Getting Technology to Work For You

This article was written by Stewart Carroll, President of Beck Technology, and published in the January/February 2019 edition of DCD Magazine.

In the last few decades, all industries have benefited from and been altered by the adoption of technology. Despite the A/E/C industry historically being slow to onboard new technology, the impact of technological developments have still been experienced across the industry, as well as in our daily lives. Sketches have turned into 3D models, drones have started taking over site surveys, and GPS sensors are increasing safety in the field. Everywhere you look, technology is completely transforming the way construction is being done.

It’s no surprise, then, that one of the biggest challenges for construction companies across the country is integrating technology into their workflows and learning how to adapt technology to fit their specific needs. You only need to glance at the nearest pre-construction department to see how difficult this kind of integration can be. Currently, most construction companies rely on Excel for their estimating needs. But with the advent of technology, Excel is not quite as dependable as it once was.

In Excel, cost predictions are made by people, who can often be exhausted or distracted, and may input incorrect data. Estimating tools largely eliminate such errors, saving companies millions of dollars and winning customers. These tools also save time – work that may have taken upwards of hours or even days can be reduced significantly by introducing an estimating tool to a department’s workflow.

Although more and more pre-construction departments have begun utilizing these proper estimating platforms in their day-to-day work, many still struggle with implementation and figuring out how to make estimating technology work for them.

This is a situation in which general contractors all across the country find themselves every year. Often, it looks something like this: they have been using several different tools to streamline their processes, but after many years of use, the tools are no longer where the company needs them to be. Additionally, they often need a more consolidated approach to their workflows. This is the point where a lot of companies meet a technology, such as DESTINI Estimator, that could improve their current processes.

Before finalizing the change, however, it is critical for teams to sit down and discuss how they could fully maximize the potential of a new tool, and the ways in which they could bring the technology onboard without completely throwing away decades’ worth of work. As they worked through various issues and how to approach them, they ultimately ended up with four important takeaways.

1). Technology is more than just software – it’s also about the people behind it.
Companies change for a lot of reasons – sometimes because of a software need, sometimes because of workflow. Other times, they change because they want to be prepared for the future, and feel like the tools or processes they currently employ are too rooted in the past, making it difficult to embrace newer ideas and ways of doing things.

Construction companies need a partner who will grow and innovate alongside them rather than fall behind and stagnate. It does not matter if software has the latest features or the most impressive design – if the team behind it is not bringing in feedback from clients and adjusting their software according to the shifting needs of the industry, then that software is essentially useless.

2). Make sure the technology can adapt itself to your company’s unique needs.
Buying a one-size-fits-all technology doesn’t work in commercial construction because every company approaches processes differently, especially pre-construction. For example, adapting estimating software that will allow
estimating professionals to get granular with the data, review cost trends between projects and over time, and respond quickly to project changes. If a company is using technology that is status quo, then that tool may not be the right fit for a company looking to expand its offerings or better serve their clients.

Additionally, it is vital for companies to have people on their team who are willing to experiment with technology and be coached by the vendor’s team so that the company can fully understand how to maximize the tool. Even the best technology in the world will not be of any use to a company if they don’t first understand how to use it to its full potential.

Construction companies should be implementing technology that will help their teams to be better than they are today. This requires firms to look ahead as well as dive deep into what it is going to take for them to accomplish those goals.

3). Change requires effort and alignment from the top down and the bottom up.
Change has to start somewhere, and whether it begins with the CEO or one of many estimators, it’s critical that there are members from both the reconstruction department and the company’s leadership involved in the process. Change that will truly last requires buy-in from both parties, and you need champions who understand the day-to-day challenges as well as leadership who will support the change and hold everyone accountable.

Additionally, alignment between the team and the team’s leadership is absolutely vital. Acknowledging the need for change is a great first step, but if the company can’t agree on exactly what that change will look like, the results can be poor. A software may be implemented that the team does not think will be an improvement, delaying the implementation process; alternatively, leadership that will not listen to the team’s desires can cause frustration and dissatisfaction. No software will be perfect, of course, but being able to agree on what is essential and what is not will maximize a company’s success with new technology.

4). Have a strong support system in place.
Support is absolutely crucial to successfully implementing any kind of technology. Not only is there a general learning curve for everyone involved, but there can oftentimes be an even steeper learning curve for team members who may not be technologically savvy and need extra time and training to get the most out of the new tool. Obviously, it is important for the company’s leadership to work with their team on overcoming any obstacles brought by implementing a new technology. It’s also critical for them to show support for the tech itself, to display unity, and to inspire confidence in the rest of the team.

But it’s just as important for the vendor to provide the company with the support that it needs. Technology is truly only as good as its support team, because they are the ones who will help develop a plan of attack with the purchasing company, guide them through the ins and outs of the technology, and provide them with ongoing updates and assistance. A great support team is particularly critical when it comes to implementation. No two companies are going to face the exact same problems, so it’s essential for the support team to get to know their clients’ challenges intimately, in order to create the most effective implementation plan for them.

The technological advancements moving into the construction industry are definitely exciting; many are already making massive changes to the way construction is done, and many others have the potential to cause even bigger transformations. Before purchasing new technology make sure the four takeaways have been vetted and there is a cohesive plan to move forward.

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