I had the opportunity to spend three days at Con/Expo and the AGC IT Forum Summit, which gave me the chance to chat with construction industry tech leaders. Our conversations often focused on growing concerns about data silos, training requirements, and security that stem from the growing number of apps in our industry. While our thriving app ecosystem is a welcome sign of high development activity and a focus on solving end user problems, it has brought about its own set of challenges.
Apps must integrate or they are out
Today we have a slew of apps, at last count I have over 15, each of which is a great “point solution” to a respective need. However, they are not properly integrated into the core project management or accounting ecosystems. In an effort to make us more efficient by solving specific problems we have unintentionally done the opposite by implementing app sprawl that makes finding a single source of truth difficult.
“We are hearing from General Contractors along with trade professionals that they can no longer support one-off solutions,” said Josh Bone of JB Knowledge. “They are overwhelmed by point solutions and if apps can’t integrate with tools they are already using, they are out”.
Whether you call it by one of the trendy buzz names of “app clutter," “app fatigue," or “app sprawl” the pain point is clear and an ever-growing concern.
A tech stack made of best in breed solution
In a perfect world the marketing promises of the all in one project management solution would solve all problems, but I have yet to see such an offering and doubt it will ever happen. Historic technological trends have an affinity towards using best in breed solutions. My list of best in breed might look something like this:
- Procore for project management
- Smartbid for bidding
- Bluebeam for plan markup & takeoff
- Rhumbix for worker timesheets
- Smartvid.io for photo & video management
- Sage for accounting
- P6 for schedule management
- Autodesk Forge for model viewing
A smart foundation for this tech stack to be built on would be the project management solution, which serves as our base of construction operations. It would provide the single source of truth for data while interfacing with each point solution a given company prefers. This single source of truth platform would provide the foundation for unmatched analytics and reporting to make informed decisions in real time.
A base of construction operations
I have talked about the benefits of analytics for our industry before in my post Don’t Let Your Data Sit There, Put it to Work!. Armed with the appropriate data, talent and data driven mindset we could begin to leverage Big Data. This would enable us to operate our construction projects with confidence, asking important questions, and enabling better business decisions, all while allowing users to use solutions that best fit their workflow. What is important at the end of the day is the required data is collected and it ends up in that primary database.
I imagine you are asking yourself:
- Does this solution exist?
- If so, how do we find this magical unicorn?
- If not, what can we do as customers?
A customer call to action
We can start by demanding our software providers open up and play nice with others by utilizing robust APIs and developing seamless integration partnerships. All solutions are made between when data can seamlessly be shared across platforms. I’ve already seen a few companies heading in this direction such as Procore, Bluebeam, Smartvid.io, Rhumbix, Smartbid and Assemble. Hopefully more will follow based on the demands of customers. With more of these systems integrated we can begin to address the productivity problem that is so rampant in our industry. We can leverage these solutions in a truly collaborative way that will change the way that we build. The free flow of data between our systems is the lubrication for informed decision making processes across the industry.