Construction Companies: Is Your IT Keeping Up?

Hammers. Cranes. Drills. Saws. It would be hard to picture the construction process without some basic, necessary tools. But the view of this decade's modern construction industry includes some additional power tools: laptops, smartphones and tablets. Today, a significant number of employees rely heavily on technology – and use a keyboard and a mobile phone more frequently than a hammer or saw. Seventy-six percent of respondents to the Associated General Contractors of America’s 2016 Construction Industry Outlook said they plan to use their smartphones and tablets for daily field reports, while 67% plan to use these devices to share drawings, photos and documents. 

Each industry has its own distinct needs – and challenges – when it comes to technology. The AEC industry is no different. With business demand growing at a rapid rate, the construction sector is poised to account for 13% of the global economy by the end of the decade.  However, recent reports have us questioning whether small to mid-size construction companies are prioritizing their information technology needs to maximize company growth, efficiency and productivity.

Growing Pains

Most business startups, including construction, only require basic technology. However, as businesses grow and add employees, subcontractors, job sites, and satellite offices, new complexities and requirements are placed on the supporting technology infrastructure.

When a business’ technology environment can’t keep up with demand, system reliability, connectivity, and performance issues can bring teams to a standstill – resulting in lost productivity and lost revenue, says Mark Paronich, CFO at Delphi Construction in the Boston area. 

Recent studies lead us to believe that construction companies are their own stumbling block when it comes to planning ahead – a majority of those surveyed for the 4th Annual Construction Technology Report indicated that their company's IT budget was less than 1% of their revenue. A study conducted by Gartner discovered that among 19 industries, the construction industry is spending the least on IT. At iCorps Technologies, we’ve come across IT budgets ranging from 2% to 10% depending on the industry and company goals, but 1% (and under) for a rapidly growing industry like construction is a hard number to swallow.

The Need for Collaboration

With geographically dispersed teams, construction companies follow a standard project-based workflow where collaboration is key. Whether employees are designing building plans on computer aided design (CAD) software, purchasing materials, managing inventory, or in the field on a job site implementing those designs – each individual relies on a highly connected, stable technology infrastructure that enables them to communicate effectively and do their jobs efficiently. Construction companies with a stable technology infrastructure have reported a time savings of up to 10 hours per week – chalking it up to having one platform that everyone can use to collaborate. The construction process demands reliable technology and knowledgeable staff to support the fundamental necessities of each role.

The Road to Success

In our decades of experience serving this industry, we’ve discovered that most construction companies simply don’t know where to start when building a long-term strategic IT plan. And we don’t blame them. Their expertise is construction – not IT. The Construction Technology Report found that a chunk of construction companies are even asking employees with some technology knowledge to take on an unofficial IT role. This "plug-and-play" approach may work for short-term fixes, but is not strategic or cost-effective in the long run. Reacting to IT issues diverts critical focus from business priorities, impacts productivity and creates unnecessary expenses. The most competitive players in the industry recognize the need for dedicated IT support and proactive planning (or a partner that can plan for and with them). 

Where do I start?

A technology assessment is the first critical step to making effective IT decisions. While many IT providers offer “free” assessments, the information gathered often leaves much to be desired and can leave you feeling even more lost. A minor investment in an in-depth technology assessment (by a Managed Services Provider with other construction clients) can ultimately provide you with a clear understanding of your IT operations, technology and infrastructure.

iCorps offers a small, fixed-cost assessment that 1) offers detailed documentation so you can make informed decisions 2) provides an objective third party, vendor-agnostic evaluation of your network and 3) leaves you with a strategic technology roadmap for your business.

For an industry like construction that is positioned for rapid growth over the next five years, technology and long-term IT planning can no longer be an afterthought. Construction companies across the Northeast are catching on to the business benefits of outsourced IT. Watch the video below to learn how iCorps has been able to scale with Windover Construction in Massachusetts.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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