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If I had a Do-Over

Even in the home building industry, a business is still a business. Beyond the planning and construction lies many business decisions that all owners and CEOs must make.

If I had to start over again I would be wary of buying into a software system that was advertised as an “integrated” solution to help manage our job sites. No matter how great the latest “enterprise solution” is touted, it is a lot more important how the system is set up and populated with the right data in the right spot than the particular brand or vendor of the software.

As any executive that has gone through software “conversion” (that is switching horses in midstream) will tell you: it is much, much more difficult that the software sales person ever told you. The conversion process usually flares up turf battles between the accounting department, the operations department and the sales department.

As the turf battles rage on a common solution is to bring another vendor who will actually convert all the legacy data into the new system and sooth the new ruffled feathers of the respective departments vying for power to run the new system. The CEO is more than happy to turn the entire process over to this new savior so he or she can get back to doing anything other than dealing with the 2 week conversion process that is now entering the 6th month.

I’ve actually watched a firm literally go bankrupt from a botched conversion attempt where the power struggle was won by an unscrupulous operations guy who grabbed the chaos brought on during the midstream crisis and began to write checks the old fashioned way…to himself.

The dilemma for a mid sized builder is that during good times there isn’t the time (or desire) to go through a conversion and during the down cycle the money is gone.

So if I were to start over I would choose a software package that could grow (or shrink) with the company and was centered on taking great care of the customer and the buying process.

From management of the business perspective I have never found a system that beats going out to the “field” and talking to all of the stakeholders in the process of selling, building and warranting the product.

From the staying in business perspective, having a good feedback loop with your customers is vital. The least expensive alternative to a software/hardware solution is to have someone send you a picture from his or her smart phone of every job site- everyday. Because as they say “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

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