The construction industry has a $1.6 trillion opportunity. According to McKinsey & Co., that’s how much will be added to the global economy in construction goods and services if the industry's productivity catches up with other sectors such as manufacturing and retail, which have made productivity strides through digitization and automation.
“Construction has very low spending, low digitization and low productivity growth,” said McKinsey & Co. consultant Ryan Price during a recent webinar. “Although this is correlation, not causation … the case definitely exists that productivity and competitiveness in the construction industry could rise with rising investment.”
Before construction firms get around to adopting digital strategies, investment starts with product development. Three sources of funding in particular stand out to Price, who was a panelist during the Construction Cloud webinar, “Navigating the New Wave of Construction Technology: How to Overcome Implementation Barriers."
In addition to venture capital firms, established IT software leaders are beginning to diversify into the construction landscape, he said. The third group of players are engineering and construction firms, which are buying a solution and tailoring it to their needs or developing solutions and adapting them to the way they execute projects, the consultant said.
Price characterized the construction technology market as highly fragmented with no clear winners at the forefront, but he noted a trend towards integration.
Many companies design and adjust their products to integrate with solutions on the market, he said, and some products that are a solution for a single area, like construction management or document management, for example, later expand into additional areas. Another clear indication of tech firms’ investment in end-to-end solutions is the recent uptick in mergers and acquisitions.
Process first, product second
So how does a construction firm take the digital leap? With so many products at their disposal, it can be hard for companies to narrow their choices to one or two contenders for a new technology initiative.
Tannis Liviniuk, CEO of Pull Plan, which offers a cloud-based project management tool, recommended during the webinar taking a step back to first focus on the process that technology is intended to improve.
Technology isn't a silver bullet. If you have a process that isn't optimized or doesn't yield results already, throwing technology at it won't fix the problem.
CEO, Pull Plan
After fixing the process as best it can without the new technology, a construction company should identify the areas it wants to improve even more and “do its homework” to identify the solution that best meets these needs, she said. The firm shouldn’t get distracted by the “wow factor” in a tech vendor presentation, she added, because that can cause the team to lose sight of what’s needed to improve process value.
It’s important to be realistic about a solution's capabilities and make peace with the fact that your company probably doesn't have a Silicon Valley tech talent base, said Price. That said, organizational leadership may need to double down on efforts to get people on board with the tech transition.
“When you think about change management, you need to assess the extent of change management needed, including the quantitative aspects — the number of people affected, their geographic spread, et cetera — and also qualitative, their mindsets, behaviors and capabilities,” he said.
An tech implementation program should apply this assessment and leverage both the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, Price said, by taking advantage of the infrastructure in place or developing a comprehensive education program, for example.
Equip employees for success
According to a McKinsey & Co. study cited in the webinar, companies that invest in developing leaders throughout an organizational transformation were about two-and-a-half times more likely to succeed in transformations than firms that did not make this investment.
To ensure a successful launch, an contractor will likely need to provide varying levels of training prior to and throughout the deployment, according to Livinium. A general overview of the program and its goals should be delivered early on to stakeholders and as new ones are added, she said. Some teams will require more comprehensive explanations of how the technology works, how it interfaces with other platforms and how it supports project teams, Liviniuk said, while still others will need hands-on experience.
Likewise, companies can go a step beyond skills development and training initiatives by realigning organizational incentives, Price said, so that technology adoption is something that is rewarded within the company.
By supporting employees early in the deployment and often, an organization can develop technology “champions” who in turn empower the end user, according to Liviniuk. In addition, regular check-ins with the end users are key, she said.
“Get out there, talk to the people that are using the technology, get their feedback and make changes as a result,” Liviniuk said. “If you’re agile and continuously evolve your program, you’ll see exponentially higher returns than if you deploy it, sit back and hope for the best.”