Building a Custom Home is an Exercise in Effective Communication


Construction Management Software is Important to our Clients

I recently attended a user conference for the construction management software (CMS) that we use at Turnstone.  OK, I can already feel your eyes glazing over, wondering, “Why should I care?”.  The answer may surprise you.  Please bear with me for a minute while I explain.

Building a production home is mainly a manufacturing exercise, rooted in logistics and repetition. Building a custom home is a completely different animal.  Think about it.  You are building a home that’s never been built before, for a client who has probably never been through the process, with hundreds of choices to be made among millions of products.  A fully custom home starts as a blank slate, with few restrictions and infinite choices.  That is why, more than anything else,

Building a custom home is an exercise in effective communication

Most builders have a CMS loaded somewhere in their office.  It seems easy enough.  Download the software, skim the user manual, create user accounts and passwords, roll it out to the team and clients and then hope that everyone will use it.  Well, they won’t.  I know, because that’s what I did in our first couple of attempts to implement a CMS. 

Soon, you discover that the program that looks so good on paper has serious limitations or just doesn’t fit with the way you work.  Your team gives the program a try and then promptly reverts to their customary ways as soon as they get too busy.

I learned the hard way that the CMS must be thoroughly ingrained in the culture of your company or it will wither on the vine.  That requires a commitment of time, money, training and pure persistence that few local builders can muster. We’re not totally there, but we’re close.

The benefits for our clients are myriad.  Used properly, the CMS becomes the central repository for all conversations, options and decisions.  This includes the project schedule, the budget, change order approvals, materials selections, meeting notes, etc.  Because designing, permitting and constructing a custom home can sometimes extend over 12 months, it is far too easy for details to be buried in a mountain of data.   Our system is infinitely filterable and searchable, allowing our clients to quickly pull needles from the haystack, even regarding decisions made months earlier.  Once they become familiar with the system, our clients feel empowered, informed and in control.

So, what did I take away from the conference?  Mainly that Turnstone’s CMS implementation is quite advanced compared to most of the 140 companies represented at the conference. While I learned a lot, I also spent a fair amount of time teaching.  In breakout sessions, and impromptu discussions, I was approached by many attendees asking for details about how we successfully implemented the program.

I came away from my trip a little weary, but energized and excited to close the remaining gaps in our implementation of our CMS.  I used the flight home to organize my notes and have started training the team on what I learned. 

Building a quality home is not enough anymore.  To survive and prosper in this fast-moving world, every business must create and nurture a sustainable competitive advantage.  At Turnstone, our construction management software is a big part of that advantage.