting software over general accounting software? The answer can be found by understanding the nature of the service and construction industry and how managing its finances is unlike any other business.
Three Things That Make Construction Accounting Software Unique
Whether you are building a foundation for a property or balancing the books, it is important to understand that construction accounting is profoundly different from regular accounting. Let’s examine the three major unique traits of construction accounting in more detail.
1. Construction businesses are in it for the long haul
Construction accounting is different from other types of accounting because of the long-term nature of typical construction projects. During a long-term construction project, contractors may perform work over several months or even years compared to typical business transactions that are completed within the same day. Project costs, scope, and revenue may change over the term of the contract. This makes the precise profit or loss associated with a job uncertain until project completion.
2. Cost tracking is crucial
For budgeting in construction, it’s necessary to compare actual project costs to budgeted costs at any particular point in time. This typically happens towards the end of the month and generally before the books of an account for that period have been closed. Conventional accounting systems do not work with this same method. Ideally, a construction accounting system should present a snapshot of the actual job cost in real-time so that a project manager can compare the actual costs with the estimates and make adjustments if needed.
3. Contract management is in focus
Construction accounting is more like project management accounting in which project costs are assigned to specific contracts. Costs are assigned to the projects as they are incurred. Such costs may include materials and labor, but they can also include indirect costs such as equipment rentals, insurance, or in some cases, advertising and marketing.
With so many variables taking place, excellent accounting software has been developed over the years to address the specific needs of the construction industry.
To learn more about the differences between accounting for construction and service companies versus regular accounting, here are some key features you’ll find in a typical construction accounting software.
Common Features of Construction Accounting Software
The key features in construction accounting software can vary greatly from one vendor to another. However, specialized accounting software that has been developed specifically with construction in mind should have the following accounting features:
Accounts receivable: Under accounts receivables, you can manage billings payments, run customer inquiries, view customer invoices, and get accurate reporting. Managing accounts receivable should make your construction and service billing easy and efficient.
Accounts payable: In this area, you will manage your vendors and control your invoices. The reporting function under accounts payable should be designed to support your business decisions.
General ledger: This feature allows you to view your budget, income statements, balance sheets, and other financial management reporting needed to assess business decisions. You should be able to build and customize your chart of accounts and run financial reports monthly, quarterly, annually, or for any fiscal period with the general ledger.
Payroll: In addition to running the actual payroll, you should be able to recognize labor costs and hours. Ideally, you should be able to run certified, unionized, or non-unionized payroll so that everyone is paid on time and exactly as much as they should be.
Multi-entity management: If your construction has multiple office locations or the owner wishes to scale the business in the future, it may be important to the accounting department to have multi-company, inter-company, and multi-entity functionality in their construction accounting software.
The Benefits of Construction Management Software WITH Accounting
Project and service managers may face many questions on the job site that can be answered quickly with timely, accurate data. When you use service and construction management software with a built-in construction accounting system, you can avoid costly delays and ill-informed decisions that can cost even more money. With construction management software, all of the work in the field and in the office are connected seamlessly to enhance inter-office and inter-company communications and save valuable time and money in the long term. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Timely, easy-to-run reports are important in construction for a number of reasons. Firstly, reports can inform owners, project managers, and accounting staff about any unexpected challenges on a job or project. Secondly, reports enable project managers to make swift decisions that can sometimes make the difference between a successful project and one that involves additional costs from overruns and time delays. To run such reports in a few clicks is both practical and time-efficient.
Many construction companies use multiple systems and leverage common tools, such as spreadsheets, to share and report data between teams and departments. Office and field teams must continuously re-enter the data to ensure that information is consistent and everyone has the information they need. Such outdated business practices can impede how efficiently your business operates.
- Critical processes such as job costing, invoicing, and other processes are delayed since they involve data entry from two or more systems.
- Extra time and effort are involved when your staff must manually enter details and verify the information is correct.
- Information entered may be more prone to inaccuracies due to human error and re-entering data on multiple systems.
- Accounting staff and project/service managers may spend additional time to discern which data is the most accurate on multiple systems.
With a single point of entry in construction management software with integrated accounting, anyone viewing the information can quickly determine who and when information was entered and if it was inaccurately entered.
