Why Contractors Are Slower to Adopt New Technology (and Why They Shouldn’t Be)

With the explosion of construction specific software and technology in recent years, why are contractors slow to adopt?
By Michel Richer
December 15, 2021

The built environment is undergoing a massive digital transformation, but the rate of adoption is moving a little slower than one might expect. There’s been an explosion of construction specific software and technology in recent years, especially since around 2015, when computers actually began to possess the processing power needed to crunch entire project plans and buildings in 3-D. However, the construction industry still spends about 80% less of their revenue on information technology when compared to other industries.

This article will explore some of the key reasons contractors are slower to adopt process-specific software, how other industries have benefited from tech adoption and a few tips to identify the right solutions for any organization.

Are Digital Leaders Better Off Today?

According to the 2020 CIO Survey from KPMG, when asked how their organization performed relative to competitors, there was a clear gap between digital leaders and the rest of their respective industries when it came to key success metrics. Digital leaders significantly outperform their competitors in:

  • operational efficiency (+12%);
  • customer experience (+14%);
  • customer trust (+12%); and
  • employee experience (+11%).

The largest gap in the report came when respondents were asked how effective their organization was at maximizing value from their data. Digital leaders reported being 27% more effective than their competitors. When combined with the fact that 90% of construction data goes unused, it’s clear there’s an opportunity to gain a competitive edge by adopting the right technology—the earlier the better.

Why Are Contractors Slower to Adopt New Tech?

According to FMI, one of the main reasons for slower technology adoption is simply because many firms aren’t aware of the solutions that are available to them. That is understandably so, given the number of point solutions that have been developed in recent years.

Another reason for slower adoption is that the construction industry has been waiting for the tech world to catch up. The construction industry is often tasked with building custom buildings and factories, for unique clients and products, sometimes hundreds of miles away from civilization. That’s not something many other industries are asked to do. In some cases, these projects represent the most difficult and complex problems that need to be solved.

To fully digitize construction, contractors have had to wait for the input, which means that design needs to be digitized. This has happened, to a degree, with the advent of building information modeling.

What about the contractors that are actively seeking out new tech opportunities to make process improvements? Their hesitation to implement new software can often be a result of:

  • Project costs. Most project costs are incurred by the contractors, who are constantly trying to reduce their own overhead costs. New software and technologies will likely need to be implemented off the side of someone’s desk instead of having dedicated corporate resources to test and implement new technologies.
  • Construction is a project-based industry. Although individual projects are a great opportunity to isolate and evaluate new technologies, the stakes are always too high to justify the risk. As contractors want to ensure they deliver for their clients, testing new tech can be difficult when working under project timeline pressures.
  • Too many stakeholders. Deciding who pays for and rolls out the new software can also be a roadblock for some firms. Should the client, contractor, architect or engineering firm take on that cost?
  • Learning curve. Depending on the transfer of data, standing up a lot of construction technologies can take a lot of time and effort on the part of the contractor. Construction projects don't stop for lengthy software implementation and training, which can lead to contractors hesitating to start from scratch learning a new tool.
  • Lack of simple integrations. A lot of the new software solutions being developed are process-specific and don’t communicate with other tools. Having the tech stack acting as one cohesive unit will often require IT specialists or a development team working with complex APIs that can often take months to set up.

How to find the best new construction tech

Look to construction tech industry leaders.

A lack of integrations (or a lack of simple integrations) can often be a speed bump for tech adoption. That being the case, leading construction software and technology companies are making a better effort to provide integrations with multiple point-solutions. For example, Procore has consolidated integrations they’ve built with software they consider to be best-in-class in a proprietary marketplace.

Attend construction conferences focused on tech.

Construction conferences give the opportunity to explore and evaluate a number of different technologies in a short amount of time. Though COVID-19 has certainly caused there to be a spin put on the traditional format, many conferences are still being held virtually at the very least. The plus side of virtual conferences is that they provide an even greater opportunity for an organization to attend without needing to travel.

Request a demonstration.

Construction software companies love engaging with the greater construction community and are happy to walk any contractor through the value their software can provide. Contractors should also be sure to also ask about sandbox environments or free trials. Getting into the software independent of a sales representative can help provide a better understanding of how it will fit in with the day-to-day objectives and processes.

Software review sites.

Visiting sites such as Capterra or G2Crowd will help to narrow in on process specific tools. Contractors will also be able to find overviews of the different solutions available, their respective features, customer testimonials and competitor comparisons. When navigating these review sites, include “construction” when searching for process specific software. This will help to narrow the results to ensure the software displayed is built to handle the complexity of the built environment. For example, “construction resource management.”

The digital transformation of the construction industry is underway and gaining momentum with firms looking to gain a competitive edge. Whether an organization is just getting started with tech adoption or already a digital leader looking for the next best-in-class point solution, there are opportunities to drive operational efficiency and effectiveness for every department. Contractors should set clear expectations for the value they want to see out of a software solution, ask questions and don’t hesitate to put potential tools through their paces before implementing them.

by Michel Richer
Michel Richer got his start in the construction industry at an early age with a local restoration company. Michel is driven to propel the construction industry forward by helping to eliminate outdated, ineffective processes. 

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