You’ve probably heard the term “digital transformation” at some point. It’s a buzzword that gets a lot of attention in every industry, even construction.
But what does it really mean? Why does it even matter for your crews and projects?
Well, it is important for any leader to understand.
In an industry faced with crippling inefficiencies, digitization is the way forward in this modern age. It’s what will keep your projects safe, on time, and under budget.
Keep reading to learn why the industry is at a tipping point and how others are digitizing their operations.
What's a Digital Transformation?
First, let’s define digital transformation– it’s the process of using digital technologies to create new and improve existing business processes and culture to meet today’s market demands.
That’s easy to understand at a high level.
But digital transformation is much more than just adopting a few digital tools to replace your spreadsheets and manual data entry.
Instead, you need to step back and consider how technology can fundamentally change how you run your business. It’s as much a cultural (or mindset shift) as a change in operations.
Ask yourself, “How can I reimagine my business in the digital age?”
With that mindset, you’ll start to see how to integrate digital tools and data into all areas of your business. Doing so will improve your operations and deliver more value to your clients.
We’ll look at some of the possibilities of technology below.
But before doing so, let’s see what’s driving the urgency for leaders to embrace technology now, or risk the inability to compete in the future.
Construction is Changing, but Why?
Here’s some of the main factors behind digital transformations happening in the construction industry.
1. Labor Shortage
It’s no secret that the construction industry has suffered from a labor shortage for years now. In fact, up to 80% of firms are now struggling to find the workers they need.
When it’s more difficult than ever to find workers, you need to be productive with ones you do have. A digital transformation helps you maximize efficiency at every point during your projects.
2. Rising Age of Workers
Closely related to the labor shortage is the rising average age of construction workers, which is now at an all-time high.
Younger generations aren’t joining the workforce at the same pace. But fortunately using tech like mobile apps can be a good way to attract young and skilled workers in a competitive market.
The global pandemic suddenly forced businesses to completely change the way they worked. Manual processes that relied on in-person interaction were no longer an option.
Many turned to digital tools to help keep things running during this time. In doing so, leaders discovered the value of tech to drive efficiency and growth in their business.
Now CEOs are accelerating their digital transformations to seize upon new opportunities.
4. Increased Project Complexity
On top of all these challenges, leaders are also dealing with more complex projects because:
- Materials and technologies in modern buildings continue to advance
- More regulations and safety standards to abide by
- Buildings are even bigger (in some cases)
Despite these changes, construction methods haven’t advanced at the same rate. Leaders are trying to use the same methods from years ago to solve today’s challenges to all degrees of failure.
If you want to sustain your business in this digital age, you need to look to new ways to operate.
The good news? You don’t have to start by investing in fancy, expensive tech like drones, AI, and virtual reality.
Instead, you can upgrade your biggest process pain points with innovative, but practical solutions. Let’s see how.
Technology Trends that Any Construction Business Can Take Advantage of
Here’s the must-know technology trends you can use:
1. Automate critical processes
Many businesses still struggle with outdated processes. Think of paper tracking, spreadsheets, and relying on data like time entry straight from workers. These types of inefficiencies are bogging down businesses and preventing growth.
That’s why 29% of small and mid-sized trade contractors are investing in software to automate them.
You can automate everyday processes like:
- Field data collection
- Project estimating
- Time entry
- Asset tracking
- Project status updates
Automation is faster, more accurate, and easier to scale across projects of any size. It’s the leg up you need to increase productivity and profitability on more complex projects.
Where should you start? Prioritize repetitive and inefficient processes that you deal with daily. Then, make small, incremental improvements to them with automation and software.
Change is hard. Focus on what will have the biggest impact for your team.
2. Moving toward cloud-based software options
More companies are turning to cloud-based software solutions. This type of tech is available anytime, anywhere via the internet. You just log in using a web browser.
These solutions work well for the construction industry. They easily track all the moving parts of a project (equipment, personnel, etc.) across any geographic location.
They also replace legacy software solutions that only exist on computers in an office. Now team members can conveniently enter data while in the field, making it immediately accessible to management and the rest of the team.
Here’s an example of a scheduling dashboard that you can access on any mobile device.
3. All-in-one project management software
When implementing new software, it’s common to pick a handful of applications that handle a single function like time entry or managing purchase orders.
But the challenge is that all these different systems must work together as a unit. It’s harder than it sounds. And when they’re poorly integrated, you’re still left with inefficiencies.
Realizing this, leaders are now turning to all-in-one construction management systems.
These platforms include different modules for scheduling, estimating, job costing, CRM, work orders, and more. But the main advantage is that they’re built to work together. Your operations are then centralized into a single piece of software.
SPARK Select is a good example of all-in-one project management software. You can choose different modules like field data collection, time entry, safety, and dashboards to build a personalized solution that meets all your requirements.
And in platforms like Select, you don’t have to start with all the functionality out of the gate. You can pick what you need and add more features later. This helps you control costs and implement tech at your own pace.
4. Using Mobile Apps
Smartphones are the most used technology on job sites on a daily basis, and their use continues to accelerate.
In 2020, 22% of construction workers use 6 or more apps in their work while 63% use 3 or more apps.
Why do mobile apps work? Because they’re easy, fast, and simple to use.
Here’s an example of a mobile app that lets a worker track their job progress out in the field. They can track tasks, log notes, and attach photos.
Planning for a Digital Transformation
Digitization is an opportunity for every construction business. But you have to approach it with the right mindset. It’s more than a simple fix to your short-term problem, but rather a new mindset for how you do business now and in the future.
Before you start a new project though, there’s a few things you need to prepare for. We’ll cover those steps in next week’s article.
In the meantime, you can download our checklist below to get a sneak peek at an action plan.
Do you need a plan for how to digitize your operations?
We developed these steps after helping hundreds of others go through their own digital revolution.
Robert Armbrister is the President and CEO of SPARK Business Works. SPARK builds mobile apps, dashboards, websites, and workflow tools that are just right for the way construction companies work. Robert has helped create everyday digital revolutions for more than 50 trade contractors in Michigan. SparkBusinessWorks.com/Construction