It’s no secret that digitization is transforming the global construction industry. In its most evolved form, digitization means that project collaborators are all connected on a single technology platform, sharing information freely among different companies and across different departments within the same company.
Contractors can identify high-performing subcontractors, standardize processes and continuously improve, cutting time and waste out of each process. Adopting a connected construction management platform offers organizations visibility across a portfolio of projects, enabling them to make better strategic decisions and receive warnings before little problems turn into big ones.
However, not all connected platforms offer the same benefits. Before contractors decide which one to adopt, they should answer these eight questions.
1. Is it easy to learn and use?
Connected platforms are most effective when everyone, from project managers to site supervisors, uses them. If the software isn’t simple and intuitive, many project team members will simply ignore it and continue to do things the way they always have. With cloud-based systems, updates and new functionality are rolled out more frequently.
Less obviously, easy-to-use technology helps attract talent. Tomorrow’s construction workforce grew up using intuitive mobile applications and will expect nothing less as they enter the field.
2. Is it a single, integrated platform that supports key project processes?
The real power of construction management software comes from its ability to create a single source of truth that all project participants can access. The platform should support most key construction processes, with the ability to integrate with other systems when needed. More data capture enables greater visibility into bottlenecks and project progress so contractors can act faster. A collection of point solutions that must be stitched together on the back end does not offer the same power and flexibility.
Here is a platform process checklist:
- contract management;
- RFIs and change orders;
- transmittals and submittals;
- design and shop drawing reviews;
- inspections, quality and safety;
- bids and tenders;
- daily site reports;
- plan management;
- project cost management;
- project scheduling;
- handover to operation and maintenance;
- project reporting; and
3. Is it neutral and secure?
Before project members begin using a new system, they must trust that their data is secure. Contractors should look for a technology partner whose security model ensures that uploaded data remains private until shared with others. Unfortunately, most vendors expect the system implementor to set up the correct permissions on each new project. This increases the risk of the information falling into the wrong hands.
The other component of neutrality is that no “super user” can alter or delete the trail of communications and documents shared among organizations. Without neutrality, project members will keep duplicate records to protect themselves from potential litigation, which creates multiple versions of the truth.
Other simple security questions are: Is the technology ISO 27001 certified? Is there a two-step verification process? Data security is job one, and the platform should provide an indelible audit trail that helps build trust with the supply chain.
4. Is it easily adaptable and scalable across portfolios?
Some contractors want a platform that works straight out of the box, with minimal tweaking, so they can get an upcoming project up and running fast without consuming IT resources. Others want the ability to configure software to their unique business processes, especially high-volume processes. The ideal platform allows both, with a focus on fast and easy workflow configuration. It also should support different types of delivery models, contract types, levels of complexity and project sizes so contractors can report across their diverse portfolios, standardize processes and extract project learnings or best practices for continuous improvement.
5. Is it designed with mobility in mind?
The ability to quickly share information between the back office and the jobsite is becoming essential. The platform must include mobile access and apps for all its core processes to support field teams, so the right decisions can be reached faster. Empowering jobsite workers starts with the right information when they need it, enabling them to act faster and minimize stalls.
6. Does it allow contractors to manage insights at every level: process, project and portfolio?
A platform should deliver insights into day-to-day processes so action can be taken on bottlenecks and stalls, and extend those insights across multiple projects. The platform should provide visibility at every level so contractors can build and customize reports themselves.
7. Is the vendor a trusted partner when it comes to experience, vision and service?
Construction management is an extremely complex endeavor with lots of moving parts. Even the best, easiest-to-use software can’t anticipate every situation. Contractors should seek out a platform vendor that offers 24/7 support options, both onsite and online.
Beyond user support, they should pay close attention to how vendors engage during the buying process. Do they take time to understand the contractor’s processes and needs? Software mapped to specific workflows helps ensure a successful implementation. The upfront investment will minimize future support requests, saving time and frustration down the road.
At a higher level, nobody knows what the construction technology landscape will look like in five to 10 years. Contractors should select a technology partner with a proven track record and a vision to continuously improve project delivery.
8. does it meet security requirements For contractors looking to bid on and win government projects?
Governments around the world face increasing threats to cybersecurity from a wide range of sources. In response, they have implemented higher compliance specifications for information and communications technology services. U.S. government agencies have been directed to FedRAMP, a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud-based products and services. When engaging potential technology partners, contractors should confirm they are FedRAMP-certified or in the process of becoming certified.
Construction firms are embracing new technologies, but at different speeds and levels of sophistication. Understanding and evaluating an organization’s technological maturity is the first step toward digital transformation. By answering the eight questions above, contractors will be able to define their position on the adoption curve and select an appropriate platform that meets their specific needs.