Earlier this month, I participated in a panel at the AGC IT Forum. The topic of the panel was “Who’s the Boss?” and was attended by over 300 people, the majority of whom were in IT roles at their companies. To kick-off the panel, we used live polling to gauge audience responses to a few questions, and honestly, if that is ALL we had done during the panel, it would have been worth it.
The goal of the panel was to discuss the changing role of IT in construction, and what companies can do to move technology initiatives forward. But the answers to these few questions reveal some of the wider trends we’re seeing in construction.
I thought this audience feedback reflected some telling insights that construction technology companies should take note of as they look to best serve their customers.
First, we asked how many of the companies in attendance had a recognized innovation committee. The result was about a 50/50 split between companies who do, and companies who don’t.
What this tells me is that there are still a lot of companies that operate with a traditional, siloed approach to IT. Instead of incorporating IT across the business, they continue to play a supportive role to executives and other leaders that are making key business decisions.
IT simply reacts to the business, rather than being involved in driving business decisions.
We followed up the first question by asking those who have a recognized technology committee how effective they are. Most responded that they’re “mostly not”, or only “somewhat” effective.
Bummer. It’s not really the answer I wanted to hear, but it also didn’t surprise me.
The industry is clearly in the early days of transitioning IT from a siloed function, to one that spans across the business. So it’s natural to expect growing pains. Not only is IT having to learn new ways, the entire organization is having to learn new ways to work with them.
I’m a big believer in cross-functional collaboration when it comes to technology because I’ve seen it work first-hand. But the reality is it does take work. From forming a team, to keeping it sustainable, and problem-solving challenges along the way, there is a lot to consider—yet not a lot of models and best practices to follow (yet).
Now that we had a pulse on how companies are approaching innovation, we wanted to understand who benefits the most from new solutions.
This response was encouraging: Operations and Field were the clear winners, beating out Back Office and IT.
We may still be figuring out the right process and best practices, but we’re all convinced that field operations is where we stand to gain the most from new technology.
The final question we asked pivoted away from technology toward understanding leadership challenges. We wanted to know—of the companies represented—how many had two or more executives retiring in the next five years?
The answer? A very clear and resounding “yes” from almost every audience member.
The generational transition the industry has been talking about for a long time is no longer something to prepare for; it’s something companies are facing right now.
The audience responses set the panelists up for some great discussion around how to solve for these challenges and maximize the field potential of technology. More on that in another upcoming post.
But for now, I’d challenge construction technology firms to take these realities into account as they’re in discussions with new and prospective customers. It’s our responsibility to understand the business problems our customers need to solve, and the challenges they face in pushing initiatives forward. Get curious about their problems. Do your homework. And then come alongside them with the solutions and support they need to drive step-by-step success.
Related post: Rethinking the Role of Construction IT
— Background image via AGC IT Forum on Twitter, @AGCIT. Poll images courtesy of AGC.