The current construction market is showing signs of growth–new housing starts have been increasing steadily for more than a decade and commercial and multi-family construction saw a healthy jump last year. They provide a good opportunity to start developing the skills and resources needed to foresee potential downturns in the market and act proactively to protect your interests.
The global pandemic has created a dynamic shift in construction. Considered a fundamental human activity but relatively untouched by technology, the industry is being forced to make a dynamic shift towards technology adoption. The introduction of the smartphone and more readily available high-speed internet created a shift that has been occurring for quite some time. This shift, while massive in options, has been slow on adoptions. The pandemic with all its impacts has created a necessity for a new set of tools and a foundational shift in the construction industry’s age-old practices. Now, remote access technology and digital collaboration tools have shifted from “nice to have” to “must have” for many construction companies.
We need bold leadership in order to achieve the goal of digitizing our companies and our industry. The time to sit back and wait has passed, and the tidal wave of change is upon us. We need leaders that can set lofty goals and support their employees by asking new questions and creating dedicated time and creative budgets to achieve their goals.
Tech, Tech and more tech
The United States construction market is one of the largest in the world, with spending nearing $1-trillion US dollars. However, it is also one of the least digitized, representing a tremendous amount of opportunity for many technology companies. This opportunity, along with the widespread accessibility and adoption of mobile devices in our own personal lives, has created over 2,600 construction technology solutions.
The problem isn’t the lack of solutions; in fact, the problem may be the overabundance of solutions. These point solutions solve initial problems but have created data silos and additional inefficiencies when data needs to be transferred manually. A single application may digitize a process, but as the number of single purpose applications grows, so does the data they create. These silos create a new and separate set of problems. Reporting must be created and combined in spreadsheets to truly gain insight over the information provided, since each system lacks relevance without data from the other.
The siloed data also needs to be transferred into other systems for core necessities, like accounting and payroll functions. Commonly, these transfers occur through manual entry from one system to another. This usually eliminates most of the gains or, at best, shifts the responsibilities to office staff that have incurred labor costs. This also creates increased risk for inaccuracies in manually entered information, which currently accounts for 55% of claims. The other unforeseen side effect has been app fatigue, which has driven many already overwhelmed foremen and superintendents back to paper.
Did that investment really grow your business? When we examine our technology stack, we look at how our different manual processes have been digitized, but we forget to look at the shift in burden we have created for our business. Integrations can be effective to aid in manual inaccuracy and continued labor costs for data entry. But this will not truly help you achieve digitization until you ask yourself the right question: “How can I implement technology solutions to facilitate and support growth for my business?”
The Growth Challenge
The rush toward digitization has come at a huge cost for the industry and the technologies attempting to transform it. Technology needs to be evaluated as a part of a strategic mission and with thoughtful care to the value it can provide in achieving the business growth goals. A full-scale wrong decision will hinder your company for a long time. Technology adoption is challenging, but look beyond adoption to truly achieving digitization, and you’ll see that the rewards far exceed the challenges.
We must redefine growth for our businesses. Our metrics for success must shift from arbitrary revenue and backlog numbers to more healthy business indicators like revenue and profits. A digital toolset can facilitate scalable growth, but it can also provide an opportunity to focus on the work you perform and grow your profit margins.
Where do we GROW from here?
The integrated growth stack of the future will allow contractors to have visibility into their operations and become closer than ever to their projects. This can all be achieved while currently respecting social distance limitations, but in the future, it will allow project teams the space they need to complete projects as a unit while satisfying their organization’s needs for real-time information. Collaboration tools that facilitate this new business paradigm are critical. This pandemic has taught us that we don’t know the future, so we must arm ourselves with the information and tools to make decisions for our businesses and pivot as the world evolves around us.
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Let’s pause for a moment and assess your organizations’ efforts to make sure our workers and workplaces are as safe as possible. It’s Construction Safety Week!
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