Technological Advances in Construction Payment Management
By Jesse G. Shallcross and Daniel E. Raymond, K&L Gates, Chicago
A number of technology companies offer construction billing-management software designed to assist in the construction invoicing and payment collection process by electronically integrating billing, process claims, lien waiver collection, statutory declarations, sub-tier waivers, compliance management and payments.
Construction billing-management software has become increasingly popular among general contractors; a major reason is the simplification of the lien wavier collection process. Before construction billing-management software, most general contractors managed the lien waiver process manually by creating a spreadsheet of all prime subcontractors, sub-tier contractors, and suppliers. This process was time consuming, prone to error, and required updating. Construction billing-management software eases this process by streamlining the collecting and tracking of lien waivers. When a general contractor uses construction billing-management software, prime subcontractors are required to submit their contractor and material supplier information at the beginning of the project or the start of a new contract. The information input by the prime subcontractors automatically appears in the general contractor’s master tracking index. Further, the master tracking index is updated any time a prime subcontractor enters a change—thereby easing the general contractor’s burden of manually creating a spreadsheet and updating it. The real benefit to general contractors, however, comes from construction billing-management software’s automated prime and sub-tier lien waiver collection process. The software allows for electronic signature of prime and sub-tier lien waivers, and the general contractor’s master tracking sheet is updated as the electronic lien waivers are received. As a further benefit, construction billing-management software automatically prevents payments to subcontractors that are missing or include incorrectly submitted lien waivers. As a result of using construction billing-management software, general contractors can be assured a streamlined and efficient lien waiver process.
But, construction billing-management software’s efficiency does not come without a cost. Often, subcontractors are unaware that projects they are bidding on require the use of construction billing-management software; accordingly, subcontractors take a significant financial hit by being unable to include the subscription cost in their bid. The American Subcontractors Association, Inc., addressed this issue with a leading construction billing-management software company a few years ago; in response, the company altered its pricing from pre-transaction to a subscription model, with the idea this would simplify pricing. With the addition of possible fees for the use of construction-billing management software, subcontractors should be even more vigilant in determining whether a general contractor requires the use of construction billing-management software before bidding on a contract.