The Construction Payment Blog periodically invites forward-thinking construction technology companies contribute to the publication with articles about technology in the construction industry and how the landscape is changing. This article is one in a series of contributions from FieldLens, a friend of the Construction Payment Blog and one of the most promising young construction tech companies.
Mobile technology for construction has been a hot topic in the industry for a few years now. Mobile comes with the promise of improved jobsite efficiency. Thanks to smartphones and tablets, construction professionals are no longer tethered to their desks or jobsite trailers, running back and forth from field to office. But it hasn’t all lived up to its promise. The simple communication tools provided by mobile devices – emails, phone calls, texts, instant access to documents and photos – should make everyone’s day so much easier. Project teams should be connecting better than ever before. But they aren’t.
Despite taking advantage of mobile technology, collaboration and efficiency haven’t improved at the same rate that mobile has been adopted by project teams. The problem isn’t the technology. The problem is how the technology is being used. Simple in theory, emails, phone calls and texts have become a complex way of dealing with the hundreds of issues that come up on a typical jobsite every day. Construction tech enthusiasts often arrive onsite with a tablet for taking notes and accessing documents, a smartphone loaded with various apps that perform a whole host of functions, and sometimes even a clipboard and camera for good measure. All these devices and software might sound good, but if a contractor can’t get a handle on the flow of communication, then all that other technology just doesn’t do much to truly improve efficiency.
Construction professionals might be more mobile than ever before, but with a smartphone and/or a tablet hardly ever out of arm’s reach, the influx of information about multiple projects is nonstop. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of dealing with incoming communication while productivity in the field slips by. Distributing communication on construction projects serves two purposes: to make sure information is understood and to make sure it is not misunderstood. Making sure information is understood ensures tasks get done. Making sure it’s not misunderstood helps prevent expensive mistakes. Keeping information accessible is only part of the equation to optimize efficient collaboration – information also needs to be trackable and easy to locate, and it should promote a two-way flow of conversation. It sounds good in theory, but a typical project using standard modes of communication rarely goes that smoothly.
Technology solutions claiming to improve efficiency on the jobsite need to start with effective communication as the baseline. Construction is a mobile industry, with most construction professionals moving all day from jobsite to jobsite, or to different locations within the same jobsite. Technology providers need to take the mobility of construction workers into account and do more than just replicate job processes or try to bring everything into the cloud. The solution is to account for existing tools like texts, emails, and phone calls, but use technology to make them a productive part of the job rather than a time suck. Once you get communication flowing the right way, the jobsite becomes more effective and other technologies actually do start to improve efficiency.
Communication and collaboration will never improve in construction by using mobile devices loaded with apps, all while still using emails and text messaging as the primary method of connecting project teams. Construction professionals need to work smarter in order to build better, and that starts with making everyday processes of communication more effective. It’s up to construction software companies to provide tools that mimic the workflows construction professionals are used to using to ensure technology is working for the industry and not against it.