5 Ways a Commitment to IT Can Help a Construction Business
There is no shortage of technology tools available to automate tedious manual processes, enhance efficiency and trim costs for better profit margins. Still, 52% of contractors rely on pen and paper for everything from bids and estimates to project management. And, as we reported in an earlier blog, among 19 industries, construction spends the least on technology – with IT budgets of less than 1% of companies’ annual revenues.
It doesn’t come as a surprise then that 42% of construction firms say they have no in-house IT staff at all. That sort of laidback approach may have worked 20 years ago, but today's business world demands that companies in any industry stay on top of their technology lest they be left behind by their agile competitors. In house IT staff is not the only option for construction firms that are looking to implement a strategic IT roadmap, and many construction and development companies are turning to Managed IT Services Providers to help them create an IT plan that can scale with their business without stretching their budget.
Whether you are looking at IT outsourcing, or hiring dedicated internal experts, here are 5 ways knowledgeable and skilled IT personnel can help your construction company gain a competitive edge and benefit from the significant advantages of technology:
1. Setting the Foundation
There are some basic technology needs that apply to businesses across all industries, construction included. Email, phone systems, and office productivity tools enable and support these businesses. For small and mid-sized construction companies in particular, the focus is often on getting the work done rather than on maximum efficiency that technology solutions can offer. A skilled IT professional can help you achieve both and sort through the advantages and disadvantages offered by an on-premises solution v.s. a managed service v.s. a cloud-based solution and help you determine what’s best for your company. Furthormore, an IT provider can implement these technology “business basics” to make them accessible, convenient, and easy to use – whether your users are in the office or on the jobsite.
Do you have a sustainable IT plan for your business? Learn how to build one here.
2. Tapping into Automation
Automation is very accessible and typically results in higher productivity – not to mention less headaches. Technology also reduces human error – and for 30% of prospective buyers, improved accuracy of estimates is the top reason for seeking new construction software. However, its not always easy to see where automation and workflows can be implemented to improve productivity when you're 1) too busy working through the chaos and 2) lacking the technology expertise to map out those workflows and choose the best technology solution. A knowledgeable IT team – one that is familiar with your business and challenges faced by others in the construction industry – can help identify which processes can be automated; recommend the technology power tools that will be the most effective for the size, needs, and objectives of your business; and help integrate solutions into your technology infrastructure.
3. Using the Right Tools
As many architects and engineers already utilize advanced technologies such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), the need for collaborative tools will accelerate. The struggle involves the ability to review and share an increasing number of associated documents that are usually too large to send via email. In addition, as mobile devices become more common on jobsites, the ability to extend mobile access to core applications becomes vital. Clearly, “adopting specialized construction software is quickly becoming a necessity, rather than a choice” for construction companies. An IT team that specializes in construction industry software and mobile technology can help you integrate the right tools into your infrastructure to facilitate and streamline collaboration.
4. Building a Support Structure
Similar to other aspects of your business, technology requires attention and often, special skills. Hardware needs ongoing maintenance and regular updates; software requires regular patches and upgrades. As your business grows, processes will be required to onboard new employees seamlessly and quickly – including everything from setting up payroll and new email accounts and devices to establishing secure access to company applications and systems. And, with the extensive amount of information generated with each project, you’ll need solutions for long-term information management and storage. A dedicated IT support team can perform regular maintenance, answer user questions, troubleshoot technology issues, and establish the processes that will keep your users productive and your business running smoothly.
5. Keeping the Workplace Safe
While technology has its advantages, there are risks, too – from cyber threats to system crashes to natural disasters that can cause data loss and downtime. A recent survey by JBKnowledge indicates that “policies and procedures to secure [cloud] solutions are not in place at construction companies.” Similarly, “over 30% of respondents are using personal devices at work that their companies neither secure nor have policies in place for data stored on them.” Specialized IT knowledge is necessary to provide the strategic guidance as well as implement the proactive processes and solutions that can help you mitigate the associated risks and potential impact on productivity and your business.
While there are common barriers to technology adoption in the construction industry, a dedicated IT team – whether it’s your own or a trusted IT partner like iCorps – can help you incorporate technology proactively into your environment – and set your company up to compete more effectively and efficiently in today’s technology-driven world.