While construction historically has lagged other sectors in terms of IT investment, such spending is now accelerating as more and more organizations wake up to the need to move beyond the industry’s traditional practices. At the same time, the speed of technology development has increased the availability of robust, customizable cloud solutions, which is lowering the barrier to adoption.
But simply buying the latest tool is not enough. Positioning for long-term success and minimizing time to value requires a comprehensive approach to implementation that considers three key pillars: technology, people, and process. The way an organization approaches this triad can make or break a digitization venture.
Although the technical aspects of an implementation are critical to its success, organizations too often focus on these aspects at the expense of organizational change management. In doing so, they fail to adequately consider how best to manage the experience of end users whose acceptance is critical to successful use of any new tool.
In addition, they often fail to drive appropriate process changes – including education and training – needed to deliver a smooth transition to a new operating model. Implementing technology without providing adequate onboarding and training for users – and other stakeholders – greatly reduces the likelihood that the tool will positively impact the business.
In light of these common pitfalls in technology implementations, here are some key best practices that can help construction industry leaders break down barriers to technology adoption:
- Set Your Goals: Define the initiative’s objectives and be crisp and clear in communicating to the organization how the technology achieves them when used appropriately. Make sure that those using the system understand both how to use the system as well as how it benefits both the organization and users. When implementation begins, the approach should be deliberate and efficient. Prioritize critical areas for improvement. This allows time to measure early successes, identify pitfalls, and adjust the approach before expanding roll-out. Technology at its best reinforces desired behaviors by creating significant process efficiencies. The resultant improvements in the day-to-day work of users create evangelists who can help engender organizational support for full implementation.
- Establish Processes and Protocols: Best practices and protocols are critical to the success of any technology implementation, as they formalize and standardize use of the tool and the processes it supports. As such, it is important that both be established early on in an initiative. Leadership needs to ask: “How do we apply the solution directly to our own use cases?” By defining and implementing protocols clearly linked to use cases, organizations can ensure technology solutions are used effectively across teams, job functions, and projects. One best practice embraced by many leading construction organizations is the development of a project controls office, a governing body that determines the technology strategy (i.e., “What problems are we trying to solve?”) and enforces the right user behaviors (i.e., “How do we best use the tool to solve those problems?”) across the enterprise. Absent such a governing body, even organizations that recognize the need for process standardization can fall short of realizing the full benefits, as they often focus their efforts on only the largest projects.
- Streamline and Enhance Employee Education: A pile of paperwork and handouts is likely the last thing most employees want to see during their work day, yet most organizations still facilitate employee onboarding and educating through the timeworn practice of supplying stacks of manuals, handbooks, and other product documentation. Onboarding should instead be handled in forums that facilitate the “high touch” aspects of learning how to use new technology. Emphasis should be on functionality (the “how”) and use cases (the “why”), with a particular focus on the benefits to end-users. One way to accomplish this is to bring in an expert team from the company that developed the technology and host an interactive training session that includes demos, simulations, and discussions.
By keeping people, technology, and process equally top of mind, construction organizations can address their evolving business needs and project demands by capitalizing on digitization. Doing so will enable them to connect project participants - wherever they may be - to improve outcomes for all stakeholders.