If you’ve been holding on to paper processes and are slow to adopt new technology, there’s no time like the present to move forward. Russ Young, senior technology consultant at FMI, has seen the success of early adopters in construction. “With the right strategy and process for technology, construction firms are winning more business, overcoming labor shortages, and delivering projects on time.”
Prior to joining FMI, Young helped run and grow LTech, a cloud technology integrator and consultancy. In this role, he helped Google Enterprise and Amazon Web Services provide sophisticated technical solutions to enterprise clients. He also spent seven years on Google’s Partner Advisory Board.
At FMI, Young has studied where technology is working in the construction industry and where it’s not. He found that what makes the difference is having a clear strategy along with a process by which to evaluate and adopt new technology.
Young enjoys sharing the lessons he’s learned about tech adoption with executives in the high-risk, low-margin construction industry, where most firms spend just 0.5% to 1% of revenues on technology. He’s realistic about the challenge of a project-focused industry with so many variables.
“An FMI/PlanGrid Study shows that 35% of the time in the field is spent looking for information, resolving conflict or doing rework,” he says. “If we assume 40% labor cost, a move from 35% to 25% would add 4% to the bottom line.”
Three Lessons from the Hive
Believe it or not, the inspiration for a strategic approach to technology that results in better alignment and successful adoption comes from a beehive. You see, it’s not the queen bee that makes the critically important decision about where the next hive will be. Instead, the colony relies on a very complex decision-making process that involves data collection and consensus building. It’s through a similar process that construction firms can not only choose the right technology but also ensure successful adoption.
1. Gather data from the field
Unlike bees, who send scouts out to the field to investigate potential hives, construction firms often neglect workers in the field in the technology selection process. “What we see is executives and technology people meeting the sales people for new technology and buying the one they like the most,” says Young. “What they haven’t done is gather data from the field to figure out how they will use it.”
The result is a workforce that doesn’t understand why they are getting the technology or how it is supposed to help them. According to Young, without collecting data for each role in the company, planners don’t understand the pain points they need to solve. For example, rework might be reduced by ensuring subcontractors have access to the latest plans. Billing could be expedited if accounting were able to quickly access project costs and documentation. If field staff could easily share images via mobile phone to a centralized platform, communication and decision-making would be enhanced. Everyone who touches the technology should be involved in the technology adoption process, either through surveys or interviews.
2. Transfer business needs into features and functionality
Once you know your needs, it can be challenging to narrow your list of vendors, because the industry is very fragmented. There could be dozens, if not hundreds, of potential solutions. “What you don’t want to do is look only at what other companies do and assume that will work for your business,” he says. “Being successful requires more homework and data.”
Young says designing a technology solution is similar to designing a building. “When you design a building, you might want to look at other buildings, but in the end your building requires its own plan,” he says. It’s important to find the vendors that best meet your criteria and do an analysis. “Beyond features and functionality, determine what you might need from them in the way of a partnership,” he adds.
3. Use group knowledge to find a solution
In the hive, collective knowledge results in an optimal decision, and the same is true for technology. “If you use the system to get feedback from everyone, debate the options and reach consensus, you will be presenting an answer to employee problems, rather than just introducing new software,” says Young. The process builds excitement around technology, and that helps build an innovative culture that is attractive to incoming talent.
Getting rid of paper and ensuring access to the latest available construction documents are simple ways that technology can help reduce miscommunication, change orders and waste in the construction industry. But that’s only the beginning. Robots, autonomous vehicles and the uberization of construction equipment are three technologies that are already poised to disrupt the industry.
To avoid expensive mistakes, adoption failures and being left behind, learn more about technology adoption from Russ Young at CONEXPO-CON/AGG on Tuesday, March 10, in his session titled Wisdom from the Hive: Technology Selection and Implementation.