Building a Mobile Infrastructure For a New Generation in the Construction Industry

Jon Witty, VP & GM, Sage Construction and Real Estate
Jon Witty, VP & GM, Sage Construction and Real Estate

Jon Witty, VP & GM, Sage Construction and Real Estate

Making mission critical business applications available remotely is an important topic in the construction industry, where money is made and lost in the field. Remote access allows project managers and superintendents on the job site to make more informed decisions and improve productivity. With even small contractors seeking work outside their geographic region, being able to offer solid remote technology to employees is critical for a construction company’s success. Cloud-based mobile technologies provide employees with the flexibility they crave, enabling them to work anytime, anyplace.

This flexibility is particularly important when attracting technology savvy Millenials who are used to mobile access. This generation of digital natives – the first to grow up with computers in their homes – has incorporated personal handheld devices and the freedom they provide into their personal lives. As they begin to enter the workforce, they are becoming instrumental in the way industries such as construction and real estate view and use technology and they expect to have the same technology available in their jobs as they have in their personal lives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 80 million people born between 1979 and 1999 will make up 36 percent of the workforce by 2014 and 46 percent by 2020. What does this mean for the construction industry? As Millenials continue to join and advance in the workforce, mobile and cloud technology will be tightly woven into the way we work, communicate and live, allowing contractors to have the technological solutions to better collaborate and get the answers they need whether they’re in the office or on a jobsite.

Mobile technology has forced communication to be much more collaborative as today’s construction company leverages cloud-based services to compete in a still recovering economy. This will continue to be evident as Millenial construction professionals who enter the workforce demand a higher level of transparency and accountability between their teams and the property owner.

Millenial clients also demand a mobile experience, so it’s important for construction professionals to not only focus on improving internal process or technologies, but on delivering information to their clients when they want it, the way they want it. Embracing new technology helps construction firms remain competitive in a number of ways, from producing estimates more quickly and accurately to catching potential project issues to providing clients with real time photos and updates.

A 2013 Construction IT survey conducted by Sage asked companies how they planned to use mobile technologies in 2013. Nearly half said they would use it to access customer and job info while 48% said they would use it to share drawings, schedules, photos and documents and 39% said they would use it for job cost and project reports. Other popular uses included daily field reporting and time capture and approval, incorporating mobile technology into just about every aspect of a project.

As cloud-services continue to be commonplace, companies running multiple job sites will no longer need to run paper trails to a central office which may delay a project. Construction companies can securely share job-related documents to a specified set of project staff, including those outside of an organization, allowing everyone connected to a project to review and approve information as needed. This is a much more productive and cost effective way of doing business and is the future of the industry.

Employees from across the county, the country, or even in different countries will be able to access web-based applications to carry out project management, scheduling, punchlists and time tracking tasks in real time out in the field. To a new generation who seems to thrive on mentorship from upper management, getting assurance from employers who provide the type of tools to address an important project in a timely manner whether they are in the office or not, goes a long way.

This is evidenced by the growing momentum in the use of varied mobile technologies in the construction industry. The 2013 Construction IT survey Sage conducted also revealed that 39% of construction contractors planned to increase their use of tablets and 31% planned to increase their use of smartphones in 2013 alone. Given the continuing advances in smart devices and construction-related cloud apps, this growth is anticipated to continue in the industry.

Given the extreme growth in the area of mobility, today’s business solutions will continue to be supported by the highly mobile workforce of the construction industry, and the Millenials that are the next generation of construction workers.

In today’s economy, companies are looking towards extending the applications they are using in their offices into the cloud where it makes sense, and making sure employees –future and present—are on board with it is critical.

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