As a consultant, I always find that the first issue in improving technology is not really about technology, but getting company personnel to understand each other’s needs and to start communicating so that everyone is moving toward a common goal of continuous improvement. This article discusses some of the challenges that contractors face in adopting and using the latest technology to stay competitive and enhance customer satisfaction.
In the past few years, a number of powerful collaborative construction management solutions have come on the market. All are cloud-based for a simple reason. Anytime, anywhere access is crucial to making content and alerts to stakeholders in a construction project available to whomever needs it be they owners, construction managers, architects, engineers or subcontractors.
The technology now exists to replace all the notepads, Excel files, Word documents, manual email alerts, paper signatures, phone calls, and more with a single device; either a PC, Android, iPhone or tablet can do it all.
So why do so many companies still operate the way they did 20 years ago?
As was famously said in a 1960’s Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is… [a] failure to communicate.”
Without effective communication, your competition, who has mastered that skill, is going to eat your lunch simply because they will get more done, more effectively and make a greater profit than you by having mastered the technology. With greater profitability, they can beat you on quoting jobs and deliver them on time and with greater quality.
With a smartphone, you can capture and save videos, photos, phone calls, digital documents, GPS to locate fixed assets, 3-D images (BIM) and more. Project managers must be able to instantly access data. They need to quickly document and communicate changes, problems, subcontractor invoices, time cards, and financial data to keep the project moving on schedule. Without this information, management is handicapped in meeting cost and cash flow projections.
Technology is Not Enough
Simply sending an email or leaving a voicemail is no longer effective communication.
Once sent, these messages can easily get lost or be forgotten. Just look at your own inbox. Messages are constantly overlooked.
But technology is closing the communication gap with tracking measures to alert when communications are received, opened and read as well as versioning control for documents to which multiple parties have access and can make changes.
How to Achieve True Collaboration
Getting information to the people who need it and when they need to have it is the core of collaboration. But collaboration nothing more than a great concept unless everyone involved buys into the process and understands why it’s so important.
Construction project managers are famously lone rangers in the way they operate. Too often, different teams and departments work in their own silos. They use different procedures and technologies to process data. They have drawers where they keep manual records and, of course, lots of special purpose Excel files to track information. This co-opts information sharing since information gets lost or delays occur when data that is collected and stored one way is reconfigured and transferred another way.
Both business and operational management need to understand the big picture of how data (or lack of it) affects the company’s bottom line. Project managers and financial staff must step outside their comfort zones.
Both sides should sit together periodically, at least monthly, to discuss projects, share ideas and review any problems.