How Construction IT compares to other industries
Box.com recently made a study of five industries using their services. If you are in Construction then this is a really interesting read. To make it easy though, we have summarised it for you.
The areas of economic activity looked at were:
Media and Entertainment
Essentially, Box offers Cloud Computing, which makes data accessible to everyone authorised to access any company data. Some of their clients are construction IT users. Their clients are predominantly Americans, which may mean there would be slightly different outcomes if United Kingdom construction companies had been researched. This is because of the different nature and cultures in our industry between the two countries. That however, is something that can wait for another time!
The areas of comparative study were:
Decentralization of information – this means everyone authorised can look at it.
Mobility – this means people can be out-and-about, even out of the country, and still access the information.
Frequency of collaborative actions – this means if the information is received more quickly, people can collaborate on it more quickly.
Levels of iteration on and consumption of content – this means how often is information added to, or downloaded, and passed on to others, sometimes outside the organisation.
Levels of interaction with external parties – this means how willing companies are to pass information on to their clients and stakeholders.
Now that’s the academic lingo translated into plain English, which makes the pretty picture below far more easily understood.
It may seem a little contradictory that software companies only come second as it is a product of theirs that is being used. The reasons for that are probably only obvious to those of us who have project managed commercial fit-outs with concurrent IT projects. Those working in the IT sector don’t have our construction mind-set of it all having to happen NOW! In this particular respect their main weakness, Mobility, is that they have to be sat in front of their monitor to be able to work. That drags their score down below ours!
The unexpected thing, to me, which pushes our construction score up is this; 80% of contractors now say they use gadgets on site and that is up from 26% only a couple of years ago! However, as soon as that was drawn to my attention, the reason became pretty obvious from my personal experience. Contracts on old mobiles expired, or they “died”, and they had to be replaced with a modern smart phone!
Then trendy wives politely request that they have a tablet gifted to them, after which they insist their husbands come into today’s world!
Mobile Content Access
Another thing which pushed up our score was work shared with outside parties, which is roughly double the rate of any other industry. Now that was pretty obvious!
Construction is so complex that we couldn’t possibly be expected to do it all in our own facilities or on site!
“Which of our 3,250 patterns of home-baked bricks would you like, Mr. Architect, sir?” or, “If we just pop into our quarry, you may choose from our various layers of slate for roofing. We have Spanish, Chinese, Welsh Purple and several Lakeland types.” Those are just a couple of obvious silly examples, but we use so many other materials which are complicated to manufacture, that supplying constructions needs is a whole sector of industry in itself!
A changing industry
What is behind this study by Box is the fact that our industry is changing and changing quite dramatically. Do we ever cast our minds back to the days before we had our mobile phones? On a major site we could spend half-an-hour walking around trying to find the guy we needed to talk to! Suddenly all we had to do was make a quick draw and call him on our mobile! Questions and answers were dealt with much more quickly! Not all of them I must admit.
Not even mobile phones stopped the tradesmen queuing as the site opened up for the day to get their answers or to highlight concerns.
Actually, their “concerns” are always a great bonus; means they like and trust you and will advise of possible problems and potential causes of delay long before we’d find out any other way! There is always a good case to be made for face-to-face personal interaction. Did we not tell you that having a fag and tea break with the lads was the best way to sort communication?!
Anyway, coming into today’s world, the latest big change we are beginning to see in construction is the use of “gadgets”. Nearly everyone now walks around with a tablet in their hand or a smart phone in their pocket! What Box.com offers is cloud computing and access for only limited data of interest mainly to the senior management and finance people in construction companies, along with the architects and engineers involved. That doesn’t help on site!!!
We know, from hard experience, that site offices, main and sub-contractors, get inundated with bits of paper!
These include drawings, Requests for Information, Confirmation of Verbal Instruction, Architectural changes, letters, Memos, and, and, and …. And, so often, nobody has the time to keep on top of it all and get it filed away in an orderly manner. It is almost normal for them to be just heaped on every horizontal surface! If they are needed to be referred to, the only way to find the right information is to root through the lot! I don’t think anyone has ever accused us builder types of being good clerks! We’ve far more interesting things to be getting on with. – Like building things!
So, everyone now has a gadget; how are we going to make best use of them to do away with the paper-work and get our next big change fully up and running?
Simple! We have to see the necessary, very specialised, software developed to allow everyone involved in a construction project to get the information they need on their gadgets! Once we have the right software to fulfil this essential task, it will have another spin-off benefit. It will provide better information which will enable better, quicker decisions to be made. And that will will go a long way towards improving business performance!
Those of us not of the muddy-boot brigade might even feel this is the primary benefit!
For successful project delivery, all this vast amount of construction data must be shared with a wide swath of people. Those involved who will be using this software on their tablets, smart phones, desktop and laptop PCs, range from the Clients’ people and their Architects and Consultants, down through the Main Contractor and all their staff involved, both in their Head Office and on Site, and on to the Sub-contractors’ staff, including their skilled tradesmen. Don’t forget the skilled trades! They are the ones who actually build things!
Once work starts on site, we important people in our suits and ties are only there to give them what they need when they need it!
Not everyone needs to know everything and we certainly don’t want to end up with information overload as a distraction from building! Nor do we want to see gadgets being used as toys by the younger generation who, I hate to have to admit, are far better with them than my generation! The young ones are there to learn the building game! So something else this software will require is strict control as to who has the authority to input data.
Like it or not, we are moving from an industrial to an information economy. This requires us to be more and more agile to continuously emerging information. Some IT companies already have their software for construction on the market. These seem to me, however, to fall a long way short of meeting our construction needs.
What we in construction require is democratised, very fast moving, access which allows us to quickly up-date the plethora of data required in any project. We also want it to add to our return on the investment and be leveraged to generate corporate value.
GenieBelt seems that it will virtually do away with paper on site and give everyone involved in the project immediate access to the very latest information they require.