For an industry that’s all about helping people build the future—satisfying demands for new and better structures—construction itself is stuck in the past. Compared to other industries, construction has been slow to embrace the many technologies designed to improve jobsite efficiency. We do what works, improving our methods slowly and reluctantly. We’re often set in our ways. In this digital age, phone calls and paper reports still rule the construction site.
Why is this? Many owners and managers are aware of the common challenges in managing a jobsite but accept them as part of the job and have figured out ways to work around them. For a longtime professional who’s been successfully working in the industry for decades, it’s easy to dismiss new gadgets and software as unnecessary.
General contractors (GCs) sometimes are reluctant to change the status quo, and you can’t blame them. Managing a change process is hard and it can be both risky and time-consuming, especially if a project team is unenthusiastic about adjusting how they work. The danger of continuing to avoid technological advances is that the industry may miss out on genuinely useful systems that can dramatically improve productivity.
Technology that improves efficiency means projects are completed with less complexity and in less time, ultimately translating to a more dynamic team and an increase in revenue.
One example from the wider world of business is the migration of IT services to cloud-based infrastructure. A study done by Microsoft found that cloud technology has helped American small and medium businesses (SMBs) reduce their IT workload by an average of 42 percent. The same study showed that SMBs will increase their technology budget by 50 percent over three years to improve business efficiency and most expect that investment to increase revenue almost immediately. Some construction companies are already on board with this trend, but many are not.
General contractors seek new technology when they want to solve recurring problems, from communication issues and time management to safety and rework reduction. But, for technology to be beneficial, people actually have to use it. Implementation is a major stumbling block for a lot of GCs and it is frequently the point at which they abandon new solutions that could have a huge impact on their business.
One approach to integrating technology is to start with a trusted team member who is heavily relied upon to ensure projects run smoothly, such as a superintendent, foreman or project manager. These are the workhorses of any company and, as a result, are often overwhelmed by the quantity of work required of them. An average day requires handling budgets, quality issues, schedules and travel to multiple jobsites, all while mitigating risk so that the company can meet revenue goals. The sheer scope of responsibility makes mistakes more likely, and mistakes increase stress levels and waste time and money.
These team members are most likely to pay attention to technology that works to reduce the problems they handle almost every day. The key is to find the one part of the job that technology can improve upon and allow that to be the catalyst for getting project teams on the path toward tech-enhanced work processes.
Technology proves its value to people who want to get more out of a team by providing them with better tools. If new technology makes even one part of a team’s job easier, it is a big win. Think about a superintendent taking notes on jobsites all day, then transferring those notes into daily reports at the end of a long day. Handing that employee software to automate reports saves hours of work and stress per week.
This is where you start. Use technology to fix the biggest problems for the hardest workers. Skeptics become supporters and the rest of the team will be on board soon enough.
Another common pain point for most project teams is communication. Project managers, superintendents and foremen are all dealing with way too many voicemails, texts and emails on top of all the other tasks requiring their attention each day. Emails and voicemails alone can overwhelm even the most capable person.
Technology that streamlines communication for senior members of the team is something everyone can easily understand and get behind. Technology works when it zeroes in on a problem and effectively makes that problem vanish. Technology built for construction is about solving problems and making a difficult job easier.
When technology can solve just one big problem for a team member, the rest of the team will follow when given the appropriate encouragement, explanation and training.
Managing a change process isn’t easy, but when introducing technology that improves project team efficiency, the end result is a stronger team and improved profit margin. That’s when technology serves its true purpose of making the world around us operate more efficiently.