Opportunities Online Business by foe17488

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									                                   BY FRED ODE




          techKNOWLEDGEy


                                   Is your construction business missing online opportunities?
COLUMN


                                                                                              A nuts-and-bolts approach to web
                                                                                              utilization for contractors




                                                            ever before has it been this      in all areas of construction (e.g., con-          share and edit documents from re-


                                                 N          easy for construction man-
                                                            agers to find bidding oppor-
                                                 tunities, subcontractors, employees,
                                                                                              structionwire.com, bidocean.com,
                                                                                              constructionbidding.com), there are
                                                                                              others (e.g., BlueBook.com, national-
                                                                                                                                                mote locations in real-time.
                                                                                                                                                    There are a number of online proj-
                                                                                                                                                ect management products available,
                                                 facts about changing regulations, and        contractor.com) that include your                 and you will need to do some
                                                 even the tools to do business than it is     company’s name in their listings and,             research to find the one that will work
                                                 now–through the world wide web.              if available, a link to your website.             best for you. As a start, I suggest you
                                                 Web-based technologies are also              Most of the larger sites are fee-based,           check out some of the following
                                                 making a huge impact on real-time            and some (e.g., biddataline.com) will             most-used products, including con-
                                                 communication, which, according to a         use the parameters you give to                    structware.com, buzzsaw.com, e-
                                                 recent industry-wide research report,        search the web for bidding opportuni-             builder.com, e-IDC.com, and primav-
                                                 can save construction firms between          ties and notify you via e-mail when               era.com.
                    www.foundationsoft.com       5 and 10% of a project’s cost.               your criteria have been met.                          When selecting a tool of this kind,
                                                    With that in mind, how is your e-            Even more important to your busi-              you need to keep in mind such criteria
                                                 business doing? Do you even have an          ness could be the numerous web                    as security issues, cost per user, your
                                                 e-strategy for within your company?          sites that list local, industry-specific          communication needs (do you need
                                                 Or, are you e-motionally exhausted           projects (e.g., city.cleveland.oh.us-             web conferencing or will instant e-
                                                 just thinking about it? Perhaps, but if      /services /businesscenter.html) as                mails suffice?). With CAD drawings,
                                                 you focus on the opportunities and           well as sites to states (e.g., ocnon-             blue lines and the reams of paper-
                                                 the cost savings of e-business, you’ll       line.com in Ohio), county or city gov-            work inherent to the document-heavy
                                                 eagerly move from inertia to interac-        ernments, (e.g.,                                  construction industry, one of the
                                                 tive online use.                             cuyctyengineers.org/notices/index.ht              greatest achievements in this area
                    The following tips              First, you need to ask yourself           ml), Port Authorities, universities, or           involves improved graphic technolo-
                    may help to                  what your business needs to accom-           other public buying authorities. De-              gy. Some systems offer digitized

                    minimize the                 plish. Is your goal to reduce costs,         pending on your company’s area of                 viewing of documents and papers,
                                                 build relationships, be more efficient,      expertise, you should take the time to            while others now offer users the ability
                    “intimidation                or all of the above? Online opportuni-       build your own in-house online direc-             to mark up and redline CAD drawings

                    factor” and raise            ties are virtually limitless for any busi-   tory and check these sites periodically           and documents and to distribute
                                                 ness. But for the construction and           for new project listings.                         them to multiple parties quickly and at
                    your understand-             design industries, in particular, the                                                          a lower cost.
                    ing of the ever-             following areas are key to building          Project management
                                                 business and staying competitive.            Once you’ve landed that business-                 Contractor-specific resources
                    changing world                                                            building project of your dreams, you              Almost any information important to
                    of business                  Online bidding                               want to make sure everything runs                 your business can be found online. In
                                                 Where once builders and contractors          smoothly and cost effectively. At the             fact, it can usually be found faster and
                    technology.                  had to rely solely on references, word-      top of your priority list should be on-           easier than any other single resource.
                                                 of-mouth and the telephone, today’s          line communication tools to help you              Everything from union issues and AIA
                                                 construction firm can connect to             manage your project every step of the             contracts to HUD regulations and
                                                 thousands of bidding opportunities           way–from the initial design through               occupational and safety considera-
                                                 online. In addition to huge national         the final construction phase. To say it           tions is just a mouse click away.
                                                 sites that list open construction bids       another way: use the Internet to view,                Need consultants who are experts


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   36               THE MAGAZINE
                    Once you’ve landed that business-building project of your dreams, you
                      want to make sure everything runs smoothly and cost effectively.


in their fields and specific to your in-       documents (AIA.org) for contract                                                  osha.gov. And the list goes on.                                              amount of information to help your
dustry? You’ll find them on the web            negotiations with contractors. Con-                                                       As with most things, the Internet                                    business grow and compete. The bad
too. For example, zweigwhite.com               tractors who bid on government jobs                                               presents a good news/bad news                                                news is that your competitors have
offers consulting research and busi-           could save time by checking such                                                  scenario. The good news is that it                                           access to this information as well.
ness strategies for the architecture/          sites as hud.gov/offices/olr or                                                   allows you to access an enormous                                             How you use it is up to you.                                       BXM
engineering/construction industry and
nasbp.org lists various surety bond
professionals. Our very own founda-
tionsoft.com will soon offer a national
directory of CPA firms with a focus on
construction.
   Think about the companies, gov-                                NO POTHOLE TOO BIG.
ernment offices and associations you
do business with on a regular basis.
As you would for online bidding sites, I
suggest gathering a list of web ad-
dresses most important to your busi-
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sources will be well worth the time
spent compiling it.
    Can’t think of what to include?
How about industry-related news? No
need to maintain a library of publica-
tions or hard-copy articles. Specific,
up-to-date information can be found
instantly via industry news sources
such as (e.g., construction.com,
sweets.com, enr.com.) Additionally
there are many industry trade publica-
tions and association web sites (e.g.,
abc.org, agc.org, cfma.org, asaon-
line.com, necanet.org, apwc.org, aic-
net.org, agc.org, constructech.com.) If
you’re not sure of the association web
site, look it up in bluebook.com. Anoth-
er great way to stay current is to sign up
for industry-specific clipping services
(e.g., webclipping.com, qia.com). For a
fee, you’ll receive e-mail notification of
news pertinent to your business and
according to your pre-stated criteria.
   Don’t forget to include links to
businesses you associate with regu-
larly, including insurance, legal and tax
services. And there are business-
specific sites to consider. For exam-
ple, excavators are now taking advan-
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ment. Architects can download AIA


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