Obstacles to Technology Adoption
Obstacles to Technology Adoption
Over the years in this industry, I’ve observed and been at the coalface of implementing technology and software in many builder organisations and the one thing that used to astound me but no longer does, is the way in which the various ‘silos’ or functions within a business dictate what technology is software is used in the business and that most times it is used to barely 50% of its capacity.
There are various reasons for this and in Australia, partly because we have only had software that is designed to work in one area Eg, estimating only or scheduling only or CRM only or accounting only. This sets up an approach that is not ‘customer focussed’ and relies on ‘silos’ within a business just doing their own thing.
One of the other reasons, I believe is that owners/principals generally only have a detailed knowledge of one or two parts of the business and rely on others to carry out the other functions. The owners/principals rely on other managers to make decisions or provide advice and if these other managers do not understand the business as a ‘whole’ then biased advice and information will be provided. The owners/principals are also not very ‘tech savvy’ and understand the benefits technology can bring to their business as a whole if adopted correctly and by looking at the ‘benefits’ to the business as a whole.
I am aware of a major residential builder that (probably still does) used nine different systems which require the client’s details and job details to be manually entered into different systems nine separate times. Imagine the room for errors not to mention the duplication of effort. Any business analyst would cringe at the wasted productivity in doing this, yet it occurs on a daily basis.
“Technology in residential construction can be adapted to suit most businesses but it isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ to fix a business”.
In Australia, because the residential construction industry has not had fully integrated construction software for residential builders, many of the major builders have spent considerable money on developing their own using platforms such as MS Dynamics or SAP. This creates a ‘custom built’ system which can tend to fall behind on technology advances and continually need $$$ spent on the software to keep it current. It then becomes a major asset on the balance that would have to be written off and create negative pressures on the profits and dividends. I remember AV Jennings spending considerable money to develop their own MS-Dos based software for estimating which eventually morphed into Databuild, one of the main software packages used by residential builders as there was nothing else to choose from many years ago.
The following are ten obstacles, that I see regularly, to technology adoption, not only with construction software but with any software such as CAD design, CRM, project management and so on. Any one of these has the potential to derail, delay or stop the adoption of technology in building businesses:
- Software selection: Too many software systems for builders and their staff to learn, interface with, and stay current on. This also makes it very difficult to make a decision about which software to use as each has a different focus and rarely provides and end-to-end solution
- Culture: A culture that cannot or won’t support or adapt to change. There have been many times where I have witnessed people in a building business actively ‘white anting’ new software or by being passively aggressive towards any changes. This creates an atmosphere of distrust, misinformation and delays in achieving any real progress to creating an efficient organisation.
- Training: Insufficient training at all levels, which results in poor understanding of the system. Training does cost money however, but without it the benefits of the software and the improvements in the business fall aside. This provides ‘fodder’ to the people against the change and senior management or the owner start to question the purchase of the software. Training must be provided to all levels of the business including the owner/principal so they understand the benefits, the reporting and the productivity gains to be made to the business. Training is the most important aspect of any new technology and it should not be diluted or reduced in any way otherwise, the promised benefits will fail to materialise.
- Process: Trying to implement technology in organisations where systems and processes are in disarray. Many owners/principals think that the introduction of technology and software will magically improve a business overnight. The truth is that technology will only follow the systems and processes a business has in place. If these are inefficient and not documented properly, the technology will just amplify the problems and make it worse. While culture and training will hold back the success of any technology breakthrough, the lack of systems and processes will definitely see it fail. A good way to document the systems and processes is by preparing process maps of the whole journey so that the builder can make sure the process is sound, no duplication and achieves what they want. The technology can then improve it by speeding up parts and removing manual steps along the way.
- Discipline: Lack of discipline in implementing and keeping systems current. Once the software /technology is in place, you can’t sit back and think it will all run like clockwork from there. In previous articles on “The Seven Traits of a Highly Successful Builder” and “Are You Flying By the Seat of your Pants?”, I discussed the principles that are used and practiced by successful builders. If these are not transferred into the technology systems then the business will start to fall backwards as the technology doesn’t stay up to date or the information becomes out of date.
