The momentum of cloud computing is inspiring construction business management to a shift of resources and savings, not to mention a tangible improvement in real-time collaboration. The traditional use of internally managed IT departments is no longer a requirement among contractors because they can now rely on externally hosted environments in the cloud.
Cloud computing brings convenient, affordable access to construction accounting, project management, and estimating software that many predict to be a turning point in how construction companies manage IT. The full value of the power the cloud has to offer is enabling a wide variety of users easy access to their entire office from a multitude of devices—essentially taking one’s office desktop anywhere.
The advantages of the cloud that construction businesses realize include:
- Elimination of hefty capital expense by using software and hardware without buying (capitalizing) it.
- Reduce risk because backup and recovery are inherently part of the cloud solution.
- More speed and flexibility than on-premise systems and the ability to scale up or down quickly, which is helpful for workforce and staff changes when projects begin or end.
- Increased collaboration with external partners and team members, as well as increased productivity for an important competitive edge.
ESCALATED DEMANDS, LIMITED RESOURCES
It’s also worth considering that cloud computing supports business in a variable economy. In today’s tough business and economic climate, if the IT resource can speed up the implementation of vital line-of-business software, improve its management of a growing stockpile of valuable data, and/or decrease computer infrastructure costs, then it can have a vital impact on the success of an organization. Contractors have increased interest in cloud computing as demands have escalated and resources are limited.
So with cloud technology, contractors can finally have the necessary IT resources when they’re needed and pay only for what’s used. In a healthy economy, this can support growth and speed up new initiatives. In a bad economy, it can mean survival as it can foster efficiency and save costs by allowing easy exit from huge resources.
Moving to cloud computing is appealing to small to mid-size businesses, as well as growing businesses. Growing companies typically have limited IT resources. Cloud solutions eliminate the need to maintain on-premises hardware and software, as well as enable user mobility, since workers can access their applications from any computer or device with Internet access and a web browser. Construction businesses can also dramatically reduce risk because the responsibility for ensuring constant availability of data to a project team is transferred to a specialist third party that is less likely to become embroiled in any construction disputes which may arise.
Compare that to the risks associated with contractors hosting certain IT capabilities themselves, especially recognizing that most construction project teams are temporary, fragmented, multidisciplinary, and multi-company. It can be costly and disruptive to share IT resources and have teams on site in various locations. Creating fast, secure, and reliable IT infrastructures is challenging and expensive, particularly as these often have to be dismantled at the project’s end.
EASY, FLEXIBLE, AND SECURE
Relying on the cloud helps construction achieve many important benefits—most notably, ease of use and cost savings. The cloud’s true potential is to provide more than a web-based version of an application—its true potential is the ability to host ALL applications, and make them as easily accessible to the end user as if sitting in their office. Cost is another factor and expenditure on software, hosting, and support is more predictable, as most vendors operate on a subscription basis. With less investment in hardware, there is less depreciation of company assets and immediate expensing of operational costs.
There is also the advantage of flexibility. The cloud allows new software to be implemented more quickly, with training and ongoing support delivered on demand. Little or no capital outlay is required on new hardware or software, as access is usually via a standard Internet browser. Pay-as-you-go services can be turned on and off quickly, and processing power, memory, bandwidth, etc. can be scaled up or down as needed.
Reliability and security is enhanced as well because software services are provided 24/7 from highly resilient data centers with security, backup, and secondary systems that would be difficult even for the largest corporates to replicate. Cloud storage offers better disaster recovery, with automatic backup and improved security.
AN EVOLUTION OF IT
What it really all comes down to is this: By leveraging cloud computing, construction business leaders can focus on running their business for better productivity and profitability rather than worrying about and managing IT resources or dealing with downtime and other related hardware and software maintenance.
Cloud computing offers a broad spectrum of solutions to meet the IT challenges facing contractors, depending on a company’s size, geographic scope, and reliance on IT. No longer just a buzzword bandied about between contractors, “the cloud” is delivering real and impactful benefits to construction companies today, and the maturity of cloud computing may just be underway as businesses search for better ways to manage IT, software, and more. ■
About The Author
Gabe Authier is cloud product manager at Viewpoint. Viewpoint is a recognized leader in meeting the collaborative and information needs of the AEC industry, providing construction-specific software addressing all points of the construction lifecycle from preconstruction to building maintenance. For more information, visit www.viewpoint.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, January 2015
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