As we all know, arguably the key factor in getting any construction job done is good communication. Everyone working on a scheme has to know exactly how they fit in, precisely what their role is and what is expected of them – that includes the project manager.
Countless projects come off track, sometimes due to completely unforeseen circumstances. I’m sure we have all been there. But often things go awry through bad communication, particularly between those on the ground and those in the office. When things go badly wrong it can lead to finger-pointing and in the worst cases in the hands of lawyers as a project becomes famous for all the wrong reasons.
Anyone reading this who thinks they already have top-of-the-class communication and this doesn’t apply to them is on a slippery slope. There are always new ways you can boost your communication and you should be open to these opportunities. While you may think you have great communication, can you guarantee that everyone working on your project shares the same view?
Why a strong digital culture matters
This is where technology comes into play. Parts of the industry remain resistant to technology and still rely on legacy systems of old. Planning and organising a project though paper-based methods means tracking everything can prove very difficult. It can lead to errors and confusion, especially if vital documents go missing for whatever reasons. And if you haven’t agreed on a standardised approach with your subcontractors this can also cause a plethora of problems.
Therefore, establishing a strong digital culture in a company can take time but the benefits can be hugely rewarding – boosting productivity and making a job smoother and less stressful. You never know, you might even deliver the scheme ahead of schedule!
But it requires having everybody on board though as only having some of your workforce invested into it it can create more problems than solutions.
In addition, if you have subbies who are using different software, apps or technology that is not up-to-date this can create its own problems. Security is a key issue when you are sharing information. And if a subbie decides a cheap way around updating their software is to access an unlicensed add-on this can severely compromise the security of documents.
This can also create legal risks if the data is accessed by somebody who is not authorised.
In this sense, choosing the right digital tool is essential.
Research paves the way to success
A high-tech whizzy piece of software that nobody really knows how to use can easily end up an expensive mistake. Research is vital and the best place to start is by talking to those you work with about what is required and information is necessary. Have a meeting with every group of people you deal with to understand the problems they face, then look for a piece of software or app to fix that problem. It’s better doing it this way than going to them with an app you think will help solve a problem that might not even be there.
Once you have gathered plenty of insight then you can start to research the options that are available to you. If your company is only on the very beginning of a tech journey, the best thing to do is to start with something simple, which means there’s more chance people will stick with it. There’s no point introducing anything too complex that will immediately deter your workforce. Imposing something like this on people will not go down well and could affect trust between management and those working on the ground.
This is where helping to explain why you are introducing technology can help. Ultimately it is to improve communication – and real-time communication in construction is more vital than ever. There are numerous reasons why it is a positive. It means that problems can be tackled faster or even prevented altogether. Fewer delays occur, budget overruns are less likely and rework rates are lower.
Productivity is increased through better resource management. And quality can be improved as efficient working means people have more time to spend on particular jobs. It can also create a higher degree of trust between everybody can have a sight of who is working on what and increase transparency so nobody feels out of the loop.
Bridging the gap between the boardroom and the field
So what software or app should you use to ensure your project stays on track? Of course, it depends on a number of parameters such as the problems you want to resolve, the type of your project, and the available budget.
In a nutshell, though, here are six must-have features in order to connect site to office with no struggle:
Being able to communicate the latest changes from the construction site in real time is of paramount importance for the success of your project. Like that, the different agents can quickly exchange ideas and updates and reflect on the impact that the latest changes could have on the scheduled tasks.
- Interactive and shareable Gantt chart for desktop and mobile.
- Easily assign tasks to project teams and members.
- Schedule importing from MS Project / Primavera / Powerproject.
- Full audit trail for each of your scheduled tasks.
- Resource management in real time.
Staying on top of your schedule in real time is extremely important but it’s only one of the elements for a success story in construction. Mobile field reporting is also substantial as it enables the onsite personnel to stay in touch with the boardroom and communicate the latest updates or any points of concern in a timely manner.
In short, here is why field progress reporting is so essential:
- Instant communication from site to office.
- Field workers take the schedule into their own hands.
- Progress reporting and the latest updates, including comments and photos, can be submitted with the help of a smartphone.
- Easily track whether and where workflows are ahead or behind.
- Bring the right updates to the right people without wasting any time.
Capturing your data is one thing. Being able to translate them into actionable insights and reports is another. Business dashboards can make a big difference with regard to the communication between the construction site and the office. Project managers can get a detailed overview of the different tasks and processes and detect easily the areas that require further attention. This enables better collaboration, higher productivity, and considerably lower rework rates.
