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Tips reveal how technology can improve productivity

Patricia Williams
Tips reveal how technology can improve productivity
PATRICIA WILLIAMS — Residential renovations market veteran Bryan Kaplan, now the principal in Toronto-based Project Planners, discusses the role of technology in residential construction at a seminar at The Buildings Show in Toronto. During a 20-year career in the industry, Kaplan has observed an overall lack of planning, preparation, financial tracking and overall effective project management in the sector.

During the course of a career in the residential renovations market that has spanned close to two decades, Bryan Kaplan has witnessed an enormous shift in the use of technology.

The principal in Toronto-based Project Planners says technology can now be harnessed to improve a firm’s productivity as well as enhance collaboration and relationships with clients and colleagues.

In terms of a firm’s bottom line, technology can also be leveraged to help businesses succeed and grow, Kaplan told a recent seminar at The Buildings Show in Toronto.

But by the same token, he acknowledged, “it isn’t all good news.”

Firms need to be aware of certain potential “dangers” associated with technology and take appropriate action, he said.

“One of the things that technology does is separate us a bit from the human interaction that we used to have,” he said, pointing to the fact that digital communications in part can feel cold and impersonal.

Kaplan, whose resume includes stints as a site supervisor and project manager and who now provides consulting services to the residential construction sector, briefed attendees on a raft of technologies and their potential applications.

The list includes project management software which Kaplan said is particularly advantageous in dealing with such tasks as daily activities logs and purchase and change orders; project documentation software for builders; client relations management software; and the Cloud.

“The Cloud has really changed how we store data,” Kaplan said, noting that data storage needs have increased exponentially with advances in technology.

Kaplan also referenced “game-changing” materials delivery service apps such as RenoRun and Toolbx “that bring the convenience of the big box store to your jobsite.

“The point is to keep your teams onsite,” he said.

RenoRun is currently only available in Toronto and Montreal.

In a multi-pronged presentation, Kaplan addressed strategies for using social media such as Facebook, the “superpower” in this space, Instagram, “which allows you to showcase your project” and LinkedIn, which is “much more” than a tool for recruiting staff.

“Each platform has different optimization abilities for your marketing campaign.”

During the one-hour seminar, Kaplan presented his top 10 communication and productivity hacks.

These are:

  • Stop taking handwritten notes. Instead, use a Cloud-based notes program like Evernote.
  • Write great content once. Use canned responses for Gmail or store documents on your Cloud-based platform.
  • Use delay-send plug-ins for email like Boomerang. That way builders can clear out their inbox on a Sunday night but schedule responses to be sent Monday to avoid being viewed by clients as “a 24-hour convenience store.”
  • Stop using handwritten time sheets. This will avoid “a lot of pain and suffering,” Kaplan said.
  • Stop driving to the store or other jobsites all the time. Instead, use material delivery service apps and set up digital communication channels with your onsite teams.
  • Use project management software. Kaplan said while this initially may prove daunting, “you will thank me later.”
  • Use a project close-out platform like Conasys. Providing clients with a portal they can access easily and quickly from their smartphones is gold, Kaplan said.
  • Don’t duplicate work. Spend time today creating a repeatable system for activities that are done over and over again.
  • Always do things that will leverage your future time. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, he said.
  • Remove email notifications from your phone and computer.

“I took those notifications off three years ago and I’ve never missed an email since,” Kaplan said, noting in case of emergencies, clients or colleagues can make a phone call.

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