Six years ago, the vast majority of construction professionals knew little about the cloud. Adoption certainly has picked up since then, and four main cloud computing trends will have the biggest impact for construction companies in 2018.
1. Continued Movement of IT Infrastructures to Cloud Hosting Services
Spurred by aging hardware and little or no in-house IT staff, smaller construction companies have generally been the first to make the leap to cloud hosting services. That trend will continue in 2018.
But the biggest change will be with larger contractors, which have been more reluctant to move their IT infrastructures to the cloud. These firms tend to have much more invested in their on-premises systems and more data to migrate. However, as the cloud has matured, larger companies have become more confident in the technology’s security and what it can offer in terms of capabilities and cost savings. Consequently, larger construction firms are expected to accelerate their move to the cloud by transferring at least part of their IT operations to cloud hosting environments.
2. The Rise of the Hybrid Cloud
Many contractors, large and small, will take a hybrid cloud approach in which the bulk of their more sensitive data still remains on a private network, either on-premises or with a cloud hosting service, while cloud-based mobile apps are used in the field to access and add to the data. This reduces data migration costs and is less disruptive to a contractor’s business, yet it still leverages the most important aspect of the cloud: mobility.
To accommodate contractors that prefer a hybrid cloud model, more on-premises Windows construction applications will become mobile-enabled. Cloud technology, in this case, is used more as a secure “browser” or gateway into a contractor’s backend systems to provide the mobile access needed.
3. An Emphasis on Integration and Workflow
In construction, cloud-based apps will move further away from being isolated solutions that solve only one particular problem. Instead, tighter integration among cloud apps—as well as with back-office on-premises systems—will foster more workflow technology. This will allow construction companies to automate entire manual processes that often cross between the office and the field.
One example of this workflow is daily field reporting. With new cloud technology advances, superintendents can use mobile devices not only to document what’s happening on the jobsite, but also send information, such as percentage complete details, directly into their company’s back office systems. Then, accounting management can automatically pick up that information for work-in-progress and other reporting.
4. Cloud-based Business Intelligence
Finally, the cloud will make it much easier and more cost effective to synthesize data from across a contractor’s company and convert it into meaningful analytics for better decision making. Access to dashboards, KPIs and other valuable analytics will be more accessible via mobile devices.
There’s no doubt that cloud technology will continue to transform the construction industry. Already it is helping contractors improve communication within their companies and foster collaboration with other members of the building team. But that is just the beginning. In the coming years, cloud technology will provide the foundation for even greater advances. The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, robotics and the next stages of BIM are just a few technologies that the cloud will help propel into the future.