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Construction companies need to do their homework when choosing digital solutions

Angela Gismondi
Construction companies need to do their homework when choosing digital solutions

Before you decide what digital tools are a good fit for your company, you first need to ask yourself what you want to automate and why, says Stephanie Brown, a construction technology adviser and founder of Intelligent Construction Opportunities (ICO).

“Digital tools should enhance the facilitation of construction projects no differently than a hand tool or a piece of machinery,” said Brown. “It is a tool that is supposed to function to change something to get to a particular outcome.”

ICO provides the construction industry with services to systemize the evaluation of software, guiding contractors, project managers, commercial and residential construction stakeholders through the journey of buying the technology that aligns with business goals and budget, Brown said.

“It’s not a Google search,” she said. “A Google search starts to inform them about what’s in the water, what’s out there. But it’s all in the details.

“I started Intelligent Construction Opportunities to align automation need, company workflows and project requirements from a vendor neutral perspective…to get away from a vendor bias, round peg, square hole mentality, and take a step back to strategically assess and ask how you do things now, and then work our way back to the potential technology.”

It’s also beneficial to get buy-in from the people who are going to be using the technology.

“Bring in a power user and bring in a dissenter or someone who is a curmudgeon as soon into the conversation as you can, because you must ultimately have the buy-in of people that there is something to automate,” said Brown.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital tools and technology for many construction companies. Some people adopt the technology and others resist or are not comfortable with it, Brown said.

“You’ve got older generations of contractors and tradespeople that have been honing their skills for 20-plus years and have put in the time to have earned the designation of ‘craftsperson,’” Brown explained.

“Then the digital world hits, pandemic or not, and some resist using an app to one finger type communications for the back office. Or they don’t have time to wrestle with an app that requires multiple clicks and adds additional time away from their actual projects when they are already behind schedule. Or they haven’t been properly trained to use software meant to record scans that might compromise the quality of their work otherwise.”

Brown’s background is in professional development for the software industry. When she began working on the technology development side of things, she consistently identified gaps in platform workflows unforeseen by software developers who often don’t have related industry experience, she explained.

“Software developers often don’t have real-life job context for the software they are designing,” she said.

“Prospects don’t always take the time to assess their own environment and business practices. This includes taking into consideration not just how they complete their projects but who is responsible for each stage of the project task.

“I was finding that there was very often a misalignment between the software workflows and the business practices contractors have relied on for years to complete their projects and most importantly have staked their reputations on.”

So how do you choose the digital tools that are a good fit for your organization? Brown recommends evaluating the strategic goals and objectives of the company itself; understanding current business practices, systems and workflows; figuring out what they want to automate and why; determine the desired future state and the benefits you are looking to get from it; and establishing an evaluation criteria and list of requirements to shortlist the most appropriate solution for each client.

“That’s how I start to source the particular software, based on those top level requirements and features,” she said.


Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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