When to prioritise technology investments in construction

Friday, October 18, 2019 - Mark Dyer

Construction is one of the world’s least digitised industries according to a recent report, still relying on analogue data.

The research found that digital transformation results in productivity gains of 14-15% and cost reductions of 4-6%. A clear indication that effective digital solutions deliver visible business benefits.

However, when is the best time for your construction company to prioritise technology?

If you’re close to signing off an investment in new technology, with a solutions provider selected and a project scoped, you now need to evaluate whether or not it takes precedence over all other business activities.

Justifying whether a technology transformation should be given the go-ahead is a business-critical decision requiring in-depth analysis. There is a risk involved, not just with the budget allocated, but also with the possibility that if the new technology doesn’t work you risk business failure and significant profit loss.

However, with the right construction-technology provider and a robust plan, a new digital application, on-site hardware roll-out or data analytics tool will be well-received and make a huge impact on business success.

This article helps decision makers identify when new technology should be prioritised, and when it’s not appropriate. We also share some top tips to ensure the success of a project from the outset.

When to Progress a Technology Project

Developing new software, upgrading existing systems or introducing new hardware is a significant investment. Here are a few key times when a technology project should be progressed:

  • Rapid growth

When your business is experiencing fast-paced substantial growth and your existing systems are overwhelmed, hindering your expansion or having an impact on operations, customer satisfaction and profit.

  • Cost of legacy systems maintenance is escalating

If you’re spending a significant portion of your IT budget on keeping old systems on ‘life support’ – and this figure is increasing every year – then this money would be better invested in upgrading to new technology.

  • Risk of legacy systems is mounting

Many existing systems rely on old technology that isn’t secure from cyber-crimes or data corruption, paper which can be lost or destroyed, or spreadsheets and forms with no consistent control process. If this risk of inaccurate, unprotected or lost data is intensifying then it’s time to modernise.

  • New technology will add huge value to the business

If you’ve crunched the numbers and looked at your digital KPIs and know that new technology can and will add value.

  • Company-wide usage

Investing in technology that will be used by a higher percentage of staff or across wider teams will often be a better investment than software that only helps a small number of people in one team.

  • Off-the-shelf software lacks functionality

Often there are off-the-shelf software options for many standard business functions e.g. accounting. Consider if you need a customised system that is unique to your business goals and will do something specific to your processes or customers.

For example, if you’re looking for a bespoke customer portal application that is smartphone-friendly and can be used by customers to select their dream house with preferred fixtures and fittings.

  • Market / industry / business is changing and must evolve to survive

When the survival of your business is tied to your need to evolve with new technology due to widespread changes in the market.

When Not to Progress a Technology Project

There are times when it’s not appropriate to move forward with tech projects, such as:

  • Change in market trends rendering proposed new technology unsuitable
  • Uncertain financial position
  • Corporate restructures when it’s not clear what teams, products or systems are being combined, kept or scrapped
  • Going through a period of significant change with unclear priorities
  • Don’t have appropriate staff available to manage the technology project

The Right Mindset Is Critical

Having the right mindset for driving the business forward with new technology is essential for the success of the project. A construction company needs to have a visionary ethos, a healthy appetite for risk and a willingness to be a market leader rather than a market follower.

Investing in new technology will add a competitive advantage, and make your company stand out from the crowd with bespoke applications, tools and software, rather than using the same low-risk, off-the-shelf products that your competitors use.

Align with Wider Business Strategy and Long-Term Goals

To successfully digitalise your construction business, you should have a long-term view for technology that aligns to your wider business strategy and long-term goals. By having a vision about how technology will be used in your business in years to come, you can build a roadmap to get there.

This plan can start with smaller digital projects and factor in ongoing investment that builds into systems for the future of the business, rather than meeting short-term objectives. It’s possible to begin with well-tested, small-scale projects that build a solid foundation for future technology rather than investing in a huge project which attempts to encompass everything all at once.

Understand the Time Investment

A technology project has a cost investment. However, it will only succeed if you understand that you are entering into a two-way partnership with your solutions provider and you must invest significant time in the project. Allocating resource with the right skills and capabilities to manage the project internally, ensures your supplier receives timely feedback and approvals, as well as appropriate decisions.

It is also essential to get the right people involved from the start to help shape the development of your new technology. These should be staff members who will use the new applications or hardware on a day-to-day basis. They should also be available to extensively test prototypes and provide feedback. If the end-users aren’t involved, they have no sense of ownership and the new technology will often fail.

Prioritise Your Tech Investment

There are times when progressing a tech investment is a high priority, and other occasions when it’s inappropriate. By getting the timing right, and keeping in mind a few additional considerations, your new technology will see your construction business skyrocket and leave the analogue era firmly in the past.

Read about how we enhanced business operations for Story Homes with a bespoke land development application here

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