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Building Meaningful Construction Software

MJ onsite
MJ onsite
The fine line between giving clients what they think they need, and what they actually need.

The ever present challenge in building construction software is understanding root problems and figuring out the right solutions for customers. At times it can be tempting to take a request from a customer and build it. Particularly when we have multiple customers asking for the same thing. This is something we think about a lot at Visibuild. It’s a fine balance between moving quickly for our customers and while also slowing down to ensure we are solving problems correctly.

Common Product Request: Digital Signatures

Let’s take the example of the common customer request:  “Digital signatures” 

At Visibuild we already provide a workflow to ensure critical checks within an ITP are reviewed which culminates in the reviewer hitting an Approve button logging their action with their name and a timestamp.

However despite this workflow seeming facilitating an approval workflow with digital sign-off we were still regularly hearing from some of our users that they need “Digital signatures”.

At Visibuild, we consider every customer request with care and peel back the layers to figure out the root problem. Using the digital signatures request as an example, let’s move through our process to see how we might solve it:

1. What’s the root problem underneath the customer request?

At the surface level it’s easy to jump to the assumption that when someone is asking for “digital signatures” they actually want to be able to sign a screen, perhaps because they are struggling to move away from a familiar paper sign-off process. 

However what we realised when we dug a little deeper was that this assumption was wrong. In fact this request was primarily coming from our subcontractor customers who are using Visibuild despite their head contractors not yet using the platform. In this case they need to still submit their QA to their head contractor for review.

And although the request was coming through as “digital signatures” what they actually needed was a way to send their completed QA to a head contractor who wasn’t yet using the Visibuild platform. 

On the surface the problem appeared to be “digital signatures” but the root problem turned out to be actually “external digital sign-off”. Or in other words, a way for someone external to Visibuild such as the builder or a client to view, review and approve digitally. 

A more complex and important problem to solve. 

2. With the problem identified we can now move to figuring out the right solution. The core challenge here being how to pull in external parties into Visibuild to facilitate approval workflows.

At Visibuild our mission is to push the industry forward and that means not just digitising a paper process. We can be creative and use technology to come up with new and improved user experiences that achieve the same outcome in a better way. 

In this case, we don’t want our customers to have to print off or email Visibuild inspection reports, get someone to sign the paper and then scan it back to upload. That’s the old way and is time consuming. 

So to solve this problem, we’re considering a simple workflow that allows our users to add external parties to review relevant inspections or issues digitally. Ensuring they see only what’s relevant and have the opportunity to review, comment and where necessary approve. Logging their activity in one central place within Visibuild and creating a clear traceable digital record but without forcing our users to have to do extra manual work just to ensure they complete their QA correctly.

3. Assess whether the solution solves the core problem

This solution still provides the digital sign-off required for subcontractors even if their head contractors aren’t using the system but in a more simple and seamless way than paper.

4. Test solutions with customers, get their feedback and iterate

We start with customer input and it continues as we move through the design process. Our customers are experts in what they need to achieve and it’s our job to understand those outcomes and figure out the best solutions. We take a very collaborative design approach, constantly looping in customers for feedback.

Our mission is to push the industry forward but we can only do that by having a deep understanding of the industry and what it needs to be successful. Starting with a deep understanding of problems is what allows us to innovate and bring new creative solutions to the tried and tested construction industry.

Software solutions
Co-Founder & CDO Renee Phelan at a feedback session with Icon

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