What Do You Want From Your Contech?

Construction-technology solutions have never been more plentiful, varied, robust—or overwhelming. Before you start picking out the products and platforms you think you need, take the time to determine what you actually need. Then make sure all your stakeholders are part of your implementation plan.
By Jay Snyder
October 1, 2023

In a recent conversation, the executive team of a large general contractor based on the West Coast told me that they receive anywhere from 80 to 100 emails a week from technology companies. Their experience neatly encapsulates the paradoxical reality of construction technology in 2023: There have never been more contech solutions (and solution providers) available, and it’s never been more difficult to choose the best ones for your company—whatever “best” even means when you’re talking about such a crowded marketplace.

Determining which tools align best with your business demands a deep understanding of operational dynamics along with clear internal and external expectations. Assessing the size, complexity and consistency of your operation is a foundational step. In an industry that ranges from firms generating just a few million dollars in annual revenue per year to companies whose business runs to the tens of billions of dollars, the state of tech maturity and the tech needs of an organization vary widely.

While a small operation might find its rhythm with basic project-management tools, a file-storage solution, a few communication and collaboration apps and basic accounting software, for large-market construction firms or conglomerates, the story is quite different. The narrative for these companies revolves around robust project-management platforms, intricate ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems and often-bespoke software solutions catering to specific departments such as risk management, virtual design and construction and the fabrication shop. In between are companies of every size and specialty imaginable, each one with its own contech needs. How do you figure out yours?


Size isn’t the only factor, of course. While it’s difficult to correlate tech sophistication to revenue volume, there are obvious considerations that drive differing needs between these two extremes.

Project type(s): The profile of project opportunities a company pursues plays a pivotal role here. In fact, the type and scope of a company’s usual projects are perhaps a greater determining force than its overall revenue.

If your typical project profile involves smaller, straightforward greenfield builds or simple, small-scale core/shell buildouts, your need for advanced technology solutions is probably minimal. Conventional tech tools and rudimentary software will probably get it done. However, when taking on more complicated projects, such as large mixed-use facilities and jobs with intricate building systems or extensive existing conditions, the complexity soars. Such ventures demand sophisticated tech tools that offer high-functioning planning and preconstruction software, reality-capture and 3D modeling software, solutions supporting advanced execution models like the last planner system, and even detailed real-time job cost-management tech.

Stakeholder expectations: Then come the ever-important expectations of stakeholders, including the owner, design team, general contractor, trade partners, equipment vendors and suppliers. We are in a time when a contractor’s clients have likely already experienced their own digital transformations, whereas the construction industry itself is just getting started. For that reason, their expectations for how contractors use tech may not align with actual adoption by the team. Other stakeholders may have smaller, more nimble teams, which may also be resource constrained.

Or, you may be working as a trade contractor and required to meet the coordination and reporting demands of a larger company—perhaps the general contractor—who may also be requiring the use of larger systems that are foreign to your team. In this paradigm, client and project partner/stakeholder interactions become a key driver of your technology acumen.

The human factor: All these considerations are moot if your employees aren’t equipped to leverage whatever technology solutions you adopt. This is the human factor. A construction firm buzzing with tech-savvy individuals is poised to exploit advanced solutions at breakneck speed and leverage the data, awareness and efficiency that good tech offers. If your team is resistant to tech or hesitant to adopt it, you must realistically consider the pace at which your company can embrace technology and accept that it may be slower than desired.

Technology adopted should either be intuitive for employees or complemented with comprehensive training. Unfortunately, we find that most companies don’t have a well-developed tech training program for initial and ongoing usage, which leads to diminished value of the tech overall. Engaging employees in the process of selecting and implementing a technology solution and providing adequate training are the keys to successful adoption. In turn, this leads to further adoption of increasingly more advanced, effective solutions.


In all of this, tech planning is as important as the end result that technology can deliver; entering this landscape without a roadmap can lead to costly detours.

Mind the gaps: Begin by identifying the gaps in your operations where technology can be the bridge. Is there a process bottleneck that software can assist with monitoring and improving? Is there a recurring quality issue that a technology can mitigate, or reveal early enough to avoid bigger problems downstream?

In other words, when considering tech investments, align them with your business’ pain points. If a department perennially underperforms, delve deep to understand the root. If projects chronically overshoot timelines, dissect the reasons. Then ask: Can technology be the panacea?
Seek outside guidance: External perspectives, especially from peers, can shed invaluable light. Whether you’re a smaller company or a diversified conglomerate of companies, engaging with contractors that are similar to yours can yield insights about tech tools that have transformed their operations. Moreover, benchmarking against them ensures that you’re in the same league, if not ahead.

Plan for planning: Most companies chase technology with a vision of streamlined operations, heightened productivity and better-quality project outcomes. But the actual process—from introducing a new tech tool to its full adoption by your team—can be strewn with challenges and years of effort. The key lies not merely in the selection of the right technology but in a comprehensive implementation plan that includes employee engagement, alignment and advocacy; initial and recurring training; structured change management; and effective leadership.

Employees: Engaging employees—the very custodians of this change—becomes paramount. This isn’t a one-time event but a continuous dialogue. It’s essential to cultivate communication channels where feedback doesn’t just flow but flourishes.

As your company introduces new tech tools, demystify them. Showcase their benefits, not in abstract corporate terms but in tangible ways that resonate with individual employees. How does this tool simplify their daily tasks? Does it carve out more time for them? For a touch of flair, why not sprinkle in some fun? The journey of tech adoption can be gamified. Leaderboards, tech challenges or even rewards can infuse an element of play, making the transition enjoyable.

