While we may struggle to remember a day before everyone carried a smartphone, it wasn’t that long ago that mobile technology was still the stuff of science fiction (and beyond that, even the Star Trek “communicators” were more one-time burners than actual computers in your pocket). As technology has evolved rapidly to become an integral part of modern life, businesses have had to keep up.
For Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform providers in particular, keeping pace with changing technology, increasing customer expectations and adapting to new trends in the industry are crucial.
Or at least that’s how Scott Siegert, director of client services at Buildertrend, sees it. Buildertrend, which debuted in the halcyon days of 2006, before iPhones and Android devices ruled the world, is a cloud-based B2B platform for the construction industry. The platform connects contractors with subcontractors, service providers and workers, such as carpenters, plumbers and roofers, who can help the contractors complete projects successfully.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Siegert said that the Buildertrend team has had to shift constantly to keep up with new technology and changing client demands in order to stay ahead.
The company has relied on users’ feedback to update its platform over the years. For example, during the 2008 recession, when many builders went back to their roots as carpenters or other individual craftsmen, Buildertrend expanded the scope of its platform to support more of these use cases. Siegert said that more than a half-million users of the platform have submitted recommendations that helped the company identify new features and technology to integrate into the solution.
From the dark ages to mobile
Buildertrend predates the Apple App Store and the first iPhone. When the platform made its debut, smartphones didn’t hold an individual’s entire life on a tiny hard drive, and web platforms had yet to make an impact on the construction and contracting industry, Siegert said.
The company decided to build a tool using the latest technology to bring contractors a straightforward application that they could access from any computer at any work site.
Buildertrend then worked to identify essential features that would help contractors stay organized. Siegert said that, even back in 2006, it was crucial to give contractors access to the platform from anywhere with an internet connection. As a result, they decided to create one of the first web-based platforms for the construction industry, not just software to be accessed from an individual device.
“Contractors certainly are not in front of the same computer all day,” he said. “They’re on job sites and moving around, so a web-based solution made sense.”
As smartphones became a fixture, the Buildertrend team realized they needed to adapt their solution. So, they decided to put a lot of resources into developing a stable and reliable mobile app that contractors could use from the field.
“Steve Jobs created these fantastic mobile devices, and it really provided an opening to make our software and make the concept of a web-based project management solution more accessible to contractors,” Siegert explained. “The app has been a big-time game-changer, and it’s really helped contractors get away from the status quo when it comes to managing their jobs.”
Building a payment system that suits clients’ needs
Easy access to cloud and mobile technology has made Buildertrend successful and encouraged it to continue tackling legacy processes in the construction space. The traditional payments model in construction is invoicing, which can be slow and unreliable when builders use paper contracts and checks. Once builders receive a check, they have to find time to cash it at a bank and wait for the money to clear and land in their bank account.
Builders can now accept payments via ACH technology, accounting for about 50 percent of transactions on the Buildertrend platform. Builders can also accept payments via credit cards. Buildertrend collaborates with payment partner WePay to allow the contractors to get paid faster and store card information to ease recurring payments. Since all this transactional information is integrated with the Buildertrend platform, builders receive payment reminders so they do not have to track payment timing or whether checks have cleared.
“A little over a year ago, we added this new initiative to our company that allows contractors to pay and get paid online through our platform,” Siegert said. “So, the contractors, as they’re using the solution, can customize what payment methods they want to use, or they can put certain restrictions on it.”
Siegert also noted that the company has recently partnered with other service providers, such as QuickBooks and Xero, in order to offer clients accounting services.
“The integrations are all designed to cut down on friction or frustration,” he explained. “As we built out, we added more job costing and more budgeting and estimation tools, based on the needs of our clients. They really point us to ways to get rid of their pain points.”
Adjusting to new threats
Part of keeping up with modern expectations and technological advances is making sure that fraudsters can’t cause havoc for businesses using the platform.
Siegert said that Buildertrend makes sure to be sensitive to the latest trends in fraud and security in order to protect its platform from bad actors. One of the ways Siegert said Buildertrend has worked to help keep its platform secure is to work with partners in the security space. On the payments front, WePay helps it combat fraudulent transactions and covers Buildertrend on any chargebacks and losses incurred.
“We feel very comfortable with the security measures that we’ve taken alongside our partners,” he said. “We feel it’s really important to keep things safe and secure, and we feel like we’ve taken the appropriate steps.”
Adapting to the future
Siegert said that his experience with Buildertrend has taught him to be ready for change, having seen firsthand the impact technological and societal shifts can have on the market.
“Everybody has iPhones now, and everybody has iPads …. This encouraged us to put a lot of resources into our app,” Siegert said. “In 2006 or 2007, we didn’t really plan on this, but it has become a really, really big initiative for us.”
Siegert said that, when he looks toward the future for platform providers, he expects online payment platform solutions to be a big part of what the industry is doing. He said that Buildertrend will keep adding to and adjusting the platform’s features to meet user demands.
As an indicator of the overall space, it seems that platform providers looking to make and keep their clients may also want to keep changing and adapting — or risk being left in the science fiction dust of yesteryear.
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About The Tracker
The Payments Powering Platforms Tracker™, powered by WePay, serves as a monthly framework for the space, providing coverage of the most recent news and trends, along with a provider directory highlighting the key players contributing across the segments that comprise the payments-integrated platform ecosystem.