The construction industry is set to go through a significant technological shift in the coming years.
There are now more cloud-based software providers in the AEC sector focusing on various solutions than ever before, and more technology companies are joining the market at a rapid pace.
However, only a relatively small percentage of AEC businesses are adopting cloud-based technology systems to manage their projects, with the majority of the market still using mostly manual and inefficient processes. With so many software providers to choose from, why is the uptake of cloud-based management solutions so low?
Some common arguments are that workers are not yet interested in using technology to complete their work or that companies are not willing to disrupt their current business systems or processes. Some firms would certainly fit into this category. However, there are other factors that could make a difference between a slow or rapid adoption of modern management systems within the construction market.
The construction process is unique in that it is dependent on teams of numerous companies working together to complete a project. Head contractors can be simultaneously working with hundreds of different companies to complete their projects. If a management system seems perfect for your company, is it suitable for your external associates to use it? And will they happily commit to using it?
The concept of real collaboration within construction depends on how easily information can flow back and forth, be it document updates, signing off defects and safety items or responding to request for information notices. Most of the time, there is some response required from another party for the project to move forward. Tardy responses will ultimately delay the project’s completion.
Management systems for construction must have the flexibility to tackle this collaboration obstacle by making it easier for external companies to communicate. This can be achieved by giving them options to choose from rather than imposing on them a process that may not be convenient for their business. The objective is to ensure smooth information flow and effective collaboration on the project.
An example is to have the flexibility for sub-contractors or consultants to respond or action anything using their email, with an option to complete the same action using their management system account. Either way, the flow of information can be logged and the project can move forward more efficiently.
Ease of use
When designing their software, innovative technology companies place great emphasis on user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). Construction software must be able to give weight to these elements to ensure that users not only find it easy to learn how to use the system, but also to enjoy the experience of using it.
It is common to see construction management software with MS-DOS looking interfaces and an abundance of digital spreadsheets, pop-up windows and far too many options to choose from.
Construction software that has a strong focus on the latest UI and UX principles will benefit the end user, allowing them to learn the system quickly and adopt it without too much inconvenience to the business.
For construction technology companies, the question of which features to develop within a system can be tricky. Some construction companies prefer to adopt an end-to-end solution to cover every aspect of their development processes, while others only require specific features to run their projects.
Similar to the first point regarding collaboration barriers, a construction management system must have the flexibility to allow companies to pick and choose the features they need for their projects and therefore be able to customise their own system.
This flexibility can benefit a much larger segment of the market and result in a quicker adoption of the technology within the industry.
Collaborative software infrastructure
The same flexibility is also necessary for construction software providers in how seamlessly their product can connect with others. Through well-developed application programming interfaces (APIs), connecting the construction software with various specialised systems is possible. This allows the free transfer of data and enables the users to continue utilizing their specialised systems without interruption.
An example is connecting construction management system with and transferring data to and from a CRM system or an accounting system without the need for double entry.
Providing flexible data transfer between various systems will ensure project information is more accurate while achieving a higher level of efficiency.
Smart device compatibility
According to mobile statistics in Australia (from IAB Australia), smartphones and tablets make up 63 per cent of the total time spent on any device. Furthermore, smartphone ownership increased from 11.1 million in 2013 to 15.3 million in mid-2015 and tablet ownership increased from 6.3 million to 11.2 million.
For construction solutions, allowing the workforce to access their solution on a smart mobile device is crucial. This can be achieved by incorporating a responsive design to adapt to any device within a web browser, and also by developing smart device applications that can be downloaded and can work offline. This will allow all stakeholders in a project to have access to the latest information any time, anywhere.
However, mobile access is only one part of the solution; the other is the speed of applications. Social media giants such as Facebook have enormous resources to develop their applications to be instantly responsive and are used by millions of people each day.
These leading applications have now set the benchmark of how users expect any application to behave. By focusing heavily on the software optimisation for speed, this will create the experience that users expect and in turn lead to a greater adoption.
The future need for cloud-based management software in construction will increase, and should see a much greater adoption by the industry. The shift from manual and paper-based processes to digital solutions can happen at a much greater rate by providing systems that are simple to use, provide seamless collaboration between people and technologies, and offer the flexibility to cater for different projects and company requirements.
Are there any other points that you think are creating barriers for businesses to adopt construction management technology?