By Chris Richardson, Business Area Manager for Construction software, for Trimble Inc., Civil Engineering and Construction Division.
Australian cities are changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. For example, Melbourne is seven times larger today than it was in 1915 and will soon have Australia’s tallest horizon, with more than 100 skyscrapers higher than 100 metres currently in planning or development phases. As cities expand up and out, the challenge for civil construction engineers is dealing with the expansion pressures placed on the core infrastructure like road and rail networks.
Civil construction is vital for the planning and development of the infrastructures to support city growth. While business may be booming as governments and private investors roll out expansion plans across the globe, the construction industry is falling behind other sectors when it comes to adopting new technology. For example, despite rising costs and increasing customer expectations, very few construction companies in Asia Pacific have taken steps to adopt cloud-based technology to improve basic procedures such as project management.
This is an entirely missed opportunity as the cloud is home to a range of industry-leading software designed to streamline and optimise communication and collaboration, providing any business with a leading edge. Despite this, the majority of construction firms are still using outdated, manual management processes, which create inefficiencies that put them at risk from more innovative and agile competitors.
Implementing an infrastructure refresh, from the ground up, is a challenging task. There are a number of considerations to ensure that businesses are selecting the right technology for their organisations.
Make sure the technology features match your business goals
Every business is different, so the features that are mission critical will vary across companies and industries. For example, some construction companies may need comprehensive support; in which case an end-to-end solution to cover the entire development and implementation of a project is a top choice. Others may only need specific features to support particular kinds of projects.
The ideal construction system will be tailored to meet the requirements of each business. It will also be able to support new and existing developments and proposals.
Scalability is key. Scalability is vital in providing the foundations for business growth and sustainability. Many organisations, both inside and outside of construction, have been faced with the need to replace legacy systems that simply cannot provide the flexibility needed by a growing business. This is often a complex and expensive endeavour so it should be avoided at all costs.
Make sure it’s easy to use
Businesses are fundamentally all about people. That means that user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are some of the most important factors in technology choices because they govern every point of interaction.
For example, construction software must be intuitively designed so that users can adopt it quickly and will enjoy using it. It’s a good idea to avoid using construction management software with blocky, outdated interfaces and excessive features such as pop-up windows and unnecessary features. They will only hinder the business in the long run.
Construction software based on convenient UI and UX designs will ultimately benefit the business enabling employees to learn the system quickly and minimise disruption. End user support is vital; without it new technology is at the risk of being ignored.
It’s advisable to get staff involved in the procurement process when looking to adopt new technologies to ensure it will meet their daily requirements.
Make sure it meets the collaborative and mobile demands of your industry
No company today would isolate employees – instead they actively encourage collaboration because it increases productivity. The same idea applies to technology adoption, so avoiding a stand-alone or “siloed” approach is critical.
Don’t choose programs that will not integrate with other mission critical software. Linking different programs opens the possibility of distributing work through specialised functions, which ensures specific tasks are completed more quickly and effectively. Secondly, it boosts efficiency and removes issues such as double data entry from workflows. For example, when application-programming interfaces are linked to construction software, data can and should be transferred without user input to ensure seamless working across applications. If a company enables flexible data transfer between different systems, then information will be more accurate and efficiencies will be even greater.
Seeing is not always believing
A mindset shift is needed across the construction industry in order to successfully achieve a full system refresh. Typically, within construction we are used to dealing with large capital investments, but usually these conclude with something physical, such as the presence of a new onsite machine. However, this is not necessarily the case with software adoption, especially when implementing cloud-based solutions.
If chosen correctly, the right technology can have an enormous impact on increasing efficiency and reducing costs across a business.
What’s more, adopting the right technologies can ensure that firms remain competitive in the long term. For the construction industry, this includes being able to deliver intelligent solutions for more intelligent construction.