Beyond that, the formation of a tech committee is instrumental. Picture this as an organism, with representation from every level and department. This isn’t just a ceremonial group but the nerve center for all tech-related discussions, challenges and innovations. Their regular meetups become the pulse check on adoption rates and future needs. Within this committee, certain individuals will naturally gravitate toward cutting-edge capabilities; these tech aficionados can wear the mantle of advocates, becoming beacons for their peers, guiding and encouraging them. They are critical to achieving the first 25% of adoption and the last 25% of adoption.

Training: Still, advocacy and enthusiasm alone don’t guarantee proficiency. Long-term adoption, real ROI and that middle 50% rely almost entirely on training. Because the tech skills and training needs of your employees will span the spectrum, offering a range of options is key—including print content, online content, videos and vendor-led in-person and virtual training.

These sessions shouldn’t be static; as technology evolves, so should the learning. Seek to ground your training modules in the real world, using scenarios from past projects the firm has completed. This relatability can transform abstract tech keystrokes and middle steps—hopefully very few—into appreciated processes.

Beyond training, maintain some version of a dedicated helpline or a tech support team (internal via super user group or external via the vendor), to ensure that assistance is just a call or click away.

Leadership: The final but most essential piece in this jigsaw puzzle is leadership. In larger firms, this could take the form of a chief technology officer, responsible for illuminating, strategizing and executing the tech path for the organization. But as many people in construction learn early in their career, leadership isn’t solely a top-down approach. Each department and each team can have its own informal tech leader, the touchpoint for any tech-related queries or concerns. Their role isn’t just to guide but to gather feedback, which they should relay upward. Their voices, with the collective experiences of their teams, should find resonance at the highest echelons of management. Recognize teams that bring real innovation and own change management. 

Keep at it: Finally, understand that your technology ecosystem needs periodic reviews. Identify broken tech tools and drop them early. Determine whether all user licenses are actively used and, if not, renegotiate. Identify tech toys that produce little value and cut them out. Technology requires constant management, investment and planning—much like every other asset that contractors pay for, such as people, equipment and real estate.


Having asked the important questions and established the necessary procedures, how do you actually figure out what contech solutions you need? Here is a detailed breakdown of the technology ecosystems of small, medium and large commercial and/or industrial contractors:

1. Budgetary Constraints

Small contractors: Often operate on tight budgets, focusing on essential operational costs. Their technology stacks are generally lean, with priority given to core functionalities like basic project-management tools, communication apps and accounting software.

Medium contractors: Have a somewhat flexible budget, which allows for additional tech investments. Their stacks might include specialized software for collaboration, quality control, project controls and even some level of automation.

Large contractors: With expansive budgets, can afford comprehensive and effective ERP systems, advanced modeling software, big data analytics and even artificial intelligence solutions for predictive analysis and advanced planning.

2. Project Complexity

Small contractors: Typically manage less-complex projects, which may not necessitate advanced technology. Their technology focus may be more on tools that help with time tracking, invoicing and simple project oversight.

Medium contractors: Handle a mix of simple and complex projects. They might leverage advanced project-management platforms, basic building information modeling software and tools for bid management.

Large contractors: Deal with multifaceted projects that require advanced tools. They typically need robust VDC systems, visualization tools and integrated systems that offer real-time data analytics.

3. Client Expectations and Stakeholder Management

Small contractors: Their clients may have modest expectations regarding technology-driven insights and data deliverables. Communication and basic reporting tools may suffice.

Medium contractors: Clients begin to expect more detailed reporting, perhaps some level of online dashboarding and portals for regular updates.

Large contractors: With major projects often involving public or high-profile stakeholders, there’s an expectation for sophisticated design-coordination tools; accurate and detailed job costing; quality control; real-time project updates; digital, virtual- or augmented-reality tours; and tight compliance management and protocols.

4. Operational Scale and Integration Needs

Small contractors: With fewer employees and projects, there might be less need for interconnected systems. Standalone tools that don’t require extensive integration could be preferred.

Medium contractors: As the scale grows, so does the need for integration. They may start looking at systems that can seamlessly share data between field leadership and project management, and between the project team and back office.

Large contractors: At this level, there’s a pressing need for fully integrated systems. Disparate data sources can hinder efficiency and create substantial risk. Large contractors look for technologies that offer a unified view of operations, from precon to project delivery and closeout, overlaid with other business-performance information.

5. Employee Skillsets and Training Capacities

Small contractors: With limited resources, they might prioritize easy-to-use, intuitive solutions that don’t demand extensive training.

Medium contractors: With a slightly larger team, they might have a few tech-savvy individuals who can champion the adoption of more advanced tools. Training programs might be introduced at this stage.

Large contractors: They can afford to invest in both advanced technology and comprehensive training programs. They might even have dedicated teams for tech adoption and support.

6. Risk Management and Future Planning

Small contractors: They might rely on basic tools or even manual methods for risk assessment and future project planning.

Medium contractors: As the stakes get higher, the introduction of basic analytics tools and predictive models for risk management could be seen.

Large contractors: With substantial projects, risk management becomes crucial. They likely would have business analysts and analytic models, perhaps seeking AI-driven insights, project simulations and scenario-planning tools to anticipate and mitigate potential challenges.


You’ll notice that throughout this article, the focus was not on specific contech products or platforms. That’s because—circling back to the general contractor referenced in the introduction—you probably already hear from 80 to 100 of their providers every week. That’s good news: You have a lot of options to choose from.

But to get started, you first have to figure out what you’re not doing well or would like to do better, what tech solutions might help and how to integrate them into your existing operations. Then, once you’ve done your homework, it’s time to go shopping.

by Jay Snyder

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