By: Kendall Jones on April 19th, 2019
Choosing the Right Tech for Your Construction Company
The amount of technology available geared specifically toward the construction industry is mind-boggling. There’s drones, robots, smart hard hats, wearables, ruggedized smartphones and tablets, and 3D printers. Soon we’ll have autonomous (self-driving) heavy equipment hitting construction sites. Not to mention the hundreds of software and mobile applications available for nearly every aspect of running a construction business from the office to the field.
In 2018 U.S.-based construction technology (ConTech) startups raised almost $3.1 billion in funding, a 324% increase over 2017, based on data from Crunchbase. That’s pretty impressive considering the fact that the construction industry is notoriously slow at adopting new technology. According to JBKnowledge’s 2018 Construction Technology Report, construction firms are spending roughly the same percentage of their revenue on IT as they did in 2017. Most firms, 65.1%, spend 1% or less of their annual sales volume on IT.
When you look at the industry we see growing demand, razor-thin profit margins, labor shortages, falling productivity levels, and rising material costs. The industry has also seen virtually no improvements in the number of injuries and fatalities that occur on jobsites each year. Take all these factors together and you’re looking at an industry ripe for tech disruption.
There are solutions available that address all these concerns and are focused on helping construction companies be more efficient. We’re quickly approaching the point, if we aren’t there already, where companies that are adopting and implementing technology tools into their workflows are creating a clear, competitive advantage over their competition.
With so many options available, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which tech solutions your business needs and which are the best fit for your company. So where do you start?
Identify One Problem
Find one issue that you want to solve and go from there. If your company does interior renovations, it probably doesn’t make sense to go out and buy a fleet of drones. It’s not about adopting tech just to adopt tech.
Work with your team to identify areas that cause inefficiencies. Look for repetitive or time-consuming tasks that are necessary to do their jobs but aren’t necessarily the best use of their time. The goal is to find one problem that a technology solution could solve and make your workers more productive or free up their time to focus on more important tasks.
Do Your Homework
Now that you know what you want to solve, it’s time to find a solution. This is the step you should spend the most time on. Research as many options as you can, read reviews of products, and reach out to your network to see which tools they use.
Let’s say you're looking for software to help you better manage your projects. There are a ton of options available on the market. So, what should you be looking for?
Ease of Use – How easy is the software to use and implement? Will your team be able to quickly learn how to properly use the tools? How quickly can you get it up and running?
Cost – How much does it cost? Is there an annual subscription fee or a one-time upfront fee? Will you have to pay for additional seats if needed? Will you need to purchase additional hardware or storage space?
Features – What features are available? Does it meet your current and future needs?
Integrations – Will it integrate with the software solutions you currently use or may add in the future?
Customer Support – Do you have a dedicated account rep to help you get up and running? Do they provide training for your company?
Scalability – Will the software provide the same benefits as your company grows? Can you add more seats or reduce the number of seats based on your needs?
Mobility – Is there a mobile app for field work? Does all your data update in real time to improve collaboration between the field and the office?
Security – How are your data and information protected?
Updates – How often does the provider add features and make improvements to the software?
Data Transfer – How easy is it to export your data if it doesn’t integrate with your other software? If you are replacing an existing solution, how easy is it to transfer your current data to your new software?
There are other questions you may want to get answered as you do your research. Once you’ve identified a few options, narrow it down to two or three that look like the best fit for your needs.
Take a Test Drive
You wouldn’t buy a vehicle without taking it for a test drive and buying construction tech shouldn’t be any different. It can be a big investment and you don’t want to plunk down a bunch of money or get into a lengthy contract without knowing how the tech works for your team.
Ask the vendors you’ve narrowed your list down to if you can test the software out for a couple of months. You need enough time to get your team up and running to integrate the software into their workflows to get a true measure of how well it solves your one problem and how likely they will be to use it going forward.
Remember, regardless of the technology solution you choose, it should solve problems, not create them.
Whether you’re the owner or an employee, you have to get buy-in to implement new technology. This doesn’t just mean getting approval and budget to purchase new technology. You need to prove that technology will be beneficial, improve inefficiencies, and provide a return on the company’s investment.
Your team needs to be willing to use the technology and management needs to fully support the adoption and implementation. You could find the greatest tech in the world that could make work easier and your team more productive, but it won’t do any good if no one’s using it or pushing for it to be used.
Once you’ve decided on a technology solution and have gotten buy-in, you need to create an implementation plan to get you up and running. Determine how quickly your team can get trained, get your data transferred in, and integrations set up. You want to deploy your new tech as quickly as possible so creating an implementation plan is key to being able to hit the ground running.
Measure Your Success
Once you’ve got your team using the new technology, you need to determine if you’ve solved that one problem you identified at the start of this process. Your technology solution should pay for itself in the long run. Your return on investment will be measurable in a tangible way whether its productivity gains, better collaboration, improved efficiencies, or being able to do more with fewer workers.
Once you’ve demonstrated proven success with one technology, it will be a whole lot easier to get approval and buy-in to find more solutions to improve your business. As time goes by, your company will treat tech solutions just like any other tool—as a necessity for doing business and moving your company forward.
Is your preconstruction process inefficient? ConstructConnect has the tools to save you time finding the best projects for you to bid and go directly to creating quick and accurate digital takeoffs—all in one place.
About Kendall Jones
Kendall Jones is the Editor in Chief at ConstructConnect. He has been writing about the construction industry for years, covering a wide range of topics from safety and technology to industry news and operating insights.