It's a new year! With hope and optimism by our side, 2021 should turn out better than the last year.
As construction business owners plan for the year and evaluate prospects for new business, it would be prudent to also take a hard look internally to see what can be done to sharpen the edge and make operations more efficient and productive. One strategy to consider is digital transformation.
A substantial amount of capital, resources, and work goes into completing large construction projects. Given the enormity of these endeavors, it would behoove organizations to make sure that the backbone behind these projects, their company, is operating fully efficiently, maximizing cost controls where possible, leveraging coordination and communication, and ensuring that it’s running in an optimal way to support projects. Modernization through digital technologies and innovation can be the gateway to put you on this more efficient path.
Digital transformation has become quite prevalent across other business industries as technology has been democratized for business users, cloud technologies have grown at enormous rates, and connectivity has expanded in and outside a business.
The benefits from digitizing your construction business are quite substantial:
- Assist you in getting the most out of your current technology investment
- Reimagine customer value, communications and delivery to improve relationships
- Leverage cloud computing for lower costs and greater access
- Use automation to remove bottlenecks and redundancies in workflow
- Enhance collaboration and communication between architects, contractor and site crew
- Get deeper insight into your business operations
- Better utilize planning for labor, material, and equipment
- Speed up and improve scheduling and dispatch
- Extend site visibility for improved transparency anytime/anywhere with mobile and cloud
- Issue faster, more complete reports about performance of contractor and labor
To make this all possible, construction business owners have many technology offerings that are on the market and that would be suitable to help them digitize and advance their business.
Strengthen Management with Project Portfolio Management
By using an integrated project portfolio management (PPM) rather than various, discrete project management tools, you can achieve a 360-degree view of all your construction portfolios to better manage individual projects and resources.
For example, using Microsoft Project Server and Project Online for PPM, you can accelerate workflow initiatives and make faster, smarter data-driven decisions.
PPM enables organizations to monitor all of your projects in reports and dashboards and retrieve financial forecasts. You can get a deeper, more concrete look at projects to help prioritize and schedule, streamline work, maximize team and monetary resources, improve efficiencies and maximize resources.
Improve Decision-Making with Business Analytics
With a modern business analytics program in place, you can literally turn your data insights into action. This leads to making better decisions for typical decisions for any construction project. A technology like Microsoft Power BI will enable you to retrieve easy-to-understand, interactive data visualizations and analytics for business insights so that you can quickly understand your project and make fast, strategic decisions.
It will also help you to identify trends on the horizon. Power BI allows you to integrate, consolidate, and transform your organizational data into information that you can use to accelerate performance and optimize processes. The technology includes scorecards and dashboards for your functional business areas (such as finance, customers, employees, sales and marketing) to help you monitor and improve performance (much more about BI later in the article).
Advance Business Productivity
A set of business applications that work in the cloud to help you streamline processes for your functional work areas, such as inventory, billing and e-commerce, can revolutionize your organization. For comprehensive enterprise resource planning, Oracle NetSuite is a great option. NetSuite also offers a customer relationship management solution, an e-commerce solution, or a professional services automation solution known as NetSuite OpenAir PSA.
When we discuss advancing business productivity we should also mention automation. With Microsoft Power Platform, construction businesses can easily integrate their off-the-shelf and custom-built applications along with their organizational data to consolidate into one complete package.
From here, you can automate workflow from your business insights to help achieve new levels of growth. Power Platform also provides you with the capability to custom build applications needed for your business.
Another option is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, which allows you to connect different parts of your business into an end-to-end, business management solution. Using Dynamics Business Central you can integrate your applications and data insights into one management solution to manage all parts of your business.
If you’d like to improve control over specific functions, such as field service or customer service, you can use Microsoft Dynamics 365. This technology provides you with a suite to leverage intelligent business application to manage these different business domains individually.
Also, with the rapid growth of remote work due to the pandemic, Microsoft Teams has become a popular choice for companies looking to improve team collaboration, updates, communication and central storage and access of documents and information.
