Posted: February 25, 2019
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It’s a busy time in the construction industry. If you’re a project manager or an estimator, it may be a good opportunity to push for new digital tools. With nearly all contractors struggling to hire extra hands, adding new tech may be worth exploring if your construction business is striving to work leaner.
Case in point: The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) just reported that its Construction Backlog Indicator held steady in the fourth quarter of 2018, averaging 8.9 months. For all of 2018, the average backlog was 9.1 months, indicating 2019 could be historically busy for contractors of all size.
Getting the Green Light for New Tools
Asking for new tech tools this year? Once you’ve gotten the green light to streamline and modernize your estimating workflows, you should focus on creating a list of software requirements. A 2017 McKinsey & Company report noted the importance of checking out more than just the software when researching new construction technology. They suggest it is critical to have a clear understanding of how new tools are supported and integrate with other tools.
Once you get buy-in for estimating software from management, it’s equally important to test out possible solutions by requesting demos and free trials. You’ll also want to weigh which features and functionality you need today, and which ones could sustain you into the future. Once the pros and cons are considered, it’s time to make a recommendation and move toward implementation.
For many estimators and project managers, it’s exciting to think how new digital estimating tools could drastically cut takeoff and estimating time—especially if you’re still doing takeoffs by hand. Long nights and weekends spent in the office may finally become a thing of the past. Meanwhile, leadership will likely be eager to see a quick ROI on their investment.
Relying on Technology Without Training
Yes, powerful software tools can make a night-and-day difference when used daily by estimators to bid more effectively, reduce errors, and win more profitable projects. But you shouldn’t expect to go from novice to pro overnight with new digital estimating tools. You shouldn’t forget about training and the learning curve that comes with all new technology.
Even with the smoothest implementation, technology alone cannot save your business or account for a weak estimator or project manager. If you’re not trained adequately, you are more likely to make errors and have a lower level of productivity.
For some contractors, having the resources to manage and update software and train employees can be a struggle. There may also be bumps in the road when it comes down to whether new tech and legacy systems play well together.
Doing Lousy Work Faster
Some contractors may be tempted to lean too heavily on technology. In our white paper, Overcoming the Pitfalls of Estimating, we explore how no one tool can make up for a low-performing employee. Nobody wants to end up with a weak estimator who does bad work faster. Even easy-to-learn, intuitive software will require training for all involved.
Without the proper training and experience, an estimator could introduce risk by failing to calculate costs correctly. Think of forgetting to calculate indirect or direct cost accurately. Your construction business could be in big trouble if your bid doesn’t include office overhead and rent or the accurate cost of portable toilet rentals, trailers, and fencing.
More than just an increase in errors, there is also the issue of lost productivity and dissatisfied employees. An HR Magazine report noted that companies who invest at least $1,500 in annual training have a 24% higher profit margin than companies who spend less on training.
Lock in Support from Leadership
Balancing technology with training is vital, especially for employees who are new to the construction industry. Making sure you have support from leadership can make all the difference for a successful implementation. Many contractors invest in a mix of online and in-person training to ensure they are getting the most out of their new tech tools.
Consider the case of a construction firm hiring a young college grad to fill a more junior estimating position. This situation requires a more serious commitment to ongoing training and mentoring by more senior employees.
For your more experienced staff, management should set a high bar–don’t be satisfied with training that only covers the basics. Your construction business will no doubt reap the rewards of more in-depth training that provides shortcuts, tips, and tricks so you can more quickly deliver ROI.
Training for Long-Term Success
Remember, investing in training for your staff is an investment in your construction business. Taking the time to train and certify new employees will benefit you in the long run and strengthen potentially weak estimators/project managers.
Experts also note it’s important to identify key individuals who can take a leadership role. Once you begin to roll out new technology, having these go-to people in place can increase everyone’s commitment to using new tech tools. If your leaders and mentors can demonstrate how much easier life is with new estimating tools, you’ll see a faster adoption rate.