How Tech is Leveling Preconstruction Playing Field


First, the good news: construction professionals no longer must live by spreadsheets alone.Now, the complicated news: adopting new technology is not a one-and-done process.

As file cabinets and spreadsheets make way for cloud software and data optimization, more and more contractors are struggling to get a handle on how technology is both disrupting and leveling today’s preconstruction playing field.

Not only do contractors have to find and justify IT budget, but they must research, test, and implement new tech to constantly stay ahead of the tech curve to ensure productivity and profitability. That’s the word from JBKnowledge and its 2019 Technology in Preconstruction Report.

Survey Reflects Wide Range of Roles

As preconstruction roles become more fluid, it’s interesting to look at how contractors are using new technology to find leads, perform takeoffs and estimates, and submit bids.

Distilled from the 2018 ConTech Report by JBKnowledge, the Preconstruction Report captures insights from nearly 3,000 construction pros. Of those:   

  • 42.5% identify as subcontractors
  • 36.7% identify as general contractors/construction managers
  • 28.3% work in an estimating or preconstruction management role 
  • Most common subcontractor specialty: electrical, mechanical, HVAC, and plumbing  

Of those participating in the survey, the most common job titles were Preconstruction Managers & Directors, Senior and Chief Estimators, Bid Coordinators and Assistants. The report found that these less common job titles that are growing in popularity and importance include: Chief Innovation Officers, Chief Data Officers, Preconstruction Technology Managers, BIM-VDC Coordinators & Managers and Data Analysts.

Another interesting fact: most of the firms represented have been in business over 50 years, having 201-500 employees on average, and are primarily focused on commercial building projects.

Customizable, Integrated Tools Needed

In analyzing this data, it is interesting to note how preconstruction workflows come in all types and flavors—from highly-customizable estimating tools to standalone spreadsheets and custom questionnaires.

Here are some of the most interesting report findings:

  • Most contractors use custom forms that can be built-out and integrated with bid management, accounting, and ERP solutions to qualify and select subcontractors.
  • Just 38.7% of those surveyed are using dedicated takeoff software as opposed to spreadsheets.
  • 63.2% of the thousands of contractors surveyed report still using spreadsheets in their estimating process.
  • No single estimating tool was found to be used by more than 18% of those surveyed.
  • Nearly 50% report using DropBox with most relying on separate document management solutions, which they integrate into their company-wide workflows.
  • Many contractors use an ad-hoc combination of all-of-the-above for their bid management process.

No doubt, relying on a mish-mash of emails, spreadsheets, and document management tools may work for many in construction. But contractors who do make the leap to dedicated and integrated tech tools find that a searchable database with reporting capabilities can greatly

improve their estimating and bid management processes.

Changing Preconstruction Landscape

Technology seems to be simultaneously disrupting and driving change in today’s preconstruction industry. As contractors seek to bid work in broader regions, the report found that many need the tech tools to simplify how they secure reliable subcontractors, takeoff, estimate, and organize their bids, and execute on project plans.

It appears what contractors need more than ever are the right tech tools that provide both mobility and accuracy to level the playing field with their competitors. In addition, construction firms must either add new roles to support data optimization or be willing to educate current staff.

In addition, the report predicts that no construction employee will be untouched by cloud software, mobile apps, and innovative hardware. As spreadsheets and file cabinets being to bephased out, they predict those who don’t educate and adopt new technology could be left behind in a big way.

Why You Should Take the Leap

Though challenging, construction pros must realize that the reams of paper that cluttered officesa decade ago have given way to a myriad of tech solutions. While much of the self-education on construction tech has been tricky, many in construction have come a long way in the last five years as they added new tools to their toolbox.

For example, general contractors who connect their bid management workflows find it more efficient and productive to connect their data via a platform that can both send invitations to bid (ITBs) and handle prequalification of subcontractors.

In addition, while spreadsheets are still popular with estimators, manual input of data can be cumbersome and error-prone. More than anything, contractors who too often rely on one-way integrations that push or pull data end up relying too often on spreadsheets.

One thing is clear: general contractors are starting to realize the power of organizing and analyzing subcontractors’ bid and communication data to better predict future project partners. Not to mention, contractors are realizing the power of estimating tools to find costly project issues early in their workflow.

As a result, integrated tools like the Contractor’s Suite combine the power of On-Screen Takeoff (rated the No. 1 Takeoff tool in the survey) with Quick Bid and Digital Production Control. Request a demo now to see how these tools help contractors speed up their preconstruction process for takeoff, estimating, and project management.

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