What to Know Before Buying Construction Technology
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Expert advice on buying construction technology.

Are you thinking about new construction technology for your office? Well this one is for you! Often, construction technology seems like a daunting task when viewed alongside all the other tasks you have on your plate day to day. Where do you even begin?

Fortunately, we partnered with STACK Construction Technologies on an expert led session on how to prepare for new tech. We’re joined by construction technologist Dane Pemberton, who is the US Group Construction Technology Manager at BL Harbert. Dane spent a decade in the field as a project manager, so he has a unique view on tech and how to manage it. Here, we’ll break down what to evaluate with fit, budget, and time, along with questions you should be asking yourself, your team, and the products you’re thinking of trying.

Industry Findings

First up, the metrics. STACK put together a great technology report. They surveyed close to 1,000 industry professionals, and while the results are insightful, they weren’t terribly surprising. They highlight that 56% of respondents saw an increase in project volume, and that 61% think their business will grow in 2021. For technology, 77% believe that software provides a strategic advantage, and 66% want new technology for their office. Concerning workflow management, 50% are using spreadsheets and 20% are using pen and paper. For data management, 32% say their data is siloed and never leaves its original location, 33% have to manually re-enter values between systems, and 32% are using spreadsheets to transfer data between systems. Based on all of that information, readers wonder why more companies aren’t using technology. The results show that 23% are concerned about fit, 24% worry about budget, and a staggering 46% just don’t have the time. Now, let’s dig into those three concerns.

Evaluating Fit

Evaluating fit is important, and likely the easiest since you can do it on you’re own before speaking to a company. Looking at existing users is a good step, and can be accomplished with a Google search. One of our favorite review sites is Capterra, since it shows the office size of the reviewer. You can pinpoint things that will benefit an office of your size, and what’s lacking. Also, most products will have product and testimonial videos online. You’ll get a birds-eye view of the product, and see how users have adopted and seen success with the vendor. The next point is value match, which sometimes gets overlooked. Don’t make that mistake, since you want the vendor to be invested in your success. If a company and their product match your office’s value system, your team will have a better experience. In line with the team being happy, you want to designate an internal champion. Someone that will be using the product, and that will help to drive adoption and team happiness. This team member is vital.

Evaluate Budget

The most unique category to evaluate is budget. This is going to be different for each office, but there are resources that will help you determine how much is common for your company size. Dane pointed to a study on spending, that shows the construction sector spends, on average, 1.51% of revenue on the IT budget. That’s a good starting place, and from there evaluate the split between infrastructure and operational spending. Once you’ve determined a rough percentage, review what’s included with the products you’re looking to implement. Look for things like training, support, and the potential need to hire outside help depending on the weight of the product. One thing we recently learned is that any Paycheck Protection Program funds (or PPP) can be used for technology purchases. Check out Procore’s article and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s latest report from March for more information.

Evaluate Time

The invaluable category is time. Something most offices always need more of, and value greatly. Dane’s recommendation is developing a thorough implementation strategy for your office specifically. Often, tech providers will have a preset onboarding and success timeline, but add to that and build one specific for your team. Having this plan in place from the start helps with overall follow through and success. He typically includes pre-launch tasks, gathering internal buy-in and support, a training plan, allocation of staff resources, communication and training of customers or vendors (if necessary), continuing education, and a follow-up plan. As you’re building this plan, the product you’re considering purchasing should be open to answering any questions to help you complete this, and even provide some current customers that could provide guidance as well. There are two more thought based questions to consider. The first, “is this solution right, or right for now?” Digging into how your office will grow will help you look to the future and determine what type of success you would like to see in the coming years. The second question is, “when is the best time for my team to implement new tech?” This is important, since more respondents to the survey say they expect growth over the course of 2021. Pick the time of year that will allow you and your team to be the most successful with new technology.

Evaluate ROI

Finally, let’s talk about ROI. Setting an expectation for the return on investment for construction technology is critical to its perceived and actual success. The first and earliest way to measure ROI currently and in future state is to do a trial run. Technology providers that want customers to stick with the product for the long haul will likely offer this, in the form of a short free trial period, a pilot program, or a proof of concept. For construction technology, a good way to evaluate a system is to pick an upcoming build project, designate a champion, and see how it works for your team. That way you get the full user experience, without having to train your entire team or make huge changes to existing processes. Flashtract regularly does this with prospects, and so far they’ve all turned into full implementations since it allows the user to see how we do business, with extremely limited risk. The last two points are pretty straight forward. Stay dedicated to the plan you created. Often, the initial phase is exciting and has the most energy, but the later phases can be cumbersome with certain products. Dane recommends that you stick with it, and complete the evaluation. Once that initial plan is complete, you’ll want to have a solid post-launch plan. This will include check-in points and team happiness ratings with the new process. This allows you to provide feedback to the vendor about what you would like to see in future versions, and also gives you context and measurable results when the contract comes up for renewal.

All of this will help you successfully bring in new construction technology, and experience the benefits you were hoping to achieve. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions, and look for vendors that will advocate for you and be a resource, not just act as an order taker. Customer success is a priority at Flashtract, as we’re only as successful as our customers. We’re always looking to improve the experience with our product, and are dedicated to solving problems with simple and easy to use billing document management software. Contact us today to learn how we can help you focus on building, not billing.

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