Technology Adoption Challenges for Construction Businesses

(This article reprinted with permission. Thanks to Josh Groves, President of jobtrio.com, the largest directory of construction contractors on the web. The goal of jobtrio.com is to efficiently connect contractors with consumers who truly value their services.)

Within any company, it is never easy to convince the workforce that a new, technological advancement has made an old way of doing things obsolete. For instance, no matter how my staff tried to explain to me the advantages of the new Windows 7 operating system over XP, I dragged my feet and resisted the change. From my observations, this aversion to technology adoption is far more present in the construction industry than any other major field.

For the most part, construction companies live and die by their continued presence and productivity on the jobsite. Typically, there is little thought given by management to company-wide initiatives or employee training because these acts would necessarily pull the workforce out of the field. Therefore, even if one day of training on a new technology might result in large future gains in employee efficiency, managers usually are not willing to take the risk.

I experienced this first hand as a construction industry Operations Manager for a medium-sized company. Every day I would watch at least thirty minutes get wasted by each employee as they struggled to determine which tasks were to be priorities for the work-day.  The fix seemed simple to me: adopt a basic, web-based system which could allow workers to login and view updated project management information. My estimate was that this system, taking into account training and maintenance, would pay for itself in a matter of a month.

Needless to say, I encountered tremendous resistance from my boss and from all of the workers in the field, and the initiative never got beyond my written proposal. 

This is just one example of what I experienced time and time again -- PDAs, driver GPS, field laptops -- I could never get my company to consider any of these technologies, and, from speaking with others whose businesses rely on their contractor's license, this sort of stone-walling is quite typical.  But, what is to be done? 

My first inclination is to say that until a younger, more tech-savvy generation of contractors who understand the value of technology investments steps into management positions, we aren't likely to see a change anytime soon.  However, if you are dedicated to your company's long-term success, it is wise to fight the good fight, and eventually your supervisors might adopt some of the new, money and time saving technologies which could be key to your company's survival.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1