Placing the best technological tools in your hands
Choosing the right software is pivotal to the success or failure of businesses operating in the modern world. Technological innovation in the built environment is critical to staying competitive. In an industry faced with an overabundance of choices, project complexity and high demands it can be hard to make the right choices when faced with such an abundance of information. So let’s make the process as simple as possible.
Technology is a tool that increases our human capabilities, it can greatly improve productivity or it can be costly and sit on a shelf gathering dust. The risks and rewards of innovating are considerable. When a large investment of time, effort, and resources is poured into something which will change the foundation of a business it is worth taking extra care. Technology is faster, more accurate, and more time-efficient than human labour. When correctly paired with your business it can revolutionise your speed, accuracy, safety and communication. When paired incorrectly, however, it can be very painful, time-consuming and labour intensive to rectify. But how do you choose the right technology to suit your needs?
What is the Best Technology for you?
In the construction industry situations can arise that create a perfect storm. A mix of tight deadlines, budget restrictions, various site locations, informal processes, contract requirements, suppliers, subcontractors, work crews and owners that all need to be coordinated and managed. Project complexity and client demands are ever-increasing. The need for effective tools with which to manage the scope of these demands is clear, but the options can be overwhelming. That is why it is important to have a process through which choices can be filtered before any decisions are made.
- Analyse Your Business:
Similar to doing a SWOT Analysis it is important to be very clear on your business goals, weaknesses, and strengths. Have a thorough understanding of how your business currently functions. Know what your workflows look like, the kinds of information being transferred, reporting structure, the formal and informal procedures, as well as your daily activities. For example, knowing what activities are the most time consuming and then using technology that reduces the time spent on those activities will automatically improve productivity by saving time and labour costs. Knowing what is going right and what is going wrong is important. All these questions allow you to be clear on your business goals. Are you trying to improve communication, have an online reporting structure, avoid information silos, increase transparency, be more competitive or reduce costs? What are your ultimate goals? Understand your needs, and wants before attempting to align your business with technology.
- Consider Your Options:
When investigating what technology is available, seek to thoroughly understand the capabilities and limitations of each offering to manage expectations. All technology has limitations, knowing what they are and how they will affect your business is necessary to making the right choice. It is worth noting that not all features and solutions can be covered in brief videos and brochures. Many have used technology to solve problems beyond its initial scope by knowing the technology well enough to push its capabilities to the maximum. Digging deeper allows you to have a more comprehensive understanding of the complete product offering through trials, tutorials and discussions with current end-users. Reading through client reviews and speaking to industry peers can be a highly effective way of gaining relevant information quickly. It is important to prepare evaluation criteria based on your needs and wants that allow you to rate each product on the market based on their ability to meet your needs. Rating each product element against your specific business criteria will provide concrete numerical data to base your decisions on.
- Consider ROI:
Ultimately it all comes down to the Return on Investment from your new software purchase. Compare the cost with the added benefits. The cost will be influenced by multiple factors such as the size of your business, amount of users, and capability needs. Your bottom line remains the ultimate consideration. Does the end justify the means? Correctly investing in Site Management Technology will improve productivity and positively influence Return on Investment. Technology can enable cost savings by decreasing human error, wasted labour time, redundant tasks, project mistakes, wasted resources, and increasing task and project turnover speed, mitigating risks, and productivity. All of these factors significantly impact the bottom line. Technology drives increased profit margins and deeper business intelligence which allows better forecasting as well as the ability to take on more complex future work. A survey conducted by Hobson & Company in 2017 called “Driving ROI, The Case for a Proven Construction Management Solution”, featured a case study that found a 50% reduction in labour time spent on administrative tasks such as billing, material searches, invoices, and time tracking. In the end, there was a 3% increase in top-line revenues and a 0.75% increase in gross margins. In monetary terms, these increases could be thousands or hundreds of thousands of pounds. A common mistake is to assume that this is only important for large businesses. Large business ventures can carry added costs that smaller enterprises cannot. A small change in productivity for a small enterprise will have a big impact. Think with the mentality of operating each business on a scale where productivity, cost reduction, maximising profit margins and creating accurate forecasting are vital. Compare the long-term value against the initial cost when deciding on the budget that is suitable to your business.
It is worth taking into consideration things like data storage and security. No one wants to be strapped with hidden costs and high IT demands mid-implementation. It is a matter of taking the time to consider the basics. Factors such as does your business have the right equipment to allow workers access to the technology? Will it be difficult to train new staff members, subcontractors or suppliers to use your new processes? Will system integration be a smooth transition? For example, if your business uses excel will you be able to integrate your existing information, excel spreadsheets and data into the new technology? Are there any hidden costs that you can anticipate such as data costs? Factoring in these elements is important, walk yourself through each stage of implementation to broaden your understanding and allow proper preparation and planning.
The biggest factor in the success or failure of Site Management Technology is the end-user. Your frontline workers, administrative employees and managers have to buy into the change. They have to want to make it work. The worst-case scenario for any business enterprise is one where workers avoid and actively work against the use of technology. It is counterproductive and can create bottlenecks and other major problems. To prevent this have managers, frontline workers, and employees from every level involved in the trials and decision-making process. Training lower-level staff to understand wider business implications behind the innovation and communicating that increased productivity means increased revenues and profit margins can be highly beneficial. The goal not to be inundated with conflicting opinions. Choose a process through which to receive employee feedback such as your evaluation criteria where employees can rate features and ask questions pertinent to their daily tasks. Valuable questions and business intelligence can arise from multidisciplinary employees pointing out aspects of the business or technology not previously thought of. Involving decision-makers at different levels of your business will influence coworkers and make the transition easier. Be prepared for the fact that humans are naturally averse to change and initially there will be an adjustment period. Just consider the resistance emails faced when faxing was the norm. Training will be required for the technology to be utilised fully. Everyone should ideally be using the technology in the same way to maximise its benefits. Take all these factors into consideration when briefing employees. Remember communication and collaboration at the onset will be very valuable in the long run. Communicate the benefits to your employees. For example, the amount of time spent searching for information will be resolved instantly by having a unified system where there is instant access to information.
- Your Quick Reference Checklist:
Keeping things simple helps to focus efforts. The process is to analyse your business, research your options, consider your budget, get feedback from industry peers, involve your workforce, and manage the change.
Let’s look at some key questions:
- Will it reduce time and workload?
- Will it integrate processes and systems into one platform?
- Does it eliminate the need for paper methods?
- How user friendly is setting up a new project, or budget estimates?
- Is there a clear follow-through from the project beginning to end?
- Will it increase transparency, keep records and track responsibilities in real-time?
- Will it allow everyone instant access to the same information?
- Will it create collaboration across the entire project workforce?
- Is the technology integrated enough for an easy flow of information between site workers, finance, managers, and all other project members?
- Can construction data be stored, achieved, imaged and managed?
- Is it overall user friendly and easy to understand?
- What are the data storage capabilities like?
- What training and onboarding are needed?
- What are the available languages?
- Does it give useful and complete construction business intelligence to end-users?
- Is there comprehensive support from the technology supplier?
- Are forms and documents easily generated?
- Can the technology be scaled to include more or fewer employees?
Ultimately the cornerstones of construction have to work together finance, operations, and reporting. When these elements communicate smoothly productivity increases and so does profit margins. In the end, networking with your peers to discuss their experiences remains invaluable to gaining the benefit of their experiences. Establishing a good relationship with the technology supplier is crucial to maintaining long-term value. Go with your gut instinct about what will be the right fit for your business but always support your decisions with data and employee feedback. Having properly prepared will safeguard you against misalignment thereafter only trials will solidify your choice.