Just like a customer in week seven of a six-week kitchen remodel, the desire to be “done” with a technology project can be so overwhelming that you back off the throttle when you're only halfway down the runway. And a “plane wreck” is not a bad way to describe the result. Here are some of the hot buttons I've encountered that prevent remodelers from seeing a good return on their technology investments:

  • Basic user skills: The majority of companies we work with have glaring holes in their users' basic computer skills, and they don't know it. Letting these folks run with your shiny new integrated software system is the equivalent of putting a child at the controls of a 747. Evaluate the skill level of your staff, and, if it's not up to par, get them down to the local computer center or community college. For new hires, computer literacy should be a given.
  • Blind leading the blind: If your “local computer guy” really understands your business, consider yourself lucky. Most I've encountered do not. We require that every remodeling company we work with have one person in that office who becomes the interpreter and “go-to” person. Without that, it is very difficult to make anything work.
  • Who does what: Construction software is often very work-flow-oriented and requires a “one person, one task” approach; i.e., “Julie creates the client record. Frank runs the estimate report.” Simple flowcharts hanging by someone's desk can be the difference between order and chaos.
  • Document and then document some more: Losing a key person midstream can set your project back for months. Make it a job requirement that everyone document their own tasks and workflow as they go along. Done correctly, over time, this effort can become the procedural manual for each position in your company.
  • Train and retrain: Even a day or two away from software creates a “re-learning” situation for your users. If you expect your efforts to pay off, you have to provide multiple avenues of ongoing training and require that your users take advantage of it.
  • —Joe Stoddard is a technology/process consultant to the building industry. Reach him at jstoddard@SMAconsulting.net.