Leveraging Innovation Unlocks Profitability and Competitive Advantage 

By Michael Mullin, President
Integrated Business Systems

This article also appeared in NJBIZ. 

The business world has been turned on its ear over the past month, with current events forcing a rapid change in pace and a re-think of tried and true operational approaches across all industries and among companies from large to small. The construction sector is no exception, with many projects grinding to a halt, and operational teams shifting from centralized offices to remote workspaces.  

Simply put, this is not an easy moment. Yet with the world on “pause,” the time is right to assess key business tools and protocols – including weaknesses that had already been impacting profitability and competitive advantage. Consider technology.   

Today’s construction space is highly mobile, with much of an organization’s day-to-day operations taking place at the job site. Project data is being generated in the field. The ability to access real-time updates and make timely informed decisions have become necessities both in the office and at the build site. As such, using office-centric equipment (think desktops and PCs) as the main tools to record and store data has become inherently inefficient.  

And a lack of – or delayed – communication between team members in their various locations can lead to the failed exchange of timely, accurate information and project updates. Further, most construction and development companies have full histories of “siloed” data that is difficult to access and, therefore, provides little value from a business intelligence perspective.  

Addressing operational pain-points 
Today’s robust, cloud-based applications geared specifically to the construction marketplace bring mobility, transparency and functionality that addresses traditional pain-points like ineffective office/field communication, project estimating and time reporting. They enable real-time access to information on any device and from any location, integrating disparate data, reducing or eliminating errors and delays across the entire operational process. 

Modern tech platforms can also help boost efficiencies by directly connecting the field with decision makers and the historical data stored back at the office on any given job or client. There is no substitute for the ability to instantly access work details, plans and schedules. All of this is now possible through easy-to-use, cloud-based software applications designed specifically to offer remote users access to the same data available via office desktop computers.  

With a few simple clicks, these cloud-based solutions help authorized personnel – from accounting staff to project managers and field supervisors – to simply drill down from the most complex to the simplest details. Work order signoffs can even be easily captured and stored electronically with other documents ranging from schematics, blueprints, contracts and material specs, to change orders, photos, spreadsheets and inspection reports – all available from one centralized electronic file. 

This includes the ability to seamlessly integrate information from multiple IoT edge devices, wearables, connected sensors and equipment through mobile platforms that enable the seamless integration of business applications and cloud-based services. 

From a necessary evil to profitability advantage 
Yet despite the clear benefits, the idea of switching from a legacy accounting system to one of the latest cloud-based software applications can be daunting. Beyond cost, “user acceptance” is always one of the most difficult challenges to overcome. Quite frankly, few like change, especially when it disrupts accepted, workable practices and accompanies any measure of downtime or new training procedures. 

The good news is that unlike the often clunky and wholly disruptive implementations of the past, reputable suppliers are now working with business owners to offer layered adoption strategies based on a company’s most pressing requirements and goals. The staged implementation of additional features then builds upon the initial core competencies. And scalable subscription plans can be tailored to fit comfortably into limited budgets. 

That’s why the right partner is so important. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of software applications from which to choose. But which is the right one for your company? Which is the one that will effortlessly integrate with legacy systems to store, generate and retrieve information needed at a moment’s notice and from just about any device connected to the Internet? 

When it comes to construction, it is impossible to provide a single, cookie-cutter solution for every job and client. That’s the value of specialization. Few cloud construction software solutions on their own fulfill the requirements of every individual customer and user. Look for a product developed with an advanced open architecture that allows best-of-breed third-party applications to easily connect and interact with other programs to create a true end-to-end solution. Further, platforms that offer support for Open API standards not only ensure the easy integration of today’s true cloud applications, but also tomorrow’s software advancements and innovations.  

At this time, when everyone is waiting for the business world to again hit “play,” construction practitioners have a golden opportunityTake this moment to embrace the curve with an insightful eye on the latest methods and means for improving companywide productivity, easily capturing and storing in-depth project data for instantaneous retrieval, and stimulating profits across every operational phase.