By AJ Waters
Even with the advancements we have made in personal technology, the mention of a digital transformation continues to set off alarms for many companies, especially in construction. The continually evolving nature of technology means digital transformations are more akin to ongoing cultural shifts than a single finite project.
The move to digitize the way we work has become a fundamental part of our daily lives that can no longer be dismissed as an idea reserved for corporate giants with seemingly unlimited resources. Implementations are no longer as complicated or labor intensive as they once were, thanks to the leaps forward in consumer technology, and construction companies of all sizes are beginning to reap benefits.
HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW
From the advent of the first computer, digital transformations were being consumed at different levels based on available budget and savvy. Remember how BlackBerry took corporations by storm? However, that all began to change with the announcement of the first-generation iPhone. The race to create consumer level advanced technology was on, and now almost everyone carries around the most advanced mobile devices in their pocket.
With the explosion of mobile technology came the need for a cloud backbone to support it. Today, the cloud is everywhere, and rightfully so, with our ever-increasing use of data catapulting cloud businesses to exponential consumer growth.
But there is an often-overlooked component that arguably has been more vital than each of these. User experience (UX) and user interface took center stage as developers went to work accommodating these new screens and speeds. No digital transformation is ever successful without being intuitive to the end user, and this move to consumer mobility was no different. As evidenced by the rapid UX professional growth over the last decade, rising from 100,000 in 2010 to over a million in 2020, technology developers scrambled to make platforms easier to use, and easier to saturate into the market.
This rapid consumerization of digital transformations has business benefits, too. The very first versions of estimating software required a dedicated machine loaded with a set of twelve floppy disks, installed in a particular order. However, thanks to the enterprise advancements in cloud computing, today it is as simple as typing a URL into a web browser that’s already installed on your PC.
The same is true with mobile technology. Most of your on-site personnel are already carrying a smart phone and the download of a simple app transforms them into project management tools. Not only does this significantly reduce hardware costs, but it also reduces the time users take to become comfortable with navigating the technology. Any training that might be needed can be delivered in-app, allowing the user to learn while on the job.
The foundation of all of this, though, is the 30 years of user interface improvements. Power buttons, volume sliders, swipe left to advance. The list is endless. It is the synergy found by combining of each of these factors, intuitive, mobile technologies deployed with SaaS cloud computing, that brings the real win to organizations—visibly reducing the time, cost, and resources required for implementation of a digital transformation.
NEXT STOP: TRANSFORMATION
With all of this in mind, there are three “quick wins” that could kickoff constructions’ path to digital transformation. First, the way project drawings are managed has struggled to evolve over the last 30 years. What was acceptable then is no longer capable of addressing the large data demands of a rapidly changing, modern construction site. While there has no doubt been some improvement, version control is still a struggle for most projects.
Second, yet another paper process, is timecard and progress management. This goes beyond payroll as it loops in safety, quality and often more. Without a level of digitalization, this remains a labor-intensive, manual process.
Finally, without digital transformation, the future value of the data being collected remains hidden. History and past costs might be stored somewhere, but without proper access and reference points, you are unable to take actionable steps to improve plans for the next time, or to reduce rework. It is no wonder the construction industry continues to be plagued with projects that are behind schedule and over budget.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Even with everything that has been discussed, a digital transformation may still seem daunting. While it is often difficult to understand where to begin, here are three questions that can help set you up on a road toward success:
- Are we truly prepared for this?
- Do we know what is important to us?
- Do we have the right people in place?
Remember, this is an ever-changing journey, not just a one-time, finite project. Now, more than ever, digital transformation success is waiting for companies of all shapes and sizes in the construction industry.
About the author:
AJ Waters is the director industry solutions with InEight, a leader in construction project management software. For more, visit www.ineight.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, August 2020
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