Expand Engagement with Customers
Your digital transformation wouldn’t be complete without considering your customer. You can expand engagement and relations with your customers by modernizing your customer interface. Construction services companies can digitize how their customers discover, connect and engage with them. Through digitization, you can address their specific needs, help them select products and services, and streamline billing and pay.
Digitization can also improve customer service capability around the clock for your customers regardless of their location. A digital presence, with a modern brand experience, a self-service portal with searchable knowledge and automated customer service, can differentiate your business and power its growth. You can also take advantage of insights driven by artificial intelligence to get to understand your customers better to help you drive positive experiences throughout your customer engagement.
Modernize Through Cloud Computing
To truly modernize your construction business, you’ll want to consider a cloud-deployment strategy. Most of the technologies mentioned run nicely in the cloud. With cloud computing, you can provide 24/7 access to a safe and central location for approved users. Depending on your program, many cloud providers offer pay-as-you-go services for technology and apps so that you only pay for services that you use. You can substantially lower hardware, software, maintenance and upgrade costs by going to the cloud while also decreasing downtime and ensuring backup and disaster recovery.
A cloud platform will help you improve operations from the get go, but also position your business for the future as you can more quickly and cost efficiently take advantage of new innovation as it comes to market. This also means you can scale your business faster as it grows or changes.
If you’re not ready for a full-cloud deployment, you can opt for hybrid mode which allows you to store some information in the cloud and some on premise. Bottom line, with a cloud-adoption strategy, you will enable your workforce to access contracts, submittals, schedules and more from any jobsite using any desktop or mobile device.
Strengthen Your Business Intelligence
Number crunching has always been vital for the construction industry given the enormity of these projects and capital that is involved. Construction businesses need interactive visualization of their data to identify new growth opportunities, optimize processes, maximize margins, and offer outstanding customer service. The benefits for a modern business intelligence strategy program are plentiful. Let’s take a look.
- Accelerate business pace—Making business data available for every department in real time allows users to take quick data-driven action. Centralization of data and accessibility through any device via the cloud reduces workload and significantly boosts productivity.
- Leverage work packages: Work-package software lets you keep track of tasks. Tasks breakdown can be simplified by determining the quantity and type of skills needed with predictive analytics. Once the right people are matched with the right tasks, there will be clarity on what needs to be done and by whom.
- Perform risk scans—With BI, you can help keep your workforce safe and away from site disasters, with the combination of predictive and prescriptive analysis. For example, with predictive analytics, you can pinpoint disaster zones using pedometer analytics by measuring the distance covered by the crew during the work hours, and the tools and heavy-duty equipment can be positioned to reduce injuries or even fatalities.
- Obtain deeper insights—In the construction industry, data sources are heavily siloed or stored at different locations, making effective data integration a challenging affair. An abundance of data can be an asset, but data mishandling or not integrating the data sources properly will lead to different versions of the truth and outdated reporting. Every visualization tile on the dashboard is a doorway for BI data exploration.
- Achieve tailored reporting—Reporting is an essential step for driving business decisions. Reports interactively display data to turn it into actionable information. A report can have multiple levels of interactivity like the ability to drill down, filter, and sort, as well as additional capabilities such as self-service editing to provide further exploring of the data for even more insights.
BI gathers and represents data that is ready to be analyzed. Data includes historical information, which is difficult to be traced over time. BI reporting empowers the users with the information to become experts in their area of business. Embracing data analytics and the latest technologies can help you stay ahead of your competition.
How to Get Started
There’s a lot to consider here. While it might seem a bit overwhelming it doesn’t have to be. It starts by having a vision for continuous improvement. You have many options to choose from and if you have someone internally to help you formulate and implement your digital transformation strategy that’s great. Short of that, you should consider a tech consulting and solutions organization to help you with your assessment, options and plan to get started.
By leveraging the power of digital technology and innovation, you can easily modernize and advance your business into the new year. The end result will be a construction business that is robust and more efficient for the coming years and into the future.