What’s Next? Insights on Construction Technology and Data

Stephanie Patterson, Rhumbix InsiderAugust 15, 2017 • 5 min read

Today we’re sharing some highlights from last week’s webinar: Increasing Labor Productivity with Data, hosted by the AGC and sponsored by Procore. At the conclusion of the webinar, our CEO, Zach Scheel, and Dir. of Data Science, Michael Myers fielded some great, thought-provoking questions on the use of technology in the construction industry. We think you’ll agree their answers are worth considering.

Are technology companies the driver for innovation within the construction industry, or are construction companies the driver for innovation within technology?

Zach: Change must come from the contractor; or, what we see more often are owners driving more technology into the industry.

For example, the healthcare sector was a large driving factor in more widespread adoption of BIM by requiring its usage on large hospital projects.

Regulation can also be a driver. In the United Kingdom, the government passed a mandate in 2011 requiring Level 2 BIM for all public sector construction projects by April 2016.

At Rhumbix, we really believe that technology providers are tool-builders. We help augment the work of subcontractors, contractors, and owners. But at the end of the day software alone does not change behaviors.

It really starts with the leadership at a company making a commitment to change. When leadership is ready to take the journey toward digitizing processes and challenging the status quo, we are right there with them.

What are some of the biggest roadblocks you face when implementing new technology?

Zach: One of the biggest barriers is education, and rightfully so. Construction is historically not a large purchaser of software, so there is very little precedent for what it takes to make implementation successful.

When we enter a new engagement, we spend a tremendous amount of time educating our customers, and understanding the goals and outcomes they want to achieve. If we discover that we’re not the right solution for them, we tell them right off the bat.

Another barrier is not selecting the right tool for the job, or purchasing software thinking it will be a silver bullet to solving their problems. This is further exacerbated by underestimating the training and oversight necessary for successful implementation and adoption.

In response to these challenges, it’s becoming more common to see job titles like Field Solutions Manager and Head of Field Technology. We think this is a great idea and urge every company to begin to define and hire for these positions.

The rate of new construction technology is only going to increase, so having someone begin to institutionalize processes for bringing new technology to the field is going to do a lot to help remove barriers to adoption.

Share about a time when a company implemented your software to track production for the first time?

Michael: Some of our customers come to us having already standardized their process in terms of reporting hours and production tracking, but that is not always the case. One of our earliest customers came to us not just looking for software, but looking to make a significant process change to improve the way they estimate and bid for projects.

They are a specialty subcontractor that completes hundreds of relatively short projects each year, so there was a big opportunity to learn from their data if they could find a way to standardize production tracking across all projects.

But this kind of change is not easy. It requires buy-in and understanding across the organization for why you’re making a change and the net benefit to the company.

They started using production tracking through Rhumbix and shared the data with everyone, from their foremen to their cost estimators. The data collected ended up being key to company-wide adoption because it showed so clearly that if they were not all reporting on things the way they were estimating them, then they could not improve how they bid on jobs in the future.

They were able to use Rhumbix to build a case for change, and this moment was really a turning point for them. Over the course of time, they have built up a standardized data set across all projects and the ROI is great.

What’s next for Rhumbix? What is on your roadmap for the future?

Michael: To date, we’ve really focused on building the project data set. And it’s our belief that this higher quality project data set will add a strategic value for our customers.

When we start to look longer term, we see techniques like machine learning playing a bigger role in the industry. A question such as, “How can I shrink the margin of error on my cost estimates to give myself an advantage on the next project I bid on?” is something that will very likely be answered by machine learning in the next few years. For Rhumbix, it’s really all about building out the data set and analysis tools that can answer those questions.

Zach: In the short term, our priorities are building a more granular data set, and increasing data quality to drive digital insights. We work hard to understand how our customers need to see their data, and what is most effective for them, and release one to two new analytic dashboards per month.

Interested in viewing the the webinar in its entirety? It’s available here. NOTE: you will need flash to play it, but the slides are available at the bottom of the page.