Written by Zulqurnain (Zulq) Malik, Founder of SMARTBUILD Construction Solutions
There are no doubts left about the benefits of management soft- ware for the construction industry. Cloud-based technology solutions are already helping your competitors save time, avoid mis- takes, and use their resources better. Now it’s up to you to decide to join their ranks.
This is true whether your company is big or small. Many smaller contractors are selling themselves short by believing that tech is too big or complicated for their operations. Not so – tech is even more critical for small generals and subcontractors, who put more on the line than their larger counterparts and often have fewer resources.
Just because tech adoption is the right move, doesn’t mean it will be easy. Once you’ve made the decision to digitize your company, the next step is finding tech that’s right for you, and figuring out how to bring it into your operational systems.
Now that construction has caught on to the benefits of technol- ogy, new products are popping up and fading away regularly. The market is saturated with large/bloated well-known expensive solu- tions that you feel you should have because it “must be good for the price they are charging.”
Tech doesn’t need to be this intimidating – you just haven’t found a techno geek that speaks your language!
Here are some simple steps to help you either get started or ad- vance your journey, starting with creating a culture that welcomes technology and the benefits it can bring.
While most companies have a clearly defined mission statement on how they will build with trust, on schedule and on time, and other platitudes, very few companies have a defined vision statement on how their company will go about executing their work. This vision statement is necessary for your team to know so that everyone in your company is working toward the same goals. To reset the com- pany mindset to a modern delivery method, your vision statement needs to include statements declaring the importance of adopting the newest and most effective construction technology.
Now that you’ve clearly defined your vision, it’s time to develop some goals that technology will help you achieve.
Approach your digitization process with a plan. Decide which areas of your business to optimize first. Consider processes like:
Contract Administration – Managing the day to day of contracting, like, RFIs, changes, shop drawings;
Safety on the jobsite;
Daily records and progress reporting;
Managing and maintaining your budget;
Handling and approval of supplier invoices
Project reporting to senior management;
Project records for disputes and claims;
EMAILS! - organizing all the project emails in an intelligent
and visible manner;
All of these areas of your business could likely benefit from digiti- zation, so how will you choose where to start?
Start by evaluating each area. Write down how you are currently doing it and how it can be improved. Develop a simple score card to determine an order of priority based on where you are losing time, money, and want to increase efficiency.
With your score card, identify which changes are easy to imple- ment and you will have your priority matrix.
The best plan is the one that can be initiated and you can see re- sults immediately. Don’t try and overcome a big change when you can tackle two or three little changes right away. Focus on reaching goals that will align with your vision statement.
Be prepared to modify, update and adjust your ‘Plan’ regularly!
One of the most common sticking points for companies when it comes to tech adoption is the cost of purchasing a new product. Mar- gins are already tight, and it’s hard to justify another cost.
Without technology, you’re already spending more than you should:
Consider the costs of productivity loss as you manage multiple files, share information via email, and search for information in spreadsheets and old email messages.
What are you losing as you wait for office staff to create RFIs and reports, that could be created simply with your phone from the field?
And what additional legal costs could you incur as you can’t access the paperwork that backs up your case, or as your legal team sifts through hundreds of documents to find the ones that could help?
The hidden costs of lost efficiency and opportunity could easily offset the cost of most software solutions.
Remember we have figured out production costs on jobsites, fig- uring out production costs in the office is just as easy!
Now you have a technology business plan to decide which areas of your business should be targeted first for operational improvement through tech tools, but don’t run out and sign on with the first provider that offers that type of solution. It pays to shop around! Re- turn to your vision statement again, and make sure your pick of tech provider will help you realize its tenets.
Look to your professional associations to find the tech players. Pick up the phone and connect with them.
You will know within a few minutes of a call if the tech company understands your business needs and can be a valued partner in con- struction.
Evaluate the solutions they offer. Remember, no one solution provider will hit 100% of your needs.
Understand that you will probably have to tweak or adjust your current business processes and that change is not bad! Source solutions that will meet your needs according to your tech plan.
Most importantly, choose a solution provider that will help you through the first stages of adoption and who understands the construction process flow so they can communicate with your staff and team.
Plenty of business owners shy away from technology because they don’t think they can get 100% buy-in or they think their staff is too old to adopt! That mind set is the limiting factor. In order to cre- ate a technology-friendly culture, you need to lead by example.
Don’t wait for employee buy-in. Most owners don’t ask for buy-in on a new project before they sign the contract, and they shouldn’t for tech tools either! Although this is a cavalier attitude, for most organizations this is the only way forward!
Find a feature or solution that is simple to adopt and roll it out first. This will help develop buy-in over time.
Don’t wait for the “right time” to adopt technology: when the big project is over, when the chaos has died down, when your company is not so busy.
Don’t fall into this trap, or you’ll never get started. The right time is now.
Check your results with your new tool at one-, two-, three-, and six-month intervals to see what changes are happening within your business. Look back at your goals for the technology and use that benchmark for success.
If you’ve met your benchmarks and achieved your goal for tech, congratulations! You’ve hit gold your first time out. But if the results aren’t so stellar? That’s okay, too. Give it time, and give it a chance, but don’t be afraid to pull the plug if the tool just isn’t working for you.
You’ve begun the first stages of tech adoption, including creating a culture that welcomes technology into your processes, and that can only be a good thing.