At this year’s Procore’s Groundbreak conference, a panel discussion entitled, “Overcoming data fragmentation in construction through an integrated technology approach,” addressed the rising use of technology and its impact on the future of construction. The panelists included: Ray Martin CIO, Dimeo Construction; Phil Moran, CIO, DF Pray, and Adam Palmer, Director of Operations and Project Executive at JM Electrical. Here are the key takeaways from the conversation.
CHANGING NATURE OF WORK
Technology is driving a fundamental shift in construction, evolving work from structured processes to a more dynamic experience, primarily in the elimination or automation of many manual processes. With this shift comes new layers of complexity that impact project management, decision-making and meeting timelines, and deliverables.
As technologies proliferate and work becomes faster and more dynamic, data and information are captured across an ecosystem of apps, spreadsheets, platforms, and more. It also creates fragmented work where individuals or smaller teams have built better processes yet the information that can be useful to the entire organization is trapped in a silo. Making that information accessible, useful, and reusable across the company remains a challenge.
In fact, a recent survey by Quickbase found that 67% of workers are spending between 15-20 hours a week looking for the information they need to do their job. Also known as Gray Work, this issue threatens projects and deadline delivery.
TACKLE GRAY WORK
First, it is important to recognize the value of modern technologies for construction. Whether it is the use of tools and apps to improve jobsite safety through faster communication and alerts, or enabling better equipment maintenance through real-time, remote monitoring, and better provisioning of resources, the idea of eliminating technology—and the gains it has delivered—to address the issue of Gray Work is a non-starter.
Instead, the approach to technology should be to make it as easy to use as possible for anybody in the company. As Phil Moran, CIO of DF Pray, puts it, “In construction, you really must make a case for changing processes. A lot of companies have limited resources to create and customize solutions, which could take months or sometimes years to get off the ground. I don’t want to have to change my business processes to work within a particular application. I want an application my team can build around my business.”
For the panelists, the solution was to get more from their existing technology investments and eliminate Gray Work through a dynamic work management platform. Essentially, being able to convert the siloed information into apps in under a few hours and connect it to the rest of the business.
For example, Ray Martin, CIO of Dimeo Construction, shared how this approach can be applied to construction workforce management. They tracked labor on the jobsite daily to know who is on site and what they are doing. That fragmented process took the form of text messages, email, spreadsheets, and other ad-hoc applications that varied by individuals and teams. The lack of a standardized process created safety risks, gaps in information on progress, and additional overhead as information from various sources was rekeyed into a central platform. Using a dynamic work management platform made it easy to quickly build a labor tracking app providing a single, accurate source of information feeding directly into Procore. This information is useful for a variety of levels of compliance and payroll, as well as supporting C-Suite decisions.
GETTING STARTED, LESSONS
A logical next question from the audience was how to get started with unlocking the information. Adam Palmer, director of operations and project executive outlines how his team began by tackling low-key integrations for meaningful tasks that would yield high value. “They may not have been sexy or have cool graphs, but they allowed us to automate a lot of background tasks and tie information into our financials and Procore,” he says. He notes how easy wins got more people comfortable with change and helped to justify the investment in a low/no code platform that could support their needs. “Now we’re able to do cooler things with graphs, database layouts and dashboards,” he adds.
The panelists agreed that a primary goal was to increase efficiency for their teams so they can focus on building the buildings. Key to achieving this was keeping established processes consistent yet still providing value for the rest of the business that relies on that information.
For Phil at D.F. Pray, “The process of getting started began with looking at who has information to share, what needs to be shared, and what problems can be solved by integrating the solutions.”
Now, with experience and hindsight, all agreed they would do things a bit differently if they started with a dynamic work management platform. As Adam of JM Electrical reflects, “Looking back, a better, more detailed roadmap would be more helpful. We knew what we wanted to do, but we never detailed the steps on how to get there so we were not able to make considerable progress after clearing the first few quick hurdles. After building up the back end, we are now adding apps very quickly and it is a lot easier.”
Yet it is not just about the roadmap; beyond the technology and tools, people are always at the heart of any successful project or transformation. It is important to get key stakeholders on board, form focus groups, and get people together to understand what is needed, how things are done today and how you would like them done, how they connect to the rest of the organization, and the pain points that technology can help solve. This helps create current state workflows, giving you a baseline to figure out how the workflows fit into an ecosystem of tools and technology. When you do that, you will quickly see examples of ideal applications that you need and then you can prioritize.
As construction companies continue to invest in technologies to streamline processes and boost productivity, they will also struggle with making sense of the value information they have put into those solutions. To eliminate the risk of Gray Work and construction companies will require a technology foundation capable of maximizing their investments in people, processes, and technology.
About the Author:
Peter Rifken is a fellow solutions consultant at Quickbase. In this role, he bridges the gap between technology and business by providing valuable insights and driving action through people, processes, and data. Quickbase is the first application platform built for dynamic work, empowering more than 6,000 global organizations to bring together people, processes, and data into one centralized location. The Quickbase platform enhances productivity and reduces gray work, the time lost when searching for data and information, by connecting everything through a single source of truth. Named one of Inc.’s Best Businesses of 2022, Quickbase was founded in 1999 and is based in Boston (Mass.). For more, visit www.quickbase.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, November 2023
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