There’s a nifty name for the mix of software and hardware that your organization uses to build and run projects as well as manage the overall business. It’s called a tech stack. And in today’s world of running a remodeling business or any business, your technology can either be a competitive advantage, or it can be your downfall. That’s why it’s vitally important to make sure you are keeping your systems up to date.

Years ago, at Landis Construction, we hired an information technology consultant whose job it is to not only help us invest wisely but to also make sure that existing hardware (desktops, laptops, tablets and phones) are all running the versions of software that keep your team at peak productivity.

From design and estimating to project management and CRM, we run a wide variety of software at our company. It makes us incredibly productive compared to how things were done in the past.

In the age of the internet where all devices are readily connected, keeping your systems secure is another important consideration in keeping your tech stack up to date. Big corporations are not the only victims of ransomware attacks. Several remodelers have recently been victimized. Without proper backups and a plan in place to recover files, some have been left with no alternative but to pay hefty ransoms to gain access to their files.

It’s scary out there. Don’t try to do it alone. Your IT consultant is an important person on your team. And if he or she is doing their job properly, software updates are happening at regular intervals.

Investing for the Future

Another weighty question is knowing when your organization should pivot to a new software provider. This decision can be driven by a move from your own hard drive to the cloud. It can also be driven by old software that is no longer supported or poorly supported by its creator, or you just feel that you have outgrown your present software.

Another reason your company may change its tech stack is that you may be tempted by a provider with a cheaper, faster, more holistic solution. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

I say that because the process of identifying your software and business needs and comparing what you currently use with that of a potential new solution can be more arduous than you think. Doing the due diligence is long and time-consuming and fraught with pitfalls and promises. A thorough company review of your needs is never part of a seller’s timeline.

If you are considering a significant change in software, you should create a matrix of all the universe of software that could potentially address your needs. Be sure to include in your comparison sheet, overall price, price per seat, features, add-ons, years the new provider has been in business, number of clients, ease of use, number of yearly updates, customizability (backend, dashboards, etc.), and reviews by firms like yours.

Be sure you know the number of existing applications the new software will replace. Find out the availability of data held in the software. What happens to the old data you have on your existing software, and how easily is that migrated to the new software? Track hours of support each vendor offers for training, customization and troubleshooting. If you should find that new software does not meet your needs, or the company goes out of business, how transferable is the data to other software? Is there a common exportable language? All pros and cons are not created equal, and you will need to rank them in order of importance.

It is also a good idea to complete a pain-point survey of all potential users. Generally, the survey will, through a series of questions, identify areas of pain or needed improvement. The four areas to measure are process, productivity, support and financial. If your software is customer-facing in whole or in part, it is as important to measure the client experience as it is to measure the employee experience. All software can be measured in these four areas. Creating a baseline with your own software before you start measuring others.

Of course, software is rarely only about price. Your biggest costs will be in training (consultants and in-house personnel) and lost productivity as staff learns a new software and mistakes. If your new software is not easily accessible and readable by all your team, mistakes will go unnoticed. If the learning curve for the new application is steep, there will be resistance to learning, and each new employee will need substantial training. What is the marketplace for employees trained in the software you are considering?

Ideally with any new software, you have someone on your staff who may have knowledge of the software and can become the trainer, but don’t place too much emphasis on prior experience because that may tip the scales of impartiality. Too often, firms purchase the minimum training and support hours and then wonder why learning comes to a standstill and only a fraction of the software’s capabilities is used.

How your company makes the decision to change software and the process followed to get buy-in can be as important as the software itself. Decisions of this magnitude that are top-down rarely work or work well. Why would they? Owners rarely use most of the software in their firm.

Make sure that your department heads and heavy users are on any review committee. Not only should they have filled out a pain-point survey, but all their questions and objections should also be addressed.

The impetus to onboard a new application should not be considered lightly. It should come with significant and measurable return on investment. QR

Christopher K. Landis, AIA, owns Landis Construction in Washington, D.C. He brings 30 years of remodeling design, construction and management experience to this series of columns for the magazine. You can reach him at

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