Why Construction Firms Don't Digitize - Myth #3

Stephanie Patterson, Rhumbix InsiderMay 31, 2017 • 4 min read

Part 3 of a series on the most common reasons construction firms don’t adopt digital solutions.

When it comes to construction field technology, one of the big sticking points we hear is the requirement for field workers to actually use it. Every firm has their painful story of a system or process they tried—and that ultimately failed—at the field level. They believe foremen won’t want to use it; or they will think it’s just another top-down initiative; or they will think it’s just another thing keeping them from doing their most important work. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Myth #3: “The field won’t like it.”

The reality we have experienced with Rhumbix is quite different.

When following a thoughtful and intentional process, foremen adopt the tool quickly and find it remarkably simple to use. This holds true for foremen who are digital natives, and those considered less tech-savvy. In fact, at the conclusion of a Rhumbix pilot, it’s quite often the foreman who has become the most vocal advocate for a full-scale adoption.

“I played around with the new app. I don’t think it could get any simpler.”
~ IT Manager, Large Mechanical & Electrical Contractor

“It’s like having a cost engineer, except it’s in the hands of each foreman, and simple enough.” 
~ Chief Estimating Officer, Bay Area Contractor

We think the secret to getting good results comes down to two key factors: Selecting the right technology, and pairing it with a thorough plan for how your entire organization will support it.

The Right Technology

Look for a tool that is purpose-built for construction and has a clear benefit for the person you’re relying on to use it.

Construction is unlike any other industry, so it goes without saying that construction tools—especially those for field workers—should account for the unique conditions of the job site. But the reality is that many tools for construction are add-ons to existing ERP systems. They’re difficult to use and in some cases require complex work-arounds to gather the appropriate data.

Others that are built for construction are optimized to collect data for the back office, but without driving home any kind of clear reward for the person (i.e. the foreman) you are relying on to enter all the data.

When we were building the first version of our mobile app, we spent hours talking to foremen and workers. The takeaway from all those conversations is that craft workers are not anti-technology, they’re anti-wasting time. If there is a not a clear benefit for them to use the tool, you’ll have a hard time getting them to use it.

The Foreman Feedback feature of our PRO offering delivers the reward of real-time data to the foreman who enters it, closing the feedback loop with the home office. Foremen who use the tool get the payoff of having access to a dashboard that displays how they’re tracking to cost codes on a daily basis, and can manage their crew accordingly.

The Right Plan

Even the best tools on the market can fail without a clear strategy for how your organization will support adoption. A solid plan for roll out will address four key areas:

  1. Value delivered: Communicate what your crew can expect to gain from using the tool. Paint a clear picture for how it will change their world, and discuss the benefits for the individual worker, their project, and the firm as a whole.
  2. Measures of success: Get specific about how you will evaluate whether the tool is delivering value. Include quantitative and qualitative benchmarks and share updates as results are realized.
  3. Stepped goals to adopting change: Create a road map with clear milestones for transitioning from your old methods to a new tool or system. Ensure milestones address usage, adoption, and value delivered.
  4. Expectations for each group impacted: Every new tool you introduce is bound to affect more than one group of stakeholders. Get clear on how you expect each group to aid the transition, how much of their time it’s going to take, and the kind of support they will get from their managers and executives throughout the process.

An internal champion working directly with the technology company throughout the adoption process goes a long way to making a plan successful. It’s critical that they share regular updates, track progress toward set goals, and ensure that every user and stakeholder has the opportunity to be heard.

Making Change Easier

Change is hard. We get it. And there is no silver bullet when it comes to adopting new technology. But it’s time to leave behind the false assumptions that are keeping your firm from making a change.

Craft workers want to do good work. They want to make a difference and they want to use their time wisely. And if you’re doing all you can to select the right technology and support the transition to using it, the notion that you will get push back from the field just simply isn’t true.

You can read the entire series by accessing these links:

Myth #1: “Built in-house is better.”
Myth #2: “We know this is important, but it’s not urgent”
Myth #4: “It won’t integrate.”