By: Conley Smith on March 24th, 2020
Working From Home With Cloud Technology
As each new day brings a new state and federal guideline urging companies and employees to work remotely, the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing how many construction pros work daily. No doubt, the concept of “social distancing” may prove difficult to swallow in an industry built around person-to-person, one-on-one interactions—from directing crews in the field to huddling around plans in the office.
For contractors and subcontractors, this could now mean working remotely from their homes. Whether you’ve got a swanky home office or just carved out space on the kitchen table, many construction pros will be concerned with how to get work done when coping with productivity and connectivity challenges and unexpected distractions—like barking dogs and ringing doorbells.
If you’re new to remote work, there are lots of tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your daily routine. For example, you can check out these great Tips for Remote Meetings or you can learn more about How Contractors and Subcontractors Should Respond.
Remote Work Runs on the Cloud
As the new normal becomes less about grabbing a coffee from your favorite java spot on the way to the site, many must still deliver on business as usual. There are still quantities to count, bids to complete, pre-bid conferences to attend, and start dates to evaluate for projects already in the pipeline.
Let’s face it, the last thing most construction professionals will want to deal with is having to learn a whole new way of working. Ready for some good news? Cloud-based technology and tools can help all in construction when it comes to making remote work a lot more seamless.
You are already using many cloud tools to collaborate and communicate between the field and the office. Just look down to that smartphone or tablet you’re holding and you’re probably already using cloud-based web apps—from email to file-sharing platforms to chat and team meeting apps. These include everything from Gmail to iCloud and from Slack to Teams. If you’ve ever connected to your work email at Starbucks, you’ve already experienced the power of using your data in the cloud.
You’ve probably also experienced Windows updates that occur seamlessly in the background where all you need to do is log-in to your account. Even better, you have the benefit of disaster recovery taking place in the cloud as robust platforms like Gmail offer great security that is encrypted during transfer and storage.
In fact, more and more preconstruction roles are relying on technology and data optimization, according to the 2019 Technology in Preconstruction Report. The report noted that “no employee will remain untouched by cloud software, mobile apps, and innovative hardware.” They added that those who tether themselves to spreadsheets and file cabinets will struggle to implement new technology.
Benefits of Cloud Technology and Tools
With cloud-based technology and tools, the benefits are many—from mobility to accuracy of digital project data. These tools will ultimately help you level the playing field in the short-term and when facing any potential economic downturn. With cloud tools, you can gain seamless integration for applications across your construction project workflows—plus you get robust security and data storage.
Using cloud technology, GCs and subcontractors can maintain closer relationships with crew members and head off any miscommunication. This will save your business time and money—a win-win in boom or bust times. Especially when you consider that McKinsey & Co. found that most large construction projects are typically completed 80% over budget and take 20% longer than originally scheduled, according to their 2016 report.
Construction tech companies who are developing these tools for the construction industry have one goal in mind: delivering a faster, more efficient experience. Some construction pros are already using more advanced cloud-based technologies to manage all their preconstruction workflows from a single platform. No matter the economic climate, these tools will make it easier to build stronger relationships and increase collaboration between all parties.
For example, cost estimators often discover it’s much easier for the whole team to stay on the same page and work collaboratively in real time when using cloud-based takeoff tools. If everyone has visibility into revisions during your takeoff, it’s faster to see what has changed from one drawing to the next. With cloud-based systems, your bid team can make sure everyone is working on the most up-to-date plans and can quickly see what has changed from one drawing to the next.
What’s Under the Cloud Hood
With cloud-based tools, you can also expect an infrastructure that is both fast and agile. One way this is accomplished is by using load-balanced servers in different geographic locations. Whether searching for a project to bid or completing cloud-based takeoff, you can expect your applications to scale quickly.
Compared to a traditional server environment, construction tech firms can use the cloud to create an immutable infrastructure where servers are constantly modified in place with new code and configuration files tweaked on a server-by-server basis.
With an immutable infrastructure, servers are never modified after they’re deployed. If something needs to be updated, fixed, or modified, new servers are built and deployed. As such, the older structure will still be there running the applications until the servers are provisioned to replace the old ones.
By hosting construction data, network, and tools in the cloud, tech companies can ensure a quicker recovery time so tools can quickly be redeployed instead of having to dig through computer logs.
Leaning on Cloud Tools in Tough Times
If construction firms weren’t already prepared to have teams work remotely, they may face an uphill battle during this COVID-19 crisis. For example, if your business doesn’t typically provide laptops for employees—they may need to purchase additional laptops for those who need to work from home because of children being out of school. Another issue is virtual private networks (VPNs) that were never designed to handle large numbers of remote employees.
As the construction industry grapples with how to make remote work a reality, many will find that cloud software and tools can make it easier to find project leads, perform takeoffs and create estimates, and submit bids. Even better, cloud tech can help when exploring new areas of work, procuring subs, organizing bids, and executing on projects—whether working from your home office or not.