Your 2016 Construction Technology Investment Is Nothing Without This!


This article was originally published to the Zbrella blog on January 12, 2016.

Construction technology budgets for the 2016 year have been set, and many construction companies are preparing to implement some new form of technology this year. Despite the fact that the construction industry is hesitant to invest money into Information Technology (IT) (in 2013, Gartner reported that construction ranked last in comparison to fourteen other industries), the average national spending in 2013 was $4,347 per user. And while that number may be very low in comparison to what other industries spent, to many construction businesses, it is a lot.

That is why it is important for companies investing in IT to understand the complexities, and realize that it’s not only about the technology. So many construction professionals wonder this, “Why isn’t the technology fixing our problems?” And the answer is: it is the people behind the technology that make the technology work, not the technology itself.    

When construction companies think about implementing new technologies onto the field or in the office, we’re usually thinking about these things:

  • Return on Investment (ROI) – Is the tech going to give more than we put into it?
  • Improving Process – How is this going to improve our current process?
  • Time Management – Is this going to make our current process faster?
  • Competitive Edge – Will this give us competitive advantage?
  • Money – How much will it cost us?

Most often times, thinking about ‘how will our staff be trained to fully grasp this new technology’ is not in the equation from the start. Most construction companies realize there will be some type of learning curve and that it’s important to financially prepare for it, but there is not enough emphasis on giving employees a comprehensive education plan. This mentality is comparable to giving an adult a car who doesn’t know how to drive and letting them loose on the road. It doesn’t make sense and chances are the investment will not be a good one.

Let’s take a look at an example that is easy to understand. Right now in the industry, iPads and other tablets are becoming more popular on the field as construction companies shift towards ditching the old paper and pen. Although the option of going paperless has numerous benefits, it is still a major investment. Here’s what we’re facing:  

  1. Spending money on the technology (tablets)
  2. Spending money on licenses for the technology
  3. Spending money on the applications for the tech
  4. Spending money on the Internet connection for the tech
  5. Spending money on device protection (both software & external)
  6. Spending money on the support

In addition, we have to spend some form of money on education. But the problem here is that a lot of companies don’t, and many assume that users already know how to use the iPads because it is such a common technology. And while the device may be common, the applications construction businesses implement are not.

If we look at our list of expenses above and we add them together,

A + B + C + D + E + F = Potential Profit

our equation would be useless if users were not properly trained to use not only the device, but the applications as well. Without education, our equation turns to this:

A + B + C + D + E + F = Wasted Investment

Going back to Gartner’s estimated construction technology spending of $4,347 per user, is a $4,000 employee investment something you would gamble on? No. It is clear now that companies can invest all they want into a technology, but the technology will never fix how professionals use it.

Investing in technology without investing a good amount into the technology education portion is poor process planning. In order to be successful in implementing new software, hardware, apps, devices, etc., construction must rethink the way they plan their budgets. All plans should include a strong education portion that allows their users to use the new technology to its full advantage.

.Otherwise, it’s like paying for a service that you’re not using. And wasted potential and profit is something that no construction company should strive for in 2016.

Stephanie Zucchi is the chief editor and marketing lead for NY-based Zbrella. With degrees in English Honors and Anthropology from Stony Brook University, Stephanie is the resident technology connoisseur of the Zbrella team.