I've seen my fair share of good and terrible technology rollouts. And while the rollout, adoption and selection are all very different parts of using technology in construction, perhaps the most overlooked of the three is the selection of the software or apps.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a subcontractor say, "well, we started using it because our Prime uses it." Or, "it seemed like it would do everything we needed" I'd be a pretty wealthy guy.
I talk to subcontractors every week that tell me their spending tens-of-thousands of dollars a year on software. And it almost literally hurts when they also tell me they're not using it, or not using it to it's full potential.
Now, take a moment and think about that for a second. How many times in your life do you go out and spend $15,000 on something that you haven't totally vetted. How about a car? Do you just go buy a certain car because your friend has it? Or do you spend weeks or months pouring over online reviews and test driving? How about house or apartment? Do you just move in to a new place because you thought it would be nice? No. You go online, look at reviews, explore the area, look up schools, drive times to work, etc.
So why on earth are we spending SO MUCH MONEY on a system that's literally going change the way we run our business without doing our homework?
Okay, okay, okay. I'll get off my soap box now. Let's talk about a 5 traits of good technology. If you're only going to look a five things, look at these. And while there are always software and apps out there that DO hit on all five. Here are my two suggestions for how to move forward:
NICE vs NECESSARY (don't get shiny object syndrome)
IMMEDIATE IMAPCT (how quickly can this make a positive impact)
1. Simple to set up and easy to keep up
I've harped on this previously, but the bottom line is: the harder it is to do, the less likely that it will get done. Think about it. Time is a commodity that we never like to waste. And if we're making something time-consuming or difficult right out of the gate (remember, we haven't even started using it yet!), it's going to be an uphill battle. So make sure it's simple. A lot of times the software or app developer will be able to offer assistance as well. Use it.
2. Affordable price tag
Right next to protecting our time and energy is protecting our money. We work hard for it! And we want to keep it, gosh darnit! If you get that gut feeling that you're overpaying for something, guess what: you are! What's affordable? It will depend on your team size and what you're trying to do. But remember, this is an investment. Treat it like one. If you want help with that, download our free Construction Technology ROI Calculator. Plug in a few variables and you're off to the races. Believe me, there are TONS of affordable tech solution out there. And I'm willing to bet some of them cost a lot less than you think.
3. Saves time
Like we mentioned in #1, time is an commodity that is ever-fleeting and we ned to protect it. After all, isn't this the reason you started looking for a tech solution anyway? If it's not saving your team time, skip it. Construction is a busy and jam-packed lifestyle enough. Again, download the free Tech ROI Calculator and you'll see just how much time something is going to save your company and team over the course of a year. And don't forget all the 'add-on' time. For example, using mobile timecards is a great time-saver for the crews and foreman. But don't forget that accounting and field engineers are also spending time handling timecards every day. It all adds up pretty quick!
4. Reduces risk
Risk management is something we're working with every single day on the job site. When it comes to evaluating technology, this is a sliding scale. The more risk it helps manage, the better off you are. But in the very end, if it hits all the first three traits and neither adds nor reduces risk, it's still probably a good solution. BUT you'd be hard pressed to find a tech solutions that hits on the first three that doesn't also mitigate risk.
5. Team buy-in
This comes in pretty closely to #1. Chances are if it's easy to set up and easy to use, the team will buy in. It's when that barrier to entry (setup complexity and usability) start to rise that the team starts to resist. So remember THIS: get your team involved early. And involve them in the process - finding, evaluating, choosing, implementing. If you can get that 30-year Supt to buy in, you've got the rest of the team. So figure out how to get him on board and you're gold. You can read our full post, Starting at the Finish Line, to learn more on this.
At the end of the day, there is an ever-growing number of software and mobile apps for construction. If you're having a tough time choosing or evaluating, let us know. Part of what Frontline does is help contractors navigate their needs and find solutions for them. Give this process the attention it deserves. Spend a little time on it. And, if you're really ready to get started, head over to our training series on Technology in Construction (launching March 2017)!