Michael Trenski, Construction Technology Associate, AMLI Development Company
The construction industry is buzzing with talk of project management platforms, drones, wearables, A.I. Bots, and a host of other innovative technologies. Technology firms and Silicon Valley are aware that construction is ripe with opportunities for new innovations. And the push to digitize the construction industry is just beginning. Some firms are further along in this journey than others, but it’s becoming less surprising when a local mom-and-pop subcontractor shows up onsite with their iPads. It’s exciting to see the industry moving in the right direction, but once your new technology is up and running, it doesn’t stop there. Two questions need to be asked, “Who’s going to manage these platforms?” and “How are we going to measure if our investment is successful?”
"With the addition of a dedicated construction technology resource and thoughtful analysis of your data, you’ll open the door to improved efficiency and insights."
Let’s start with the first question, “Who’s going to manage these platforms?” Don’t assume this responsibility should automatically be given to someone who has administrative permissions and is solely responsible for creating new user accounts and configuring settings.
To be successful, this role needs to focus on the adoption of those systems, not just internally but also with your trade partners, tracking software updates and communicating important changes (UI, UX, functionality, etc.), standardizing platform usage, and providing data-driven analysis. Data analysis is the key to answering our second question.
AMLI Development Company decided to hire a dedicated person (me) to manage all their current solutions and lead the implementation of new solutions. Although, I’m writing an article that highlights a role that keeps me employed, I will do my best to share insights as to why this is the right decision if you’re serious about going digital and becoming an innovator. I’m sharing my perspective as someone who has spent the last eight years working in both construction operations and construction technology (SaaS: Software as a service) roles.
Ideally, you want to fill this role with someone who has construction and technology experience. I know this is easier said than done, but many of the new professionals entering the industry already have strong technology backgrounds. If you think you’ll have trouble hiring for this position externally, consider that you may already have an ideal candidate within your organization.
A final thought on this person’s responsibilities; they need to be eager to build trust in the field through transparency and a willingness to support those who need help. The truth is, many of the industry’s field staff are still tech-adverse. This often stems from insecurity about using technology properly or reluctancy to change. As for the second question, “How are we going to measure if our investment is successful?” The answer is in your data. However, to get the most out of your data, you need to focus on setting a foundation, and that starts with standardizing your use of the technology. Standardizing your usage in its simplest form means that all the inputs into the system will follow the same basic logic. This ensures the data across your entire portfolio will have the same characteristics.
I would recommend drafting a standard operating procedure (SOP) for each piece of technology you implement. When drafting the SOP, carefully consider what you’re trying to achieve and what results your company expects. This document will never be finished as it needs to adapt to changes in technology, the voice of the field, and innovative ideas.But once you’ve established standardized practices, the exciting world of data analysis and business intelligence begins to unfold.
AMLI began its data journey about two years ago. We have leveraged direct connections, APIs, and data exports from our platforms, and use Power BI to develop visual reports and dashboards. Power BI has been an incredibly powerful tool. We can gain insights into user usage, SOP compliance, safety trends, and project health just to name a few benefits. The ability to visually digest hundreds of thousands of data points on demand has demonstrated a massive ROI in time savings. The old processes included mining data from our platforms, configuring in Excel, and then interpretation.
AMLI is just beginning this data and business intelligence journey, but as our data set continues to grow so does our ability to make new business decisions.
In conclusion, the concept of having a dedicated construction technology resource is still new in the industry. In fact, when I was in SaaS, this was seldom part of the implementation strategy discussions. I frequently saw companies settling for a “let the tech-savvy people handle it” approach. However, I don’t want to contradict myself. I mentioned earlier that you may already have some technologically advanced people in your organization who might be a good fit for this role. The primary differentiator is whoever fills this role shouldn’t be an Assistant Project Manager or Assistant Superintendent and the Construction Technology Manager. Hopefully, you wouldn’t task your Estimators with preforming daily labor counts, and the same concept applies to this position. For this role to be successful, the Construction Technology Manager must be able to focus solely on the technology and the platforms you decide to implement. A dual role isn’t practical, and you won’t see the full ROI of your technologies.
With the addition of a dedicated construction technology resource and thoughtful analysis of your data, you’ll open the door to improved efficiency and insights. This will transform the way your company does business and begin your journey as a digital construction company.