- Documentation: Plan and specification inadequacy compounds issues. In an upcoming article on “It all starts with the Plans and Documentation”, I will discuss further how the stage is set by the plans and documentation. If these are not complete, incorrect or not updated then it follows that the information flowing through the technology such as the BOQs, pricing and procurement will be way off leading to errors, ETSs and frustration by the construction team. If you can’t build it on paper, then how can you expect the estimators to estimate correctly and the site supervisors to build it onsite. Check out my upcoming article because I won’t hold back on my thoughts in this area.
- Leadership: The builder’s leadership is not up to the challenge of leading and managing change. Along with ‘culture’, this is one other area that can make technology fail. It is up to the owner/principal to get behind the implementation program and ‘champion’ the change. Without any leadership from management, the successful adoption of technology will fail. I have seen it many times. Owners/principals should become familiar with the benefits that will be achieved by the implementation of technology and focus on the outcomes not the changes that have to occur along the way to achieve the benefits. Change management can be a difficult process and staff need to understand the ‘whole’ view of the implementation and why the business is introducing the technology. It is definitely not about eliminating peoples’ jobs – It is about improving the efficiency of the business and to handle more with the same amount of staff leading to better profits, easier processes and less manual work for staff, more stability in employment, more certainty in the future of the business and better experiences for the customers.
- Consistency: There’s no consistency because the same system is implemented differently by each builder. Very few builders or people who run building businesses have had the opportunity to work for one of the major residential builders and to see how the whole process works from sales/marketing through to warranty and maintenance. Unfortunately, people don’t know what they don’t know so they come up with systems and processes themselves that vary from builder to builder. Technology in residential construction can be adapted to suit most businesses but it isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ to fix a business. Most software comes as a blank system that requires businesses to setup their own documents and many owners expect the software to be a ‘plug in and go’ option. This is not the case and there is always considerable work involved in setting up the system to suit every builder.
- Subcontractors: The current industry structure of subcontracted work isn’t conducive to technology. I’m sure many sub-contractors would like to embrace technology more, yet it remains a hurdle many find too difficult. Unless a contractor works only for one builder then the variance in systems will make it almost impossible for contractors to work within one technology ecosystem. The sub-contract industry is largely unsophisticated and any attempt to move the introduction of technology beyond the builder’s system is usually met with resistance and in most cases just an inability to use the technology. As I mentioned in a previous article “Are You Flying by the Seat of your Pants?”, the project management skills of the industry have deteriorated badly and so how can we expect the subcontract industry to embrace technology if the builders can’t get their act together.
- Quality: Garbage in, garbage out and not enough will power to stop the inbound trash. What more can I say? Points 1-8 above will all contribute to the ‘quality’ of the outcomes.
The 3C Mentor and Alpha Edge can help your business with the implementation of technology and enabling the best results from the technology. Hyphen Homefront construction software is one technology that can provide a fully integrated system for residential builders, Because The 3C Mentor is a licensed builder and building designer as well as having qualifications in architecture, digital marketing and training, we are able to understand exactly what builders need to run a successful business and help them achieve this.
The whole purpose of The 3C Mentor and Alpha Edge is to help create really great businesses in the residential building industry and delivered by our unique ‘Four Pillars to Your Success’ – Business Coaching, Business Consulting, Business Resources and Construction Software.
For an overview of these four pillars go to Alpha Edge here. To find out more about our Business Coaching go to The 3C Mentor here, for further information about the services Alpha Edge can provide go directly to Alpha Edge here and to access the many documents and resources you need as a residential builder, go to our Builder’s Business Resource Centre here. For more information on the construction software and how to ‘Be a Better Builder’, click here
This blog was posted by Thrive Technologies with the permission of Bruce Robb and Alpha Edge. Alpha Edge helps you become a better builder through business coaching, business consulting, business resources and by using awesome construction management software. Check them out HERE. https://www.alphaedge.com.au/