Technology is rapidly changing the look and feel of the user and business experience when adopting digital technology in the construction industry. Most contractors understand that to remain competitive they need to reduce margins, reduce risk, increase efficiencies, and improve communication between field employees and the office. To reach these goals, construction companies need to start investing in technologies like data analytics, automation, and “the cloud.”
Why Is It Difficult to Adopt New Digital Technology in the Construction Industry?
Construction companies often have difficulties when adopting new technology. There are a few main reasons for this:
- The construction industry is reluctant to change
- Construction has an aging workforce that is resistant to learning new technology
- The industry struggles attracting younger, technology-literate, talent
These factors together make digital transformation difficult. Construction companies tackle difficult and complex projects daily, so why is it such a challenge to replace existing information systems? Often, the leadership within the company will opt to ignore the challenges posed by new technology rather than create a roadmap for the business for technology.
This leads to shadow IT taking hold, frustrated employees, partners and customers, and a net loss to the bottom line. Shadow IT – any hardware or software used within a business that’s not approved or supported by the company’s IT department.
How Can Technology Benefit Construction?
The good news is that the technology sector is not ignoring construction. The construction industry is estimating to be worth over a trillion dollars in the U.S. over the next 3 years. The growth potential of the market is attracting a lot of new tools and ideas.
Development of Construction-Centric Technology
Some vendors, such as ProCore and ViewPoint, are creating tools specifically for the construction industry. Construction no longer has to rely on tools and accounting systems that were meant for other industries or general businesses. For example, there are specialized accounting systems that provide the right job cost or WIP reports with an interface that was designed with construction in mind. Thanks to these new technologies, efficiencies around field reporting, safety, risk management, and job costs can now be greatly improved.
Using Digital Technology in the Construction Industry for Real-Time, Data-Driven Decision Making
These new tools are configured to collect data and generate reports. Collecting data will lead to better decisions made from facts rather than gut feelings. Other benefits of data analytics include superintendents and foremen being able to manage their team using data, project managers will have access to real-time budgets, and accounting will be able to bill/collect faster and more accurately. It’s clear that current technology has much to offer the construction industry; however, this technology is only useful if construction companies know about it. It’s up to your IT teams to suggest new technology and help decision-makers understand how these tools can help transform their business. It’s important that your Chief Information Officer (CIO) understands your business and keeps you informed of the latest trends and developments concerning digital technology in the construction industry.
Why an IT Roadmap is Key to Leveraging Digitial Technology in the Construction Industry
You don’t begin working on a project without proper planning and communication; implementing new technology is no different. Construction companies need to have an IT roadmap that will guide them through implementation.
What is an IT Roadmap?
An IT roadmap is a blueprint for the organization’s adoption of technology for the next 18-36 months. It will consist of distinct projects that have a business purpose, budget, project plan, metrics to gauge progress and establish what success looks like. It is critical that your IT roadmap has a business champion that isn’t the IT department, CFO, or CEO. An effective roadmap will enable the business to integrate the outstanding tools available into a cohesive solution. Consider creating a technology steering committee that meets regularly and is comprised of technology and change friendly leaders from throughout the business. This committee will be responsible for evaluating the current solutions and whether they meet the needs of the business or not.
They also will determine which technology projects get approved and how they are prioritized including schedule and budget.
The IT department will not lead this committee, rather they will report to it provide updates on projects and KPIs from IT that help the business understand how technology is being consumed.
When is an IT Roadmap Not Necessary?
Construction must manage their technology assets in order to keep the businesses operating in a secure and productive manner, but not all technology requires a roadmap or constant attention. Routine tasks such as patching, securing devices and networks, and backing up data require less attention than the technology that is furthering business initiatives. In other words, we still need to keep the lights on. Does the business need to know what version of Excel they run or what wireless network devices are used? Arguably, if IT can complete those routine functions within a budget then there doesn’t need to be a focus on that piece of technology. As the cloud evolves the business of hardware and even software maintenance will continue to lose importance.
Going Forward: How to Get the Most Value From Digital Technology in the Construction Industry
Technology that enables businesses to do more will continue to gain importance. Construction companies need to be looking at how new mobile apps like Hover and SmartPlant can be used to improve their take-off process. Data analytics needs to be leveraged to gain insights into how the business is performing and provide insights on paths towards improvement. A clear IT roadmap is an essential part of your overall IT strategy; however, developing a roadmap is a continually evolving process. Unlike a normal construction project, building your business is an on-going job; the same is true with technology. Your company needs to have a clear plan for where you want to go, how you will get there. And how it will benefit your business. The result will be a company that works smarter, delivers jobs better, safer, faster, and more profitably. If you want to know about adopting digital technology to your business, talk to our IT consulting team.