The construction industry's notoriously slow to embrace new tech, but research shows that greater adoption has the potential to save time, money and jobs.
The use of technology in the construction industry is a fascinating and complex topic. Although it plays a dominant role throughout all stages of a project, technology is rarely understood and even more rarely utilised to its full potential.
Construction professionals rightly consider themselves practical people – they work hard with their hands and deal with physical assets as much as possible – and it is likely for that reason that many have failed to recognise the potential of technology to streamline traditional process. For instance, according to the 2018 Construction Technology Report from JBKnowledge, even as companies transition to a digital, cloud-based workflow, more than half of the surveyed employees say they still transfer data manually. Not only is this inefficient, it completely undermines innovation and agility within the industry.
There are three reasons why this is such common practice:
- The first is a dislike of the services being used by organisations. Rather than learn to use them, employees are ignoring their potential altogether.
- The second is that employees don't understand what defines cloud-based solutions. In previous reports, many of those who said they didn't use cloud services later admitted to using solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive.
- The third reason is that some respondents who said their organisations didn't use cloud solutions were actually incorrect.
A lack of understanding
Ultimately, these three reasons can be combined into one: a lack of understanding. Both employer and employee are often guilty of this. Too frequently, the question of how users will adopt and utilise technology is sidelined by expectation and presumption. Organisations expect users to recognise the potential of new technology and presume they will teach themselves to use it as a result.
If a worker feels comfortable relying on spreadsheets and a physical blueprint to do their work, why would they replace them with cloud-based services and a tablet of their own accord? And why should organisations expect them to? New technology should never come at the cost of staff, and those that disagree often end up with plenty of tech with nobody willing to use it.
The need for greater tech leadership
It's a serious problem for construction organisations that recognise the need to be agile and efficient in all elements of the work. Fortunately, the solution is relatively straightforward.
Tech leaders – leaders who take a technical- and service-based approach to leadership – can bridge the gap between employees and technology through practical application and user empowerment. By demonstrating how tech solutions can be applied to optimise workflow in the work environment rather than in a meeting room, users are more willing to engage. When leaders then encourage them to go about their tasks using the technology, knowing that they have someone to talk to if they are having trouble, that engagement increases further.
The lack of change in the construction sector is not a result of apathy. Builders are just as excited by the opportunity to streamline their workflow as any other group of workers. But the demands of the industry mean they never have the time to tinker with technology and figure out how it works for them. By having tech leaders guide them in a practical environment, organisations can take a proactive stance towards making the most of cutting-edge technology that will make them a more appealing option for prospective clients.
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