No one ever checks their bank account and thinks, “Gee, I really don’t spend enough money!” Most of us have the opposite reaction.
When you realize that you need good construction management software, the understandable urge is to find something free. You might not think you need much help, because, so far, you’ve mostly managed just fine.
But, non-buyer beware: there are a few hidden costs in free software that you should be aware of before committing to a free and open source construction management software option.
While free or open source software may be ideal for your financial situation, you should know what you’re missing out on if you pass on paying for software .
Before you start building your operation around free software, let’s take a look at five hidden costs of free construction management software to save you time and effort down the road if your chosen software fails your business.
1. Maintenance and customization
Every business is different. This is especially true in the construction industry, where projects can range from massive skyscrapers to small decks. If you’ve chosen a free software option—particularly an open source one—you’re responsible for your own customization and maintenance.
If you need a certain feature or require extensive customization, you’re on your own in figuring out how to add it in.
Buying software is like buying a house. When you download free or open source software, you’re buying the lumber, nails, and other raw materials. Sure, you can probably look up how to build the house online. But, is that really the best use of your time?
2. Customer support
When Capterra reviewers praise good software, they usually zero in on one aspect: customer support. Reviewers talk about how quickly a company resolves issues, their level of friendliness, and how companies respond to requests for additional features.
When you buy software, you’re not just buying a program. You’re also buying access to people who can help you solve difficult problems related to construction management. If you opt for free software, you’ll be stuck browsing online forums to figure out solutions to your problems.
Avoiding headaches is often worth associated costs. Having good customer support is a great way to do just that.
3. Free software isn’t really free
Choosing free software is like adopting a free puppy: it stops being free the moment you take it home.
Using free and open source software takes time and energy. You have to figure out how to use it, and you may even need to alter the source code to make the software work for your business.
Often, when you download freeware you’ll find that certain features (usually the most useful) are not included. The free version will have the basic features to get you started, but once you’re fully involved you find that the tools you need to take the next step are behind a paywall.
For example, 2-plan Project Management Software offers a free version, but if you need more than two taskboards to manage your project or your team grows to more than three people, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version. Similarly, Wrike offers a free version of its software, but to get a full project-planning and collaboration solution you have to upgrade to the paid professional version.
4. Productivity issues
One danger you probably haven’t thought about related to free software is a loss in productivity as your team tries to identify the benefits and limitations of a new system.
While many paid software options come with training to help get you and your team up to speed—often customized for your organization by a customer-centric software company—you’ll have no such help with free software.
First, you’ll have to train yourself to use the software, and then you’ll have to introduce it to your team.
Chances are that explaining how to use software is not your area of expertise, and you’re bound to have a few hiccups during subsequent construction projects until your team gets the hang of things.
5. Incredibly useful features
Every free software solution has different capabilities, but there are some things you’re just never going to get with free and open source construction management software.
If you think you can probably live without these features, you might be underestimating just how much they can help you out with your next project.
For example, AutoDesk’s BIM 360 software helps get designers, general contractors, and others involved in a project on the same page by letting you compare versions of a construction design in one controlled, auditable area.
Procore’s software lets you filter projects by summary tasks, or by the subcontractor working on that task. It also allows users to search an entire construction project schedule for keywords such as “plumbing contractor” or “framing.”
There are all sorts of excellent features offered by paid construction management software solutions that can help your business immensely. In-depth accounting and financial features keep your payroll, invoicing, and billing organized and on track. Team management features keep your crew on schedule by tracking individual progress and task status.
You might wince while reaching for your wallet, but in the long run paid software can help make your business more efficient and effective. Who among us would ever say that those outcomes aren’t worth the price tag?
Do you use free or paid software?
What software are you currently using for your construction business? How is it working out? Have you tried both free and paid software? What were the main differences you noticed? Let us know in the comments below!