We’ve seen a lot of innovation in construction technology in the past several years, all with varying degrees of success. While a few firms have experienced a seamless transition to new construction software and mobile apps, there are many more out there that have been scarred by bad technology. Knowing this makes it easy to understand why over half of the industry is still largely running on paper-based field processes.
There are several reasons for the lack of successful adoption. Many solutions were created by software developers who never worked in construction and therefore didn’t fully understand exactly how the tool would be used. Others were merely bolt-on solutions for legacy ERP systems looking to gain more market share. Still others failed due to poor roll out processes.
Construction by nature is the ultimate distributed workforce, and therefore requires an extra degree of thought to encourage adoption of new tools. Behavior change takes significant effort, especially when you’ve been doing something the same way for a really long time.
Our team has learned this firsthand from decades of field experience, resulting in a strategy that enables construction technology pilots to achieve their goals. Project size can vary and the number of users can fluctuate, but every pilot is better served by taking a thoughtful approach to the following success factors:
1. Pick the Right Project
If you’re really trying to get a feel for whether or not new technology is going to work for your team, you’ve got to pick the right kind of project to pilot. What factors make for a good pilot project?
First and foremost, choose a project that is about to kickoff, or a project that is not too far along. This allows you to avoid getting bogged down with existing project constraints.
Setting a precedent for using a new technology from Day 1 ensures adoption from the entire project team. You’ll also run into less miscommunication around data collection methods.
2. Identify Extreme Users
Choosing the right project means choosing a project with the right kind of users. When it comes to product design, the Stanford d.school has popularized the concept of extreme users. This is a concept where product designers intentionally select users “on the fringe,” to highlight meaningful needs that may not be as apparent when engaging just the average user.
At Rhumbix, we encourage our customers to follow the extreme user principle by choosing at least 3 foremen, with different levels of technology experience, to pilot our construction mobile app. We believe pilot success depends on making sure even the most non-technical foreman can use our mobile app.
The extreme user approach will help you better understand adoption rates, behavioral differences and the appropriate amount of resources needed when the product is running at scale.
In some cases, you can benefit by piloting multiple projects with one foreman each. Piloting on multiple small projects that are running simultaneously ensures that you have the right mix of users to get meaningful results. In other cases, you can benefit by choosing a larger project with multiple foremen to effectively test the product.
Being thoughtful about your approach will help you understand how the solution impacts performance by giving you visibility into a cross-section of your work. This can help you more accurately gauge how a full deployment might improve productivity.
The key to success is to go for users at the edge in order to gather meaningful insights on how it will be received and used by your team. If a foreman who has never used a smart phone is feeling comfortable using your solution by the end of a pilot, that’s a really good sign. Yes, this happens!
3. Set Clear Expectations
What we expect out of an experience has a huge impact on what we get out of it.
Start your technology pilot with a mindset of success and enthusiasm. Get your organization fully onboard—from the executive suite to those in the field. Challenge your team to identify the pain points that you’d like to see improved through a deployment of new construction technology.
Sometimes the priority is simply digitizing existing processes in order to save time. Other times the priority may be in analyzing production factors to increase labor productivity.
With any new technology, there are important considerations related to integrations with existing tools and processes. Getting on the same page from the get-go puts everyone in a position to win.
3.5 Set Your Team and Schedule
When deploying field technology, remember that the data collected is used by stakeholders across the board.
Set yourself up for success by designating a Champion who will serve as the liaison between your company and the technology firm to get the right people on board internally before the pilot starts. This might mean setting up time for your payroll team to look at the technology and ensure the data exported meets the needs of your existing ERP system. It also could mean arranging in-person meetings between the technology company and representatives from your Operations team and the Executive suite in order to understand how the solution will integrate with their day-to-day responsibilities.
At Rhumbix, we make it a point to be highly accessible and available for these important conversations leading up to, and through, the life of the pilot. Our primary goal is to validate if we're a good fit for your company's operation, with an eye toward the individuals who will be most impacted by the change.
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Modern construction technology isn’t slowing down anytime soon, and the potential gains in productivity mean piloting new solutions is no longer an option; it’s an imperative.
The real risk is in not trying new solutions and missing out on exposure to technology that will solve the problems you've been wanting to tackle for a very long time.