To be more specific, business dashboards can offer the following:
- Overview across all tasks and projects.
- Monitor project progress, delays and red flags in real time.
- Simple representations of complex data.
- Easy and fact-based decision making.
Here is an example of a business dashboard on our platform:
Snagging is a vital part of the on-site follow up and communication. For that reason, you need a digital solution that will allow you to add new snags in a fast and straightforward way through the use of comments, photos, and annotations on the latest version of the project plan. By being able to track all current and future snags, you can improve communication with the people on site and prevent costly and time-consuming mistakes.
That being said, the construction software of your choice should give you the following opportunities:
- Tracking the statuses of your snags/punchlists.
- Assign statuses and levels of urgency to the various issues.
- Distribute tasks to responsible stakeholders.
- Get the complete and detailed history of your tasks.
- Close out projects.
This is how the snagging process can look like:
Checklists and forms
Having access to checklists, forms and field reports just with the click of a button can play a decisive role in bridging the gap between the field and the office. With the help of an automated checklist process, a significant admin and mental burden can go away for many project agents.
By choosing LetsBuild for your checklists and forms, you have on your fingertips the following possibilities:
- Library form templates.
- Inspections in a standardised manner.
- Inspection forms that can easily be customised.
- Mobile inspections on site.
- Task-relevant checklists.
- Real-time notifications on the current status of checklists.
- Checklists status across projects without any struggle.
Document and drawing management
Workers on site should always be able to keep track of the latest changes on documents and drawings so that painful mistakes and legal disputes can be avoided. To achieve that, you need a digital tool which is easy to use and provides the on-site personnel with the option to monitor all last minute changes in real time.
For example, in projects where LetsBuild solutions have been implemented the team on the field gains access to the following options:
- All your documents and drawings stored in a Central Dropbox.
- Add notes on your drawings with the use of photos and comments.
- Automatic comparison between different plan versions.
- Always working to latest plan version.
- Spot effortlessly modifications that need to be made on the field.
The key is digital adoption
By now, it is evident that digital tools can transform the way we design, collaborate and build in the construction industry. As shown by a recent McKinsey report, implementing digital solutions correctly could result in a 45% cost reduction in the course of the construction process.
Nevertheless, none of these matters if the sector fails to push for digital adoption on site.
“We need to find a way to get adoption from the people on site. And so what we need to explain to our customers is, this is really worth it. And it’s a couple of changes in a couple of things, but 45%, that’s important. This is a 45% reduction on overall project costs,”, says Thomas Goubau, CRO at LetsBuild.
It doesn’t take much to understand that every organisation needs to be actively involved in the digitalisation journey if they want to see any positive results. All in all, there are three areas that require special attention:
- Organisational culture: Coupling the right team with the right framework is vital. In that sense, there should be a team that is consistently on top of the data and translates the captured feedback into actionable policies and processes. Like that, the organisation can introduce a data-driven strategy.
- Talent management: In an industry that battles against serious labour shortage, it goes without saying that organisations need to do their best in repolishing their digital profile. In that manner, they will be able to attract young and ambitious people who want to make a difference and contribute to the emergence of a coherent digital ecosystem.
- Corporate culture: Leading by example is the way to go when it comes to digital adoption. The organisations who really want to stand out should pick their battles and push for digital transformation in the areas that matter the most. Investing in R&D and training of their employees while doing their best to attract and retain young talent is the way forward.
At the end of the day, though, it is also essential to underline the need for simple-to-use construction software and digital platforms. People on site don’t want to struggle with complex apps. They want to get their job done as fast as possible so they can move to their next task avoiding delays and budget waste.
In that aspect, on-site personnel should have access to all the powerful features mentioned above just with the click of a button on their mobile or tablet device.
What’s next for construction?
Connecting site to office is a tough and never-ending project. Thankfully, with the rise of digital technology things look more hopeful. The way people both on the ground and the office are working and interacting with digital solutions is rapidly evolving, as the supply chain is experiencing more and more of the benefits that come with digital transformation.
Digital adoption will pave the way for the standardisation of systems and processes in construction, adding more predictability to the entire building process. Boosting digital adoption should also be seen as a convincing step forward with regard to better data collection and analysis. That’s powerful if we take into account the amount of data going to waste in construction.
“That’s the beginning of data collection. That’s where you can start, provide real insights to the companies,” highlights Thomas Goubau.
Back to you, what are the biggest challenges you are currently facing when it comes to connecting the field to the office? Do you see digital tools as a way to remove this heavy admin burden off your shoulders?