Construction Tech 101
Construction tech 101: How to choose the rightÂ software for your business
This post was provided byÂ Mitch Harmer, CEO and Nick Wodzinski, Account Manager - Sign on Site
If you own or run a construction company, chances are youâ€™re aware of technologyâ€™s potential toÂ improve safety, streamline processes and support informed decision-making. And while youÂ might be a long way from adopting technologies like drones, 3D modelling and mobile apps, youÂ probably know of companies that have.
However, like many industry professionals, you may also be unsure about where to begin. HowÂ do you select software products? What outcomes can you expect? Where could technology fit inÂ your business? In this upcoming series, weâ€™ll pull back the shroud of choosing software for yourÂ construction business.
These questions donâ€™t have one correct answer. Every company will have varying technologyÂ needs depending on their objectives, existing IT investments and business challenges. Whatâ€™sÂ important â€“ especially if youâ€™re in the early stages of your technology journey â€“ is to identify theÂ problems youâ€™d like to solve, and understand the ways in which software can impact yourÂ business.
Doing your homework before you start looking at software options will guide your research inÂ the right direction. It will also increase the likelihood of ending up with a solution that deliversÂ lasting results.
Put the problem first
Think back to the last time you heard about a new construction technology. Maybe it was anÂ unmanned robot that 3D prints bridges, or a drone that conducts site inspections. (Both are realÂ technologies used by construction companies around the world today.) When it comes to tech,Â we see two types of reactions:
a) â€śWow, how could I use that technology in my business? I need this now.â€ť
b) â€śThat technology is interesting, but it doesnâ€™t solve my biggest problem.â€ť
Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with being excited about innovation. But chasing shiny things becauseÂ they look nice (answer A) shouldnâ€™t come at the expense of investing in technologies that willÂ make the biggest impact (answer B).
We see this in construction all the time. Someone says, â€śWeâ€™ve got all these paper forms. WeÂ want an app to replace them. We need the app to work on iPads, and we want our guys out inÂ the field to use it.â€ť
Then we dig deeper, and discover that paper forms arenâ€™t actually the problem. The issue mightÂ be that workers have to fill in lengthy reports to mark jobs as complete, when there may be aÂ more efficient way to access the same information.
For this reason, we encourage companies to define the core problem they need to solve wellÂ before theyâ€™re ready to purchase. Few things sting more than implementing a new softwareÂ product, only to discover it has low adoption and little impact on business performance as aÂ result.
Optimisation over replication
When youâ€™ve spent years navigating the same processes, itâ€™s difficult to imagine doing thingsÂ differently. Even if you have a clear idea of the challenges youâ€™d like to solve, you canâ€™t alwaysÂ identify how technology can help.
The problem is that if you stick with what you know, you risk replicating your current proceduresÂ with minimal changes, just in a digital format. One example that we see often (as you mightÂ expect in our line of work), is a business moving its sign on register online, while keeping allÂ other processes the same.
In this scenario, a worker arrives on site, parks the ute, walks into the site office and types his orÂ her name into the register instead of writing it by hand. At lunch, they report back to the siteÂ office to sign off. While this approach is more advanced than an end-to-end paper process,Â signing on is only slightly more efficient. The business benefits become limited.
The smarter way to harness technology is to view it as a tool of optimising existing processesÂ and potentially introducing improved ones. For example, instead of replicating paper sign onÂ processes online, a company might consider the bigger picture. They might think about howÂ they can make sign on processes more convenient, and introduce an app so workers can signÂ on with their smartphones.
Once workers are comfortable using their phones to sign on, the company might then identifyÂ new problems to solve. They might look to streamline other site management processes likeÂ evacuation by delivering evacuation messages directly to workersâ€™ smartphones, and giving siteÂ managers mobile access to a list of everyone on site at any time. They ask, â€śOkay, how can weÂ achieve the same outcome in a better way, rather than repeating the process in a differentÂ way?â€ť
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for choosing construction software. There are, however,Â ways to make the process easier. Define your key problems, adopt an optimisation mindset, andÂ youâ€™ll be better prepared to start your technology journey on the right foot.
Stay tuned to learn about how to choose and compare the apples and oranges of software outÂ there.