How to Deploy Software - And Have Your Team Actually Use It

Construction technology has been evolving as long as people have been building. However, a true transformation is now beginning to occur, as information technology is advancing and changing how business is done from the office to the jobsite. This isn’t being driven by any one specific advancement, but rather a confluence of many different ones.

“Cloud computing, data mobility, and Web-based software have brought the industry to an important inflection point,” explains Wayne Newitts, director, strategic partnerships, Viewpoint Construction Software. “Together, these technologies have the potential to deliver the improvements in productivity that have evaded the construction industry since productivity have been quantitatively measured.”

This holds the potential for fundamental change in the way contractors work and, perhaps more importantly, the way they work together.

“Today’s contractor has access to virtually unlimited computer power and data storage, using virtually any mobile computing device, with the need to download virtually zero software,” Newitts explains. “Together, these advancements hold the key to achieving real jobsite collaboration, real gains in productivity, and real, predictive intelligence that can keep jobs on track to profitability.”

This could perhaps be one of the reasons that productivity is now on the rise in the construction industry, as indicated by new research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that was released in January. The research shows, in contract to other evidence, productivity growth has typically been positive.

Connecting the Back Office and the Jobsite

Technology is one way the industry can become more productive in both the office and at the jobsite, and there are a number of different ways technology is advancing.

Vicki Satran, vice president of marketing, Computer Guidance Corp., believes that mobility, integrated processing of daily functions, content management and business intelligence are just a few of the big technologies that are impacting the construction industry today.

With all this in mind, perhaps the biggest innovation that could potentially disrupt the construction industry in the months ahead is fully integrated, enterprise software applications.

Austin Beaty, president and CEO, Austin Lane Technologies, explains that having the ability to collect time, attendance and job production data remotely is a game changer.

“It has been proven that when companies eliminate paper timesheets and embrace new technology applications, it improves their overall business process,” he says.

The underlying theme to all these predictions is that technology is helping connect the back office and the jobsite, creating better business processes for the industry. Now, it is a matter of identifying how to put a solid strategy in place and implementing the right technologies in order to increase productivity even further.

A Smart Strategy for Leveraging Technology

How can a construction company go about putting good strategies in place to best leverage all this emerging technology? Newitts of Viewpoint Construction Software recommends considering three strategic factors.

  1. Keep the cart behind the horse. Forward-thinking contractors are often among the first to adopt new technologies, but too often the allure of the technology comes first, then how they can use it to drive business results comes second. Newitts recommends starting with strategic business objectives and using them as criteria for deciding what technologies are available to help achieve them.
  2. Look for integrated platform-based solutions. The real boost for productivity comes when the separate applications can access and leverage the data from all others. To realize this, consider a platform-based approach with one common underlying database and enterprise system that includes a full suite of applications for use in the office, in the field, and as a way to connect all project team partners.
  3. Involve all stakeholders in technology decisions. The decision to implement new technology is typically led by the group most impacted by that decision. However, these decisions nearly always influence other groups who are brought along for the ride. If operational managers are brought into the technology selection process, the chances of choosing a system that accommodate everyone’s needs increases, as will the utility derived from that investment.

These are three key factors to consider when implementing new, emerging technologies, although there are a number of others to consider as well.

For instance, Satran of Computer Guidance suggests setting one main goal and then breaking the big goal down into smaller projects and accomplishing those one or a few at a time. At the same time, she also recommends looking at the big picture and looking years ahead.

“The construction industry operates in a somewhat traditional environment and generally retains a conservative corporate culture,” she explains. “The perception is that construction companies are not sufficiently progressive or forward-thinking. Improving the collaboration among different generations and inside and outside parties can make a huge difference in bringing in technologies and embracing them for better outcomes.”

Finally, she recommends not being afraid of providing new technology, while empowering users with some basic rules and securities.

Time for Implementation

After a strategy for new, emerging technologies is considered, the next step is implementing the right technologies in a way that is effective for a company. Critical to this is the fact that upper management leads the new technology initiatives, while empowering field personnel to embrace new processes and see its benefits.

“Focusing on a software that has simple solutions will make the overall acceptance easier,” says Beaty of Austin Lane Technologies. “Establishing and standardizing a training program for the software with annual refresher sessions can also increase company acceptance in not only the field, but with the home office personnel.”

When it comes time for implementation and training, many of the technology companies offer programs, which is an essential step for successfully acclimating users to the new technology.

“During training sessions, the best practice is to use smaller groups for one-on-one assistance with the software,” suggests Beaty. “A company should designate one or two key team members to facilitate training sessions and assist with communications in both the field and home office operations.”

Many construction companies have stories of how investments in large software platforms have not returned results, but today enterprise systems are powerful and delivering real productivity improvements, with a focus on connecting everyone involved on the project.

Newitts explains, “Implementing these systems takes commitment—from the time and money involved in the software selection to professional system implementation to training users in every department impacted by the implementation.”

Understanding how a software provider delivers these implementation services, training and support is one of the most important factors in the selection process. These resources are critical for training staff and ensuring functionality is up and running—and ultimately changing the way contractors do their jobs, and the way they work together.

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