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Practical ways to investigate new technologies

Barry offers guidance on how you can identify which technology will be a game-changer for your business.

THE pandemic has ignited a noticeable shift towards technology within construction, but what does this mean in practice and how can subcontractors capitalise on this? Here I’ll offer guidance on how you can identify which technology will be a game-changer for your business.

A recent McKinsey article discussing the ‘next normal’ states that the pandemic has forced the construction industry to focus on digitisation, and that significant investment is expected in technology as a result.

The same article cites a monumental shift towards ‘integrated systems’, replacing the ‘highly complex, fragmented, and project-based industry’ with a ‘more standardized, consolidated, and integrated one’.

Change is clearly afoot and there’s increasing pressure to focus on technology – but what does this mean in practice? How do you identify which technologies will be the game changer that gives you a competitive advantage?

I’ve worked in construction software for more than 25 years and all successful technology adoptions I’ve seen are where customers had a clear view of what they wanted to achieve from the outset. They’d identified their key issues and researched the right solutions to meet these needs. Here’s some best practice tips on choosing the right technology for your business:

Lift the bonnet
An internal audit is often the best starting point. It’s like looking under the bonnet of your car and checking whether the engine is running as efficiently as it should or could be. I recommend identifying all your pain points and focusing on what’s burning unnecessary time and/or money. Involve your staff too, as they’re closest to your business processes and often have a different viewpoint from business owners. They can provide valuable insight into existing challenges and potential solutions – some known to you and others, perhaps, not.

Your audit will probably identify many great ideas, but you can’t action everything at once – and you don’t want to either. New systems often mean new processes; these may take time to adopt, especially when your workforce is already busy. That’s why it’s important to establish priorities.

From your audit, I suggest you identify your top three challenges that you know technology could solve, then prioritise the one that offers the largest business gain.

Consider whether you want to fix a single problem with one solution, or whether you could solve several problems using an integrated solution. By identifying your overall goal, it will be easier to prioritise.
‘If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else’  
Source: Yogi Berra

Define your criteria
Now your priorities are set, establish who will be involved in the decision process and set your selection criteria. Consider the ‘must-haves’ versus the ‘nice-to-haves’ – and be realistic. No off-the-shelf system will work exactly as you want, so you need to determine what you can and cannot compromise on. This will make it easier to compare solutions, as no two technologies are identical. Ask yourself:

  • Do you want a generic solution or one that’s written specifically for construction?
  • Do you want a cloud-based or server-based solution? What about additional hardware?
  • What training is needed and how is it delivered?
  • What about backup and support services?

Engage potential partners
With your priorities and criteria known, you should identify, research, and talk to vendors. Software comparison sites, like Capterra, can be helpful for insight, as can peer recommendations and trusted associations, like the CFA.

Explain what you are looking for and be open to their knowledge and experience. Ask for as many demonstrations as you need and speak with existing clients for reference as they’ll provide an honest opinion of both the software and the implementation process. And my last, and probably most important advice, is to look for a technology partner, not just a supplier. There’s a big difference. A supplier will simply sell you a solution, job done. A partner will invest time in your business, ensure their solution works for you and remain with you long after the excitement of your new system has worn off.

‘A partner is a tailored business relationship based on mutual trust, openness, shared risk and reward that yields a competitive advantage’
Source: Accu-Fab https://bit.ly/2q1JeEd

I’ve seen how technology can increase efficiency, help business growth and give subcontractors the productivity tools they need to punch well above their weight. Digitisation needn’t be overwhelming – in fact, any steps taken towards digitisation are good steps. The most important thing is not to ignore the current shifts toward technology and how it could massively improve your business – as you can bet your competition will be investigating.

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