In a recent survey by On Center Software, 31 percent of survey respondents indicated that they planned to move to cloud-based software in the next one to two years. CBO sat down with On Center CEO Cecilia Padilla to discuss the cloud, connectivity and her top technology advice. Padilla is a 25-year veteran of the construction industry. Prior to joining On Center Software in 2008, she worked for Marek Brothers Systems in Houston, Texas and for Raymond Interior Systems in both Las Vegas, Nevada and Orange County, California, according to On Center's website. Read Padilla's advice on all things technology below.
CBO: What can business owners anticipate in costs associated with a move to cloud-based solutions?
CP: A movement to the cloud entails an assessment of overall costs; these include the subscription and a whole suite of tools and applications. The cloud is far more than just storage, which is a common misperception. Behind the curtain you’ll find applications, services, data storage and a data center. Because all these services are managed and constantly updated, the onus of maintenance is taken off the business owner and becomes part of a cloud service agreement.
In a sense there are fewer long term costs with a move to the cloud because everything is managed for the customer; the stress of manually updating, maintaining a large IT staff, dealing with outside consultants, data storage, and staying on top of current iterations of technology is removed. It’s hard to make a dollar for dollar comparison because the cloud changes the game. Instead of supporting data in multiple locations, everything’s in one place. This makes a huge difference when a business owner is looking for archived data that may have been kept on someone’s hard drive, or a USB drive, or a CD or on a laptop, a server or even on paper in a desk drawer.
Just think about trying to find a document from several years ago that was stored by someone who is no longer at your company, which is needed for a legal issue. The cloud eliminates the uncertainty, redundancy and potential data loss of today’s processes. The downside cost of a scenario like this could be significant when compared with the peace of mind offered by a cloud solution. .
CBO: What are the biggest risks associated with cloud access? What can business owners do to alleviate those risks?
CP: The key is to make sure that the vendor that is hosting your cloud solution uses a best of breed service. We use Google Cloud Services because we don’t want to be in the data center business. We want to ensure that there is redundancy, security and backups. We also want to guarantee our customers have maximum uptime.
As we developed our strategy for Oasis we worked on the things that we could control; when we asked ourselves who we could trust, the response was clear: “Who knows the cloud better than Google?” Something we cannot control is the contractor’s choice of an internet provider, which may come down to the amount of bandwidth they acquire. We suggest that a contractor work with the most robust, fastest plan available; and these are becoming very affordable. Does it make any sense to keep an $80,000-a-year estimator waiting, to save a few dollars on Internet speed? The economy of scale makes the faster speed an investment that pays for itself almost immediately.
CBO: How do you think communication has improved through cloud connectivity?
CP: We talk about ‘one truth’ at On Center: everyone on the project being on the same page – pun intended. When the main office receives a change order from the architect, they have to invest the time to incorporate those changes into their current set of plans. If the field doesn’t do the same thing, however, there is a risk of building the wrong scope of work.
Once, a long time ago, my foreman and I weren’t on the same page. We ended up building a detail on 15 floors, based on a dated design before we realized the issue and corrected it. The key here is to have the office and the field communicating and that requires having access to the same version of the documents at the same time. This radically reduces the possibility of errors. This is reflective of data that we found when we conducted our 2015 construction technology survey: 31 percent of the industry plans on moving to the cloud, but over 75 percent have delineated a scenario that only the cloud can provide: a single source for all data. Technically this means an additional 40 percent of the industry wants the collaborative technology of the cloud, but doesn’t realize it yet.
CBO: What would you say to companies hesitant to offering remote server access to employees through the cloud?
CP: Some companies have expressed security concerns with remote access to their servers. This is simply not the case with cloud solutions. A remote user is accessing data on the cloud platform, not a company’s servers.
CBO: What is your top tech advice for construction business owners currently?
CP: Pay attention to the trends in the marketplace. You don’t necessarily have to be on the bleeding edge of technology, but you want to be aware of the benefits of new technology and software and how it can increase your profitability. Tailor your software selections to your needs to maintain your competitive advantage. Contractors are famous for saying, ‘There has got to be an easier way.’ They think in terms of constructability and construction methods, but they should also be thinking of more efficient ways of running their businesses, and sometime that means putting the old tools away and playing with some shiny new objects. Yesterday’s screwdriver is being replaced with today’s data stick.
For more information, visit On Center Software.