Technology

Tech Ops: Reshaping the Construction Industry

Ongoing investment in a technical-operations department is proven to support more intelligent construction decisions.
By Matthew Redman
March 28, 2023
Topics
Technology

Construction companies tackling commercial projects nationwide are currently navigating additional challenges beyond the jobs themselves—high inflation, supply-chain disruptions and a slew of related issues are all extending construction timelines and increasing project budgets. Various systems and relationships can help alleviate these stressors, but there’s one often-overlooked department that can better bridge the gap.

Ongoing investment in a technical-operations (tech ops) department is proven to support more intelligent construction decisions as well as real-time adjustments with understanding as to how they impact costs, labor and safety. With a fully integrated tech-ops department, the rest of the construction team can be trained in technologies that not only reduce project delivery time but also provide overall improved product quality through transparent collaboration, preventive problem solving and effective project management. Through such a department, beneficial technologies can become second nature for team members, and this prospect is now sparking a tech-ops revolution across the construction industry.

A PROVEN VALUE-ADD DEPARTMENT

Investment in a technical-operations department drives value for clients by providing tools to employees that enable them to be both collaborative and effective. This also means focusing solely on technologies that are guaranteed to bring value to clients and employees without adding the time or pain points that often come with unproven, complex software. Construction teams are already inundated with data, documents and hundreds of methods by which to manage the construction process, and a tech-ops department will evaluate and implement solutions based on what’s necessary and beneficial.

A well-planned and configured software solution is only as good as the compliance controls that are put in place to manage it. Not only will a strong tech-ops department help to integrate the necessary software solutions, but its members will also be involved in the ongoing operations and maintenance required to keep those systems running efficiently. Furthermore, they will be responsible for training employees on the processes and procedures surrounding those systems to ensure they are being utilized to effectively improve workflow, drive productivity and enhance client relations. If used correctly, technology integrated in this way should ultimately free up high-value project team members to do the value-add tasks that clients appreciate most.

With these varied roles in mind, it’s important to ensure any tech-ops department has a balanced mix of both technical skills and understanding of project management. A common mistake is creating a team with an over-emphasis on technical skill that ultimately leads to robust but complicated solutions that won’t effectively take hold in an organization without proper implementation. On the other hand, some teams have a lower level of technical expertise and provide solutions that may be easy to use but don’t appropriately integrate and may only work for certain types of projects. It’s crucial to have both sides represented: a technical evangelist who understands the possibilities of modern solutions balanced with a forward-thinking project management expert with real-world experience on projects who can advocate for the day-to-day challenges that employees and clients face.

A STRATEGIC SOFTWARE SUITE

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, one might be overwhelmed with the prospect of ensuring their new tech-ops team is equipped with all of the necessary programs to make their department worthwhile. Luckily, there are a few “must-haves” that are likely already a part of most general contractors’ software mix.

The critical components of a modern software suite fall under a few different categories. These solutions comprise the foundational layer of software and will account for 90% of what most companies will need:

  • Accounting (ERP);
  • Project management information (PMIS);
  • Estimating and quantitative analysis;
  • Document control; and
  • Internal communications.


While there are thousands of options within each category to choose from, the most important component when evaluating and selecting solutions on the market is the integration of data between them and the ease of integration into any new components that may be added as a company expands. Of course, the software used to run the core functions of the business will always be critical, and small improvements to the functionality and integration of these software platforms will increase their ROI as long as companies can keep up with reviewing and implementing these changes periodically.

A number of other technological components that are on the rise but would qualify as a “nice to have” are all of the ancillary systems that help to elevate a business to the next level but wouldn’t crumble its operations if they were missing. These include items like BIM, virtual-reality capture, time-lapse cameras, drone imaging, learning management system, HRIS and more. There are many different avenues a company can take here that will be unique to each business and its circumstances. For example, in highly technical building markets like laboratories and studios, a team may want to expand its BIM and VR capabilities to help its client base.

It’s important to bear in mind that the capabilities that are going to truly drive change in the long run are the data integrators and automation that bolt onto foundational systems. Systems that give companies the ability to have insight into and true power over how their major systems interact with each other—such as Power Automate and Power BI—are going to have tremendous impact on the financial and cultural health of the companies that can successfully implement them.

A TECH-OPS TEAM AT WORK

Del Amo Construction has been growing its tech-ops department over the last decade and, as a result, the 50-year-old company was able to complete a full technological platform shift. The investment has already proven itself time and again. For example, the implementation of an advanced invoice-management system quickly reduced the potential for human error and standardized billing forms from Del Amo’s subcontractor base. This optimization has allowed greater visibility into project spend and on a schedule that more closely reflects real time. Furthermore, it has sped up the collection of invoicing and the review by both Del Amo employees and the owner’s accountants.

For clients, new customized reporting can be completed on a project-by-project basis thanks to fully integrated systems that can be modified based on specific clients’ needs without adding hours or costs back to the client. Not only does this reduce billings, but it helps clients provide their investors, board members and bankers the information they need to run and fund the project smoothly.

Projects themselves benefit from a strategic software suite as well. In the case of a recent Del Amo project at the University of Southern California, the team used Matterport to scan an entire archive library and log its existing state prior to initiating construction for a seismic upgrade. The library housed massive amounts of history, from records to newspapers and books, and the addition of Matterport allowed the team to document the space, so items could be tracked and returned appropriately at the project’s end.

The integration of a tech-ops department and implementation of new technologies should be much more than a “set it and forget it” for construction firms—it’s a continuous evolution. For many, COVID-19 accelerated the use of these technologies as remote work and jobsite management became a necessity. Given the emerging issues of today, this shift won’t be slowing down anytime soon, and it’s important to be at the front of the curve with an advanced tech-ops team leading the charge.

by Matthew Redman

Related stories

Technology
Fostering Collaboration in Construction Project Management Through Integrated Technology
By Carl Storms
Integrating new solutions into your already robust tech stack may seem like a hassle, but here are some top tips to seamlessly implement and innovate.
Technology
With Great Technology Comes Great Responsibility: ABC's 2024 Joint Tech Summit
By Grace Calengor
At ABC's 2024 Joint Tech Summit, the message was clear: Creating a culture of technology takes planning, policy and passion.
Technology
From Mud Bricks to Smart Concrete: A Brief History of Building Materials Technology
By Instarmac
From mixing lime with water to self-sensing concrete, building materials technology has come a long way—and so have building standards.

Follow us




Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay in the know with the latest industry news, technology and our weekly features. Get early access to any CE events and webinars.