Applying and Integrating Technology
Use employee-facing applications to develop your workforce and improve business processes

The construction industry is taking a sharp turn toward technology and has begun to embrace new developments, such as mobile apps, to give their businesses a competitive edge. A number of providers offer task-specific apps to the construction market that can outfit a company with solutions to some day-to-day challenges. Not only have construction companies begun employing the daily use of apps on the jobsite, they have also begun building and deploying mobile apps customized for their own business purposes. Firms have employed a variety of approaches, including custom app builds, cloud-based, DIY app builder tools and even building their own enterprise app stores. No matter which route is taken, businesses involved in all aspects of construction are turning their attention to applications that can improve the efficiency of an increasingly mobile workforce.

In fact, 36 percent of construction businesses used more than five mobile business applications in 2014, while a robust 23 percent of organizations used 10 or more mobile business apps last year, according to a survey of business and IT decision makers released in May 2015.

Construction businesses have created employee-facing mobile apps to transform work processes—whether it is converting paper forms and manual processes to dynamic mobile interfaces or simply enabling employees in the field to do everything they could do while sitting in the office. However, for mobile apps to truly move the needle when it comes to cost savings, productivity and efficiency, construction firms must ensure seamless integration with core business applications for cloud storage, credit card processing, sales enablement, accounting systems and even smart watches.

Construction firms are demanding this integration; 69 percent of those surveyed indicate that they see value in integrating core business applications, such as Dropbox, Square, Salesforce and Quickbooks, with mobile devices and tools. The following paragraphs detail the benefits of integrating construction mobile apps with core business processes and the key role this plays in extracting the full value of mobile app investments.

Cloud Storage Integration

Mobile workers—particularly those who spend considerable time in the field at construction sites and other project locations—are collecting a massive volume of information. Employees need the freedom and the flexibility to not only collect data in real time and share it throughout their organization, but to also automatically securely store this data in the cloud.

Integrating mobility with cloud storage places a premium on effective data collection that can then be easily stored and shared across the organization. With mobile data collection capabilities, employees can fill out information anywhere and have that data stored securely in the cloud. Business users are not just limited to capturing important project, customer, partner and internal data in text formats. They can also collect an expanded set of information on smartphones and tablets through image capture, barcode scanning, e-signatures and GPS.

Advanced integration capabilities could allow employees to set rules for each mobile app they create. For example, a construction company using a site inspection mobile app can have the data collected with that app automatically sent to their cloud service of choice and stored in a specific folder based on the jobsite location, inspection date or other criteria.

Credit Card Processing Integration

Forrester Research projects a $142 billion mobile payments market by 2019—and that is just in the U.S. While many consumers have used a mobile device to purchase coffee or conduct a retail transaction, few construction firms have had the opportunity to do the same when paying a vendor on-site, or collecting payment from a customer. Tighter integration of payments with mobile business applications will transform the payment experience for construction firms and their customers and vendors.

CRM Integration

Construction and building product firms increasingly require an easy way to collect information about customers and the prospect pipeline in real time. Integrating mobile apps with Salesforce and similar CRM/sales-enablement tools ensures information accuracy so sales teams can act quickly and decisively.

Managing the customer relationship can be greatly aided through mobile app capabilities that allow for the creation of estimates and invoices, digital signature capture and multimedia features, such as image capture that can provide visual proof of work completed or issues that come up on the jobsite. When asked what business processes they used mobile apps for in 2014, construction firms cited inspections (61 percent), work orders (49 percent) and checklists (31 percent) as the top three, all of which can be key to maintaining an effective customer relationship.

Smart Watch Integration

While they are not a conventional business application, smart watches are poised to become a factor for mobile businesses—particularly those that rely on teams in the field who need access to fast-changing information from any jobsite or other location.

One example of this is a construction site foreman pushing a smart watch notification to workers en route to a site project that there are delays or the day’s work has been canceled or postponed. Smart watches can also be used for disaster response, so a fireman or paramedic could get instant alerts before entering a burning house or dangerous area. While these are all early-stage applications for smart watch integration, they are compelling ones.

According to research from IDC, IT organizations will dedicate at least 25 percent of their software budget to mobile application development, deployment and management by 2017. As construction businesses devote more dollars to mobile apps, the need to rapidly quantify tangible, enterprise-wide ROI rises considerably. Integrating mobile apps with core business processes can help organizations experience the full benefit of employee-facing apps.

Cutting-Edge Concrete

Not only are some businesses in the industry seeing benefits of adapting technology like employee-facing applications, but some have managed to capitalize on this revolution to form a business. XCell, a tablet-based, corrosion testing tool is used on site to test for corrosion potential in reinforced concrete. Data is gathered on a tablet and shared through a Bluetooth connection, cutting the labor costs of analyzing and transferring the data. Other non-destructive testing tools for concrete found by companies from around the world do not feature these software technology aspects. The most conventional type of concrete durability testing is through Rapid Chloride Permeability tests, also known as RCP tests. This test must be done on 28-day saturated samples, takes up to six hours to complete and leaves room for human error. Recent studies have shown that testing for electrical resistivity in concrete is not only more effective and faster, but it can also be used to measure chloride permeability amongst other key indicators.

Sarah McGuire is the manager of international relations at Giatec Scientific Inc. in Canada. For more information, contact McGuire at