By using construction management software with accounting modules built into the system, owners, operators, and CFOs can instantly view committed costs versus estimated expenses; and, therefore, can review their project forecasts quickly and accurately. Reliable forecasts, in turn, lead to better decision-making and may greatly improve your chances for success on the project and job.
Better Cost Management
Adjusting service and construction projects and jobs without adjusting the budget is a recipe for disaster. Good accounting practices advise comparing your actual expenses against your estimates on a regular basis.
Construction management software with accounting allows you to retrieve job cost information in real-time. If projects are in danger of going over budget, this real-time data helps project managers be proactive and make quick adjustments to avoid delays and cost overruns.
Timely Decision Making
Financial data is useless if your decision-makers spend hours rummaging through folders and spreadsheets. Construction management software with accounting gives easy access to both the latest and historical data in an organized, easy-to-read format.
Project managers can confidently make data-driven decisions with access to current and accurate financial data.
Unified Document Management
Document management is an integral part of any business. From invoices change orders to RFIs, a loss of one single document can lead to costly delays and customer dissatisfaction. That’s why managing all those vital documents in a clearly organized and efficient manner is just as important as job scheduling and equipment management. Construction management software with accounting modules digitizes the document management process and can provide the following:
- Streamlined communication between teams.
- A single source of truth to eliminate misinformation.
- Access to the most recent financial data for stakeholders.
- Reduce paperwork that is prone to damage and loss.
- Reduce or completely eliminate the costs associated with storing and purchasing paper.
The benefits of construction accounting software with accounting are numerous, and to make the right choice, it is essential to have a solid understanding of what your construction company needs.
In some cases, construction management software without accounting modules can also be suitable for your business.
The Benefits of Construction Management Software WITHOUT Accounting
Construction management software with a standalone accounting system may also be a good option for smaller to mid-size service and construction companies with less complicated operations. Continue reading below for why a business may choose to operate their accounting software independently.
Most construction and service businesses start with humble beginnings; you may be part of a small family-run operation or a close-knit group of under 50 employees.
Regardless of where your construction company stands now, most have likely started as a financially lean operation.
It’s no surprise that in the early stages of a new venture, an owner, CEO, CFO or controller will focus solely on essential software for their business. To add an additional expense to their recurring monthly or annual fees may seem exorbitant for a small or medium-sized business, especially if they are still in the early stages of their business launch. Instead, they may opt for Excel or purchase an economical general construction accounting program to handle their bookkeeping, such as Quickbooks online.
As part of the Microsoft Office suite, Excel is accessible at no additional costs to the company, and with some time invested into setting up formulas and macros for advance calculations, your bookkeeper can generate financial reports, as well as tabulate and compare data.
When a company’s grown beyond the limitations of Excel for their bookkeeping and accounting needs, they may start looking at general business accounting software or construction accounting software. One of the advantages your accounting staff will notice immediately from switching to accounting software from Excel is the ease of use, as well as the time saved from eliminating spreadsheets and the manual and error-prone tasks associated with maintaining the spreadsheets.
To keep up with the latest technologies and changing construction industry, most software requires an annual or monthly fee to maintain and advance their software, as well as provide support to clients when required. While there is a cost associated with owning general accounting software or specialized construction and service accounting software, it will still likely cost less than an all-in-one construction management software system with an integrated accounting module.
Suppose your business operations are active enough that it needs help to accelerate day-to-day tasks, or you need support in managing specific areas of our business without hiring additional administrative staff. In that case, it’s a good sign that you’re in need of construction management software.
In this case, it may be more cost-effective to find construction management software that can integrate with your existing accounting software. Knowing that most businesses cannot function alone on accounting software, many types of accounting software will provide fairly good integration with other business software to retain clients.
When it comes to selecting any type of software, determining the key features and functionalities your business needs will always come first. Similar to accounting software, many general accounting software types can handle your basic day-to-day construction management needs for small to mid-sized companies.
If you do not determine your list of must-have features prior to searching for your software, you can get overwhelmed by the endless options and features a software can provide. For example, all-in-one construction management software is great if you are looking for a system that will synchronize a high volume of work from multiple departments. However, they may also provide an array of features that you may not need.
