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2018 Technology and Software Trends in the Construction Industry

Technology is a great enabler in any industry. In particular, the construction industry is experiencing a new and revitalized era with the help of technology through new applications and tools. These applications from tech start-up companies are transforming how construction companies are designing, planning and executing their projects. In September 2017, Software Connect, who recommends software for their client’s specific needs, conducted a survey from construction industry professionals belonging to SMB firms in the North America region. They were able to collect information about their technology and software plans for 2018.

Increasing Technology Budget

In terms of budgets, 82 percent of the surveyed construction companies plan to spend the same or more on technology. Breaking this down further, 50 percent plans to spend the same amount of money on technology as they did the previous year. However, 32 percent stated that they plan to spend more for technology in 2018. When asked what they plan to spend their budget on, about 41 percent stated that they plan to buy a new or upgrade their current construction management software (CMS) in the next 12 months.

Construction Management Software

Construction professionals are looking for several important features in the software they want to buy. However, there is agreement in what they really want to have. The most preferred functionality is project tracking, with an equivalent of 73 percent of the responders identifying this. A close second at 72 percent is job costing. The other preferred features are project estimating, improved accuracy on take off/estimating, process standardization/automation, and improved technology efficiency.

Although project tracking came up as the most sought-after feature, functionality as a whole is only one factor in their search for a CMS. In terms of the most important consideration for purchasing a CMS, respondents stated that ease of use is primary, even more important than functionality and cost. The ability to integrate with existing software is the fourth consideration.

Common Technology Challenges

During the survey period, about 56 percent of the SMB construction companies are already using construction management software. And as more companies are planning to adopt the use of software, fewer companies will be relying on manual methods in their business operations, such as spreadsheets, pen and paper, etc.

Nevertheless, construction software adoption in companies are not without challenges. One of the common problems SMB companies run into is insufficient commitment of resources, where leaders feel pressured to adopt digital solutions, but struggle to sustain their initiatives. Another challenge is large-scale implementation. During pilot evaluation, everything proceeds smoothly. But during company-wide rollout, obstacles arise because the tools are introduced without explanation of their benefits or insufficient training of users. Another common challenge is incompatibility with legacy systems or lack of complete integration with the current system. As a result, deployment of the new software is delayed until such time the legacy system is completely replaced or phased out.

Cloud, Mobile, BIM

The survey also brought out the SMB companies’ plans regarding cloud software, mobile technology, and building information modeling. For instance, construction companies are very open to reviewing cloud or hosted software. In fact, compared to other industries, they are more open, 87% compared to 82% in other industries.

In relying on mobile or tablet-based applications for business operations, 58 percent responded ‘sometimes’ only. Those who use cloud or hosted software are more likely to depend on mobile technology. But for those who do, they use it for daily field reports, customer/job information, document management, job cost and project reports, and for scheduling.

About 51 percent of the companies that participated in the survey are current users of building information model (BIM) software. In simple terms, BIM is 3D design and modeling software. However, 59 percent stated that they are less than or not satisfied with their software. Dissatisfaction may be the result of the company’s lack of commitment to engaging and adopting the BIM tool. Companies who did invest more saw higher ROI on their tool.

Other New Tech Trends

The survey also touched on information about new tools they are using or plan to use. The results are as follows in order by number of current and planned users:

  1. Drones

  2. Autonomous/robotic equipment

  3. Augmented/virtual reality

  4. 3D printing

Start-ups are also partnering with construction companies to introduce new tech. For example, predictive analytics will take advantage of construction companies’ data repository to optimize decision making. Project monitoring will also use drones and IoT to improve BIM software. And safety monitoring is being enhanced with the help of wearables and augmented/virtual reality tools.

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