Tips to Successfully Select and Implement New Technology
Among smaller companies and tradesmen, it’s not uncommon to find an office manager or the business owner running the business off a few spreadsheets. Larger companies may have the resources to spend, but the fact remains that construction has historically spent less on technology when compared to all other industries.
However, the tide is definitely turning and construction has become relatively hot in the enterprise and business application segments of the technology industry, attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital and scores of startups and new ventures focused on construction tech.
SELECTING NEW TECHNOLOGY
FOR LARGER CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES, APIS ARE ESSENTIAL
Chances are a larger construction company will already have some technology tools in place. Whether it’s a specialized program or application specifically intended for use in the construction industry, or a more generic enterprise software that might have some construction industry modules tacked on, larger construction companies, just like larger companies in any industry, are far more likely to have invested in technology tools than their smaller counterparts. For these larger companies, when considering a new piece of technology, integration with existing systems is key. The technical term for this is an API or Application Program Interface. Purchasing a new technology that can’t seamlessly interface with existing systems is a recipe for disaster. Or at the very least, adding a new system that can’t talk to the existing systems means that someone is going to have to spend a significant amount of time doing data entry to ensure that all of the data exists in both systems. And forget about being able to see things in real time – data won’t be accurate until it is all entered.
Yves Frinault, CEO of Fieldwire, had this to say about the importance of integration, “Construction is such a vast sector that you will never find a tool that does everything well. When using multiple best-in-breed tools, integration is the only way to keeps things efficient. As a result, the capacity to integrate with other tools is as a fundamentally important characteristic when choosing construction technology.”
SMB CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES SHOULD FOCUS ON SAVING TIME AND INCREASING PRODUCTIVITY
For small and medium businesses, a good way to evaluate new technology is to examine the way the company currently does things in the office and look for “pain points” (time-consuming, manual tasks that are repeatable) and then look for technology that will help to streamline those task to improve efficiency, productivity and ultimately, save money. A classic example is moving to a program such as Quickbooks to replace an inefficient accounting system based on spreadsheets, paper files and Post-It Notes.
CONDUCT A TECH AUDIT OF CUSTOMERS, PARTNERS AND COMPETITORS AND SEE HOW THEY COMPARE
If top competitors are all using a new technology that another company is not, does that put the company at a competitive disadvantage? It is losing business because its competitors are using technology to provide superior customer service? Is it losing out on bids due because it can’t match the technology-driven capabilities of competitors? Companies finding themselves in either of these scenarios might consider taking a serious look at a technology upgrade.
Conversely, if there is a new technology that competitors are not yet using, being the first company to adopt that technology may be a differentiator, giving the company a competitive advantage. Frinault notes that “Successful technology always ends up being adopted by the majority of the market. The people who have great patterns to evaluate and deploy new technologies will lead the pack and … the other ones will just have to play catch-up because they are no longer competitive. A case in point is the sheer speed at which mobile adoption is happening on site today. It’s fundamentally changing the way people are working and it’s happening very rapidly.”
IMPLEMENTING NEW TECHNOLOGY
Keep in mind that all companies, and the people who work in those companies, are different. Markets are different too. There is no “one size fits all” answer that will work for any company, in any market.
LEAN ON THE TECHNOLOGY VENDOR FOR TRAINING HELP
Incorporating a new technology is ultimately the buyer’s responsibility, but facilitating a user’s success is the responsibility of the vendor. Choosing a new technology based on its capabilities alone neglects some of the most important criteria to consider, namely, the training, user success and support the vendor provides. Last but certainly not least, look for a vendor that takes a proactive approach to training and does things like sharing the “best practices” of its other users, has videos and other training resources readily available, or facilitates a “community blog” where users can post questions to, and get answers from, the entire user base.
ENGAGE A CHAMPION INTERNALLY
Companies that consistently have the most successful implementations of new technology often seem to have a dedicated, resourceful employee at the heart of the implementation that owns the process. For larger companies, this might be a cross-functional team instead of just one person. This person or team will be the main point of contact with the technology vendor, and they will help keep everything organized and on track, including training sessions, user adoption, identifying and dealing with any issues, etc.
TRAINING IS ESSENTIAL
Training needs to be mandatory and it needs to be ongoing. Training on a new technology is not something that can be “set and forgotten.” After all, a business is going to change and the technology will likely have regular updates and new functionality. It is essential to revisit training on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly) to make sure that all users stay on the same page, which will help maximize the value that the technology provides overall.