Purchasing software where you aren’t using a majority of the features may be a waste of your investment. It may also be confusing for employees to see when they use the software. Make sure you can hide areas of the software if you don’t plan on using them.
There are also specialized types of software that offer some general construction management features but excel in one area of your business, such as service management, project management, and time management.
Depending on the type of service and/or construction business you have, you may need more functionality and features in specific areas of your business. For example, a service contract or may need more extensive features related to creating mobile work orders, field time entry, and dispatching that an all-in-one construction management software cannot provide. In such cases, integrating your independent accounting software with your specialized construction management software may be more ideal for your business.
In these situations, be sure the check that the integration between the systems is seamless.
Take Advantage of the Leading Accounting Software
If functionality is a key consideration in keeping your accounting software independent from your construction management software, you may be thinking that you could keep, or find, a top-of-the-line accounting software. By choosing separate accounting software, you may set yourself up to adopt best accounting practices with the best-of-breed accounting software.
The risk with this approach is that if your industry requires specialized accounting practices, your top-of-the-line accounting system may not be as good a fit as an accounting software built for your industry.
Keep Your Legacy Accounting System
Although it was not designed specifically for the construction industry, general construction accounting programs, like Quickbooks online and other similar programs, offer many essential features that service and construction companies need.
As mentioned previously, due to affordability, many construction and service businesses use general accounting software. As a construction company grows, staff may find workarounds to offset the limitations of their general accounting software. For example, some general accounting software packages do not include payroll management functionality. With some custom development added to their accounting software, companies can achieve their accounting and financial management needs while saving time searching for another software. Moreover, they will also save time training staff and quelling resistance to the new software system.
There are many reasons construction businesses prefer to stick to their legacy accounting systems. Every construction company is different. Some businesses have their own longstanding in-house tools to handle their accounting. In many cases, staff have simply grown accustomed to its legacy accounting tool, and even with its limitations, they would prefer to remain on their legacy software rather than finding and learning a new one.
Choosing the status quo can be a good decision (sometimes).
Make sure you are evaluating when your business will be ready to grow beyond your current accounting software. Doing so will help you better prepare for any surprises down the road.
Which Option Is Right for Me?
The question of whether you need construction management software with or without accounting functionality greatly depends on your business goals and size, as well as the scope of your operations. If you have a small number of projects or projects that typically have similar costs, you may be able to overcome the limitations of general accounting software by implementing some workarounds and integrations. This can be both cost-effective and efficient for your staff and business until your business needs grow beyond your legacy software. That said, consider that managing software with integrations may also be a risky and costly endeavor, should you need to deal with two businesses as opposed to one.
If you’re like the 83% of accountants that believe you need to keep up with technology to stay on top of your competition, then you may lean more towards construction software with accounting. For larger construction and service businesses or businesses with plans to scale up, construction management software with accounting is essentially a must. Consider that you can connect all staff from different offices and departments.
Accounting can essentially handle more work without needing to increase staff by taking advantage of the automated processes in construction management software. Construction businesses that have numerous projects happening at the same time, sometimes in different cities and even countries, need accounting to be an integral part of their project management.
Having a fully-integrated system to connect the accounting and office staff with field staff is critical for expediting billings, invoicing, managing payroll processing, and most importantly, financial reporting. Moreover, centralizing all communications and documents related to jobs and projects in one robust system will enhance business efficiency and help larger businesses establish themselves for long-term success.
Featured Resource: The Definitive Guide to Buying Construction Management Software
How Jonas Construction Software Can Help
According to the USG and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 70% of contractors believe that advanced technologies increase productivity, 79% think it enhances safety, and 78% agree it improves their schedule. If you’re looking to increase those aspects and more, you need Jonas Construction management software.
Jonas Construction is a fully integrated construction management and accounting solution that can help you streamline and track business processes in the office and in the field. Improve interdepartmental communications by syncing your day-to-day tasks and activities, providing a shared, accessible space on all jobs, services, and projects.
With the integration of areas like finance, inventory management, and scheduling, the delivery of well-executed construction projects and/or services can be greatly improved.