Before a project breaks ground, it needs to be financed, designed, budgeted, scheduled, insured, and more. From big software players to more specialized players, technology is streamlining pre-construction activities on projects across the industry. On February 21st, our Marketing Events Manager headed into New York City for a day of networking and panels focused on the emerging technologies disrupting the construction planning process. Below she shares what she learned.
1) “The biggest hurdle today is that there is too much technology and not enough people with the knowledge and skillsets to be able to use it.”
This was a big theme discussed throughout the day and is something we’ve been focusing on internally at Triax HQ over the last several months because it speaks to both the up-front tech investment and on-going tech investment/support that is required to make a new solution work.
Having a process in place for evaluating and selecting technology (ideally one that involves bringing different stakeholders together to discuss real business problems that you’re hoping tech/data can solve) is just the first step in a larger journey that should center around employee education and support. No matter how great a system may appear, if it isn’t understood, it will never be used, and if it’s never used, it will be hard to derive real value from it. Companies need to invest the time, resources and budget to develop the necessary frameworks and processes required to make a solution work. Whether it’s appointing someone on site to be in charge of the technology, building out an IT department to collect and store the data, or building a culture that encourages – and rewards – innovation and calculated risk-taking, employees need to feel empowered and supported to use a new solution and tackle all the unknowns and new variables it enters into the equation.
At Triax, when we switched our CRM (customer relationship management) platform, it involved much more than researching and testing the solutions. We had to think about getting the platform up and running, porting all of our existing data over, educating the team on using it and providing on-going support/training/troubleshooting. By working with implementation partners and selecting a solution that was known for being user-friendly (in addition to having the functionality we needed), we helped set our team up for success. By embracing the new solution wholeheartedly, we were forced to jump in and learn the new system and create – and refine – the processes to support it. By setting attainable targets, we held ourselves accountable to fully utilizing the solution and realizing its value.
In any industry, but specifically a low-tech industry like construction, it’s always more than just the product, it’s the processes and the people that support it and the education that you provide to get both to where they need to be. And as our next point makes clear, technology in the construction industry is here to stay. So, if you’re going to invest in the technology itself, you might as well invest the staff, time, and budget to leverage that technology to its full capabilities.
This also speaks to another key theme from the day which is that technology should not replace the human workforce, it should just help them work faster, better, and safer. Humans will remain the heart of the construction workforce for the foreseeable future and smart technology is about eliminating barriers that prevent them from doing their job to the best of their abilities as well as safely and efficiently. Some panelists even noted that many construction contractors aren’t adding technology to their toolkits because of a directive from the top but because someone on their technology or field staff is requesting it because it saves them time, improves safety, or enables them to get more done in the same amount of time.
2) The ones using technology are taking business away from those who are not.
Put another way, technology has moved from a competitive advantage to an operational necessity. In construction, there is a great need to eliminate manual entry, free up valuable skilled man hours, and add new visibility/predictability to a traditionally chaotic and unpredictable process. With continued competition, construction firms are turning to technology to streamline project delivery and meet client expectations.
3) There is no data standardization, so it is key that your technology works with everything.
This was an interesting point that came up several times throughout the day. As technology across industries advances, and data becomes the new currency, there is still a lot of work to be done to figure out standards for how data is collected, stored, protected and utilized. With no standards in place right now, it’s important that solutions are developed with an open architecture, so that in time, contractors can have one centralized tool for metrics, project progress and more. Organizations like the Construction Progress Coalition (CPC) are working to define project interoperability standards. While data is just starting to be collected and enriched to extract actionable insights, in the future, that aggregate, historical data will be used to improve bids, schedules, safety, risk, profitability and more.
As you can see, it was a busy day at the BuiltWorlds Projects Conference NYC! We’re looking forward to the 2019 Summit, taking place May 8-10th in Chicago. Don’t miss Triax President & CEO Pete Schermerhorn’s participation on the “Connected Jobsite” panel. Check out our Events page for other upcoming events and stay tuned for more details.