What to learn from one company on building lean, staying nimble & keeping employees engaged
by Elizabeth Manning
November 22, 2019

Does the process of implementing any new technology in your company feel overwhelming? It may be the fear of making a big investment that doesn't end up working, or it's that nagging little voice that's telling you your employees won't use the solution. Regardless of the doubt, technology represents a wealth of opportunity for your construction company. And these days, to stay competitive, you need to be focused on digitizing your construction processes—bottom line. So what's our best advice for planning your adoption strategy for new tech? Look to the companies who are already finding success. 

Enter Anand (Andy) Gajbhiye, director of construction technologies at Joeris General Contractors. Gajbhiye has spent most of his career in the construction industry. He earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in India and a master's degree in construction management from Texas A&M. Gajbhiye has worked at several midsize and large construction companies as a BIM manager. In this role, he developed and managed BIM programs and oversaw BIM/VDC and construction technology implementation from preconstruction to closeout on more than 100 projects in a variety of markets, including education, healthcare, office building, federal construction and hospitality.

In his current role, Gajbhiye is charged with developing a strategic roadmap for tech and innovation, and research and develop new tech and processes to keep Joeris competitive. The Ingenuity team at Joeris, headed up by Gajbhiye, is focused on growing the company's culture of innovation. According to Gajbhiye, some of the successful programs and tech his team has implemented over the past few years include virtual reality, drones, laser scanning, digital plans, and model-based cost estimation. One of his biggest intiatives to date with the company was to get an enterprise lean program off and running. Read what he had to say about his company's strategy for adoption as well as his advice to you below. 

CBO: What do you think are some of the biggest obstacles construction companies face regarding the implementation of new tech?

AG: One obstacle, as you can imagine, is that there are still pockets of workers in the construction industry that are resistant to technology adoption. They learned to do their jobs in certain ways, and learning to use a new set of tools can understandably feel like a hassle. Clearly demonstrating the value of the technologies being implemented is critical for getting them on board. Another big obstacle is that there are a lot of solutions out there. Consequently, it can be difficult to find ones that fit with companies’ processes, procedures and culture, that integrate with existing technology and that are easy to use. 

CBO: What strategies does Joeris use to adopt tech across the entire project team? 

AG: For successful technology implementation, we start by first aligning our teams on the problems we’re trying to solve—what exact challenges are we trying to improve upon, and what type of resistance might we face if we introduce technology to address those challenges? Second is to evaluate the technology options that will help us address the challenges identified. We always include the end users in the evaluation process, which often includes pilots. Adoption and success are driven by the end-user so if they don’t find a technology valuable, they won’t implement it into their work and we, as a company, won’t see ROI. Finally, we create a roadmap for implementation across our team. For us, this requires a consideration of how our colleagues will respond to the technology in question, how easy or difficult it will be to teach and how many people we have to reach.

For specific-use or more complex technologies, we typically focus on one-on-one training instead of blanket training and assign leaders of the end-user groups to help manage the implementation. In other words—train the trainer. For more ubiquitous technologies or ones that are easy to use, we might go with a larger group training approach. Regardless of the training approaches taken, we always try to communicate each technology’s success stories across the organization. This way, teams understand exactly what we stand to gain with successful implementation. 

CBO: Why is a one-on-one approach to tech adoption better? How do you execute this at a midsize to large company (tips and tricks welcome here)?

AG: Everyone has different levels of comfort with technology, so you can’t always hand out a new tool and expect uniform overnight adoption or success. If an employee is strongly resistant to a technology, he or she will require more attention—squeaky wheels need the most grease. A one-on-one approach gives us a chance to address personal concerns and allows us to showcase how a technology can help specific individuals do their job better or more easily. For example, if instead of expressing confusion about how to use a product like Assemble, an estimator shares concern that adding a new technology will only add to his workload, we’re able to demonstrate how exactly it can help him streamline.

We have the time to demonstrate how he/she can use Assemble to automatically collect material quantity data directly from Revit models, and do that iterative process to help develop a variance report. This way, the estimator learns exactly how to streamline work, and doesn’t have to rely on a topical lesson from a group training. Obviously, finding the bandwidth to do one-on-one training becomes trickier the bigger your team is. A more scalable approach to a personalized training program is to first train team leaders and technology advocates who can then share trainings with others across the organization. 

CBO: Do you have any specific project examples of the efficiency gains your team has seen with new tech adoption?   

AG: I’ll use Assemble here again as an example. We were working on an elementary school bid and we needed our estimates to be as accurate as possible to fit within a tight budget. The project architect shared the model with our team weekly and we were in the middle of our Assemble pilot at the time. So one of our senior estimators who was leading the pilot used it for monitoring design changes each week and maintaining accurate material estimates.

When we bid that project, we were within 0.5% of our initial estimate because we were able to stay in tune with all of the changes. In that moment, the value of the tool was clear so we started implementing it by communicating the success story across our team and providing one-on-one trainings. As a result, we have now successfully coached three-quarters of our estimating team, adopted Assemble on 23 projects and improved the efficiency of our estimating process by 15%.

CBO: What is the one thing construction business owners should change or add to their adoption strategy based on your experience?

AG: The first and most important piece is to actually have a technology adoption strategy. Many companies are so focused on completing their projects with existing expertise and moving on to more projects that they don’t consider how they might be able to improve their processes. Technology is increasingly becoming the driver for competitive advantages, so it’s important to dedicate time to developing a solid adoption strategy. I would also encourage construction business owners to think about their company cultures when developing their technology strategies.

You might have a progressive and nimble company culture where employees are regularly open to trying new, cutting edge tools, and where you can pilot many different options to see what sticks. Or, perhaps you have a more conservative company culture that shows more resistance to new technologies. If that’s the case, you probably can’t pilot multiple tools without creating frustrations across your teams. Understanding what approaches will gel with your company culture and tailoring your strategies around that understanding will help you implement technologies more successfully across your organizations.

 

CBO: Anything we've missed?

AG: We’ve focused on the one-on-one approach here and I’d just like to clarify that while it is certainly helpful in many cases, it is not always necessary. Some technologies are very simple to learn, and they must be used by hundreds or thousands of people across your organization. When implementing those types of solutions, training in large groups may actually be the most efficient and effective approach. For us, PlanGrid was a perfect example of this case.

Its intuitiveness meant nearly everyone could easily navigate around the application to learn how to use it, and its value—putting the information everyone needs right in to their pockets—was immediately evident to our employees. So even though we didn’t use a one-on-one approach, we were still able to successfully implement the tool across our organization.