The Future is Now: Why Connected Construction is a Game Changer

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A look at the Technologies Driving Connected Construction Environments and What It Means for Contractors

While some futuristic dreams have yet to become reality, the cloud has connected us to the world in real time. (But seriously, where's my jetpack?)

It was September of 1962 when a little Hanna-Barbera cartoon called The Jetsons premiered on ABC. Viewers were treated to a vision of a space-aged future with flying cars, jetpacks, instant dinners in the form of a pill and automation for daily tasks like getting dressed and walking the dog. In 1985, a movie called Back to the Future gave us even more to dream about with hoverboards, 10-second pizza ovens, and fully-immersive holographic movies.

Flash forward to 2022, and while jetpacks, hoverboards and more have largely failed to become everyday reality, some of the technologies we have today are even more impressive. The internet opened us up to a whole new world much larger than our own neighborhood, we not only took our phones on the go, but they have millions of times more computing power than the entire Apollo 11 moon landing was run with. And today, thanks to cloud computing, nearly anything we want or need can be at our fingertips in an instant.

The construction industry, once considered a dinosaur in terms of technological advancements, has become a leader in innovation in recent years, leveraging the cloud to transform how many contractors build.

Some contractors have yet to modernize their operations, still weighing the benefits. As global technology continues to advance, however, the days of legacy construction processes being a feasible business option may be numbered. Read on to learn why moving to a connected construction environment now is the best bet for contractors’ futures.

Digital Infrastructure = On-Demand Construction Intelligence

The advent of real-time information sharing capabilities has led to more data-driven, smarter construction business decisions.

Connected, real-time information is driving contractors’ business and operational decisions today—powered by cloud-based workflows, mobile applications, and analytical and forecasting tools that bring together entire project teams in truly collaborative workspaces.

Gone are the days of having to rely on manual information gathering processes (like using paper-based forms to capture data on jobsites), disconnected software solutions and other legacy practices that have bogged so many contractors down. Today, contractors can operate like much of the rest of the global economy—in the cloud, leveraging real-time tools and workflows to drive more accurate and timely data, understand that data instantly and facilitate quick action when needed. This boosts productivity, optimizes work, provides leaders with more accurate pictures of projects’ financial health, and ultimately, increases in traditionally razor-thin construction profit margins.

Connected construction solutions empower contractors to work smarter rather than harder, providing intuitive tools that virtually any construction professional can use to make sense of complex data and processes any time and place their work occurs. These technologies are the fuel allowing contractors to adapt and innovate, and scale their businesses for long-term success.

Connected Construction: It’s All About the Data

Interconnected digital data and workflows means that contractors can get real-time insights into their projects and make immediate adjustments.

So, what exactly is connected construction? It all revolves around data.

Labor, equipment and materials are the basic elements needed for any construction process, but it’s information that dictates how projects come together and fuels effective construction management workflows. The problem is that construction has typically been an enterprise where different sets of project data, siloed teams, disjointed processes and disconnected systems have long ruled the day.

One set of data might be used to design a project. Another set might be used to translate those designs into workable construction plans or phases. Once construction starts, project managers and operations teams might collect and disperse their own sets of data, while accounting teams spend hours poring over that same data and make it make sense in their own terms to meet financial needs or keep billing cycles going. Executives or owners, meanwhile, may require an entirely different set of data to get snapshots of project progress or their company’s financial health.

For decades, contractors have gotten by with these information gaps and jumbled construction workflows. Yet the data they wind up working with is often days, weeks or even months old, inaccurate, and hard to analyze in a manner that could provide actionable insights for current and future projects.

With the mountains of data that construction projects produce, think about how valuable it would be if that data was uniform, interconnected across the lifecycle of projects, easily accessible and relevant to all project stakeholders in real time. Accurate, timely, standardized data is the magic formula that can unlock true construction collaboration, workflow automations and new innovations.

Think about how valuable it would be if data was uniform, interconnected across the lifecycle of projects, easily accessible and relevant to all project stakeholders in real time.

A Connected Construction Environment Realized

A connected construction environment operates with greater efficiency, speed and innovation than those using legacy construction processes.

With cloud-based technologies, that dream of a connected construction environment is now a reality. Today, connected cloud platforms that power workflows from a single set of connected data are bringing teams together in shared workspaces, and consistently using the same workflows.

The once cumbersome challenge of collecting and inputting data from the field is now being powered by intuitive, connected mobile applications and web-enabled data portals. Sharing of data is now streamlined through automated workflows. Advanced analytic and business intelligence tools help construction professionals break down, sort and study data quickly and in new ways they never imagined possible before. And data-driven contractors are now armed with the instant construction intelligence they need to make the best decisions for their project and their bottom lines.

More importantly, different stakeholders can still work with standardized data in ways that make sense to them, with tools that put data segments into the formats they need to understand and act appropriately. This means:

  • Executives can access real-time dashboards and get an up-to-the-minute look at projects as they’re happening.
  • Accounting, HR, and payroll teams have all of the properly routed and formulated data they need at their fingertips to keep bills and employees paid and cash flows fluid.
  • Project teams and subcontractors can be confident that everyone is working from the same page and are immediately alerted when changes are made.
  • Owners, designers, and architects can respond to change requests or issues quickly and better understand how they’ll impact the finished product.

This is the essence of a connected construction environment.

Yeah, But … Change is Hard

Scaling your construction business through modernization can be challenging, but the benefits are too great to ignore.

We understand, this kind of construction transformation is not as easy as snapping your fingers, and that contractors have resisted change for many reasons. The truth is, however, the benefits of a connected, cloud construction platform far outweigh any remaining reservations at this point.

Connected construction saves a lot of money. Add up all of the different software systems, on-premise servers, maintenance overhead, and labor overhead. A single connected, cloud solution that includes accounting, project management, collaborative document management, equipment and material management, and human capital management can likely be had for a quarter of the costs of the systems and processes contractors are paying for now.

Yes, implementing a whole new system of working can take time and effort, but more and more of today’s connected cloud vendors are doing the bulk of the implementation work and new tools and innovations are making it easier to scale technologies with minimal downtimes to business processes.

Contractors’ legacy systems are also much more vulnerable to data breaches than connected cloud solutions. Cyber criminals find it much easier to exploit data and hold companies hostage through ransomware by finding back doors into their on-premise systems. Cloud-based systems tend to deploy the most up-to-date data security protections and firewalls, significantly reducing the threat of data breaches. And should one occur, cloud data and workflows are more consistently backed up than legacy systems, meaning contractors can ensure business continuity.

Even contractors that have long resisted the cloud and new technologies are now coming around, realizing the need to pivot to keep their business afloat. Yet, many do not know where to start their connected construction journeys. This ebook, The AEC Professional’s Essential Guide to Connected Construction, is a great place to start.

Once you’re connected, you’ll never look back.

Posted By

Andy is Marketing Content & PR Manager at Viewpoint. He has worked in the construction software arena since 2011. Previously, he netted multiple awards as a newspaper and trade media editor.