Simplicity as a Technology Strategy
Contractors' Technology Transformations Should Aim to Simplify, Streamline Processes for Best Results.
The construction industry, once considered a virtual graveyard for technology advancement opportunities, is now moving all-in on modern tech for construction management. Today the market is saturated with new solutions aimed at streamlining construction processes or making work easier — and for the most part, they’re doing just that.
Integrated, cloud-based software platforms have it easier to collaborate and share information across entire project teams in real time. Powerful mobile devices and intuitive construction apps are letting construction teams and leaders work easily on the go. Interactive dashboards with intelligent user personas, automated workflows and online information portals are transforming how construction data is delivered to, and processed by, the end user. Intuitive data analytic and business intelligence solutions are letting contractors dig deeper into their project data and uncover issues, trends and more like never before.
To say that there’s been a technology transformation in the construction industry is an understatement. And, if recent advancements are any indication, it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of where technology could take contractors in the near future.
But for an industry that has historically had a hard time adjusting to even less impactful technology changes, some contractors are still finding this tech revolution too overwhelming to jump into. They’re too busy, too focused on maintaining current bottom lines and unwilling to disrupt business or redirect assets to give new technology much more than a second thought.
Keep it Simple, Stupid
One of the largest struggles the construction industry has had with technology adoption is basic resistance to change. Construction professionals have long been entrenched in processes that, while they may not be the most efficient, generally work to get the job done. They can find new software and technologies too complex or confusing to learn. And, if end users won’t use the new technologies available to them, it becomes a moot point.
Of course, the technology implementation stigmas holding many contractors back are starting to crumble — especially as older generations of workers retire and younger, more tech-savvy workers start staking their claim. As this transition continues, there is one area of modern technology where adopters and resisters are finding common ground — technology needs to be easy to use.
Ease of use is one of the most-touted selling points of today’s software and technology providers. From simple-to-navigate interfaces to automated workflows to dashboards that boil complicated data down to easily-digestible takeaways, users are realizing new ways to work smarter.
However, the “work smarter, easier” message may still not resonate with everyone in construction organizations without a little push from technology advocates. As construction technology champion Andrea Wright — who founded CTP Solutions, LLC to help contractors manage their own tech transformations — noted in a recent blog: “After a valiant effort to assess and choose the best new technology, we buy it, launch it, and many times it is a miserable failure where only a fraction of the technology’s capabilities ends us being used — if it’s used at all. Our teams reject it before they even try it, and we wonder why they couldn’t see how the new tool would be an asset to the company and their own professional development.
More needs to be done within construction organizations to explain the benefits of new technology, she said. And, simplifying users’ jobs is perhaps the key argument. Wright and others suggest getting end users involved in technology selection processes and demoing potential solutions so that they can see first-hand how much simpler their lives could be.
A solid implementation communication strategy and both up-front and continual training on new software and technologies are also vital to achieving buy-in. Additionally, many contractors are starting to create tech mentoring programs, where they pair more tech savvy users with those that need a little more help. In most cases, once users get over the initial hump of trying new software, they soon find they can’t imagine life without it.
A good change management strategy also needs the buy-in from senior management. More than just being “ok” with adopting new technologies, leadership should become advocates for tech-enabled improvements that increase collaboration and un-silo data and processes throughout the organization. For example, project managers might not see an issue with working with their own set of data — as long as their work is getting done. But if change management advocacy is coming from the top down, and they are shown that integrated data and workflows can improve timeliness of payments or that having easily accessible data can defend against conflicts or litigation, there is a much better chance of this resonating with different teams and end users.
Finding the Right Software Solution
Internal efforts to facilitate change management and modernization are one-half of the equation. The other is finding the right software and technologies. How can you ensure the technology you’re considering or implementing will indeed simplify processes and be easy enough to use and understand in order to have the maximum buy-in throughout your organization? It begins with researching the software and technology options available. Here are six key factors you should consider:
Is the software easy to access? — Can users access the software remotely, without having to rely on third-party solutions like a virtual private network (VPN)? True, cloud-based construction software provides anywhere, anytime access.
Is it mobile friendly? — Devices like smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the preferred way to access information and make decisions on the go. Does the software easily translate to mobile devices and/or are there construction-specific apps that facilitate work in the field.
Can work be done offline? — Even though folks can access the internet virtually anywhere now, there are still places — and times — where the web is unavailable. Does the software allow users to continue to work and input data, storing and synching later when connected again?
Is it integrated? — The best construction software platforms are packages with integrated functionality throughout — combining accounting, project management, human resources, equipment and material management, document management and more with one set of data. This keeps everyone on the same page and reduces need for multiple, disconnected software solutions and the time needed to make data compatible between them.
Is the interface easy to understand? — The right construction software should also allow users to know, or even anticipate what information they need right from the get-go, allowing them to dive deep into data in just a few clicks (or swipes). If users still need to navigate a series of clunky menus, tabs or even separate systems, they’ll be less inclined to follow through.
Does it save time? — In addition to reducing having to reenter data into multiple solutions, does the software automate tasks and workflows? Does it streamline processes and provide alerts when actions need to be taken? Will the organization be able to find data quicker when needed, bill and get paid faster, and ensure field teams’ work isn’t delayed? Not only do these features reduce significant manual workloads for users, they boost productivity and profitability across the entire organization.
In the end, if you’re diligent about choosing the right solutions, a technology transformation can have an immediate, significant impact on your company’s reputation and bottom line. The alternative is to continue on with the systems and processes in place now. However, as technology continues to evolve, contractors that wait could find that there’s an even bigger cost with doing nothing, finding themselves at a distinct disadvantage in their ability to compete with modern, digital contractors.
What are some of the processes you think could be make significantly easier with the right technology? Let us know in the comments below. Or, contact us today to learn more how cloud-based, integrated construction management solutions could help transform your company.