In early 2020, the construction industry was experiencing levels of growth not seen since the Great Recession, while also navigating obstacles that have plagued the industry for years, including a qualified worker shortage and slower rates of adopting new technologies.

With the COVID-19 pandemic came a host of other challenges that have forced many to adjust their day-to-day workflows to keep their construction companies in business — and technology has played an integral role in this process.

Mobile and cloud-based technologies have kept teams connected and projects moving throughout this period of disruption and uncertainty. Some businesses used the downtime to overhaul their technology solutions, and others sought temporary fixes to quickly increase mobility among their teams.

While most agree that technology is an important part of a construction business, with so many competing priorities and so little time, technology often gets put on the back burner.

However, technology should become a top priority for construction firms and throughout the industry. Its benefits and efficiency gains are countless, including increased mobility, better business visibility and greater collaboration.

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1. Increased Mobility

In recent years, mobile solutions have gained popularity in the industry, especially on the jobsite. The 2021 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook report, conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Sage, found that 68% of contractors surveyed are using mobile software for daily field reports, 60% are using mobile technology for employee time-tracking and approval, 56% are using it for field access to customer and job information and 55% are using mobile technology for the sharing of drawings, photos and documents.

These apps help simplify workflows and free up employee time. Cloud adoption rates have been lower when it comes to project management and accounting solutions but, with more back-office teams working remotely, there has been greater interest in cloud-based solutions.

There are several options for migrating on-premise solutions to the cloud. These include a self-hosted private cloud, a third-party hosting provider, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription and add-on mobile applications that integrate with existing solutions. When determining which path to the cloud makes the most sense for a business, it is important to make a list of business requirements to ensure that potential solutions will fill those needs. Consider factors such as features and functionality, security, support and whether a solution will integrate with a company’s current solutions.

Regardless of the cloud option, increased mobility and real-time access to project-critical information can have profound effects on productivity.

2. Improved Visibility

Having clear visibility into all aspects of a business is essential to spot issues and take corrective actions quickly, but construction businesses generate a lot of data and sorting through all of it can be tedious. Luckily, technology such as accounting and project management solutions provide firms with the vital information they need to make the best decisions for their business.

Top solutions make it easy to perform time-consuming manual tasks — robust reporting systems, automated alerts and detailed dashboards help ensure teams always have a real-time snapshot of where they stand on a project. A solid reporting system can synthesize all data into meaningful project summaries, field reports and financial statements, while an automated alert system can provide more immediate and actionable information. It filters through high quantities of information and can send a text, email or desktop notification when certain conditions are met. A comprehensive dashboard, which provides a visual snapshot of key performance indicators (KPIs) and other business metrics all in one place, presents information clearly, quickly and compellingly.

All of these tools provide invaluable insight, helping teams understand why a business is performing the way it is. More than ever, technology is helping businesses predict the future. Predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are already being utilized by some technology vendors to help alert a business to any potential issues immediately. For example, some accounting solutions can comb through data and score transactions for the likelihood of an error or conflict and
flag transactions that are outliers. Correcting issues as they come up enables firms to consistently have a clear financial picture, freeing up more time to focus on business strategy.

3. Greater Collaboration

Technology certainly helps ease frustrations and increase efficiency, but it also encourages more effective communication and greater collaboration. Employees can be more productive knowing they are working off the latest version of a document or have the most up-to-date numbers for a project. Teams in the field and back-office benefit from these streamlined and automated processes. It also makes collaboration easier with all project stakeholders, including subcontractors and vendors. Having this level of control and confidence in project workflows is crucial as businesses grapple with challenges, such as disruptions to the supply chain, which can often lead to projects taking longer and costing more in the process.

Technology can foster a more collaborative environment not only among teams, businesses and projects, but also across the entire industry. Many leading technology providers recognize that it benefits everyone when they make it as easy as possible for their solutions to seamlessly integrate with those of other providers in the industry. They understand the need for technology vendors to work together, with many supporting open application programming interfaces (APIs) and pushing for a universal construction integration platform. Adopting a universal integration platform would ensure vendors could integrate with new solutions down the road, as data would be universally configured so that it could be translated to any platform, system or application to fit the ever-changing needs of the industry.

The Construction Progress Coalition (CPC), a nonprofit organization uniting architecture, engineering and construction professionals, technology solution providers and their governing organizations, is pushing for a shared language to define project interoperability standards. It is also working to transform the future of digital project delivery through a common data exchange (CDX), which would use a standard format for storing and exchanging information. Once a CDX becomes an industry standard, data could easily be imported and exported between different systems, achieving greater collaboration across the industry.

Closing remarks

As the industry continues to innovate and embrace new technologies, construction businesses have more options than ever. Technology needs to become an integral part of business planning, so teams are empowered to find the best mix of solutions that address their unique needs. Taking the time now to put the right technologies in place can help set up a business for a prosperous future.

We’d love to have a chat with you about your Construction processes and how we can transform your operations. Request a callback and we’ll be in touch. Or visit our Solutions for Construction page for more information.