Why Consolidation is the
Next Evolution for
February 23, 2023
Do you remember a day not so long ago, when you carried one device for your email, a second for your phone calls, and a third for your tunes?
Do you also remember the day Steve Jobs gave that speech, launching the iPhone?
That right there, that’s where we are now with construction technology — the moment that changes everything.
Tired of Last Place
If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard enough about how construction is behind the curve (if not dead last) in technology adoption among major industries. All it takes is one look around a jobsite today to see a virtual plethora of tech buzzing around, some quite literally.
So, why is it that we still struggle to get an accurate picture of unified project information?
When you think about it for a moment, things become quite clear. We have cost data over here, we have schedule data over there, and somewhere in between those two we are searching for the latest quality signoffs to finalize our percent complete.
And how have we connected these dots thus far? For as long as I can remember, Excel — or as I like to call it, “the engineer’s best friend” — has been the tool of choice for data wrangling and chart generating. With an import to one column and a copy-paste to another, it has allowed us to finally get to a merged view of last week’s progress. But while this method has sustained the industry for some time, and even evolved a bit with more powerful BI tools, it’s time to take the Jobs’ approach to integrating construction technology.
Developing a Single Solution
As construction has tried to play catchup with technology for the last decade or so, several products have surfaced with very specific solutions to industry problems. Much like the iPod, these “point solutions” matured and became super good at solving for that one thing. However, playing well with others remained off the table. So, while capital projects were being managed through integral processes that spanned companies, and often continents, we were deploying siloed solutions in a way that inadvertently disconnected their flow. Then, as the world shifted to more hybrid working models, these missing connections were amplified.
However, we’ve arrived at the moment in history where the tide is about to shift, and innovators are taking their stage.
You see it happening every day; Contech is in the middle of attempting a mass consolidation. Large conglomerates are gobbling up point solutions, while others are acquiring “service integrators” to connect the point solutions they already bought, and still others are out there touting massive partner marketplaces.
Their message? Gone are the days of a little bailing wire and duct tape to stitch together progress on scope, cost and schedule. With more projects coming in late and over budget than ever before, and the complexity of projects growing at an astounding rate, the industry needs, is demanding even, a clearer picture of project controls. The two-week-old cost report and hand-keyed activity percent complete will no longer cut it.
Construction technology is breaking out their own sledgehammer. It is time to knock down the tech walls that stand between us and a new, single-source reality.
Connecting the Disconnected
Again, construction processes are like no other and naturally cause the biggest issue for creating a unified view of project information out of disparate data. The dollars tracked on a project struggle to align with the same activity completed, the same quantity installed and so on. This is what pushed us to use spreadsheets for calibration.
But by connecting workflows, it is no longer about trying to match or align different data types to one another; that mapping is done intrinsically from the beginning. Because then, with each new piece of collected information or transaction, the fundamental data structure holds true.
As one of my good buddies put it the other day, “Tech is at its best when it is out of the way.”
Therefore, in order to connect meaningful data we must also enable crews with collection mechanisms that align with how they best execute their work. For instance, positioning the capture of scope, cost and schedule progress into a single entry point that is with them at the workface eliminates the need to try to recall certain details of their operation at the end of a long day.
And thanks to advancements in mobile devices, integrating the data captured into the necessary tracking workflows — from projects controls to safety and quality — cleans up any of the ancillary duplicate-entry issues that could arise.
Yet while connected data and automated processes may sound cool, it’s important to remember that none of it matters if the people involved are still struggling to understand how to use it. Think about the typical jobsite today. How difficult is this tech adoption on your people if they must learn three or four different logins, different button setups, different coding structures, and different help lines? Without a common platform that users are familiar with, they will become stuck in a constant loop of train and retrain to get things right.
You see, there is also a hidden benefit of consolidation, achieving a common user experience. This is exactly what made the App Store so successful right out of the gate, and it still holds true today. If we simplify the learning curve, we can empower our crews. Because after all, construction is still a people business, and empowering people to be their best every day is a must for any successful project.
Back in 2007, it was difficult if not impossible to fathom what the consolidation of our communication devices would mean for the world. One thing is for sure though; generations and skillsets have become connected in ways and in numbers like never before. There may be a few hold outs, but it is increasingly hard to find a flip phone these days.
What has this mass adoption done for our own personal skill building? Well, let me ask you this: If you had to learn how to change the headlamp on your car, where would you go? When I was young, I asked my dad. Now, I search YouTube. In fact, so does my dad.
Turns out, consolidating technology created shared libraries of expertise, all available 24/7, 365 days a year. What would happen if we could do this for capital projects?
By connecting the data and workflows of construction, we’re automatically building a referenceable knowledge library for teams to leverage at-will. Benchmarked costs, historical risk analyses, and execution lessons learned are now catalogued and archived as each data point is collected. Truly, the work we do today is directly forming — and informing — the projects of tomorrow.
And this is where innovation starts to really become fun; when machine learning and artificial intelligence can begin to leverage your data to get out in front of issues that matter to you.
Today your phone can suggest the best route to your next destination, and chatbots are writing basic essays off a few input prompts. What if tomorrow, this kind of tech could allow you to figure a budget and schedule for the facility your client just explained to you in three sentences? When data is indexed, matched, and collected in a way that the garbage is removed, and the context is well known, it will tell a story tomorrow that we can’t begin to fathom today.
But first, consolidation.
Ready to take a deeper dive? Schedule a one-on-one consultation to find out how InEight can help you succeed in your construction technology journey.
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