Story at a glance:
- The pandemic has sped up the rate of digitalization in the industry, but is everyone ready?
- Understanding your business needs is the first step to making sure you’re ready to adopt new technology.
- Various cloud solutions are designed for the AEC industry, from accounting and project management solutions to project collaboration tools.
By now you’re probably familiar with some of the benefits that cloud technology delivers to the AEC industry, from improved efficiency to greater collaboration to increased security and everything in between. We’ve explored flexible cloud options, how cloud technologies help win work and attract top talent, and how cloud technologies help teams manage projects more efficiently.
While most construction businesses would agree that cloud technologies can have a positive impact, not all are ready to dive in just yet. Ernst & Young’s 2019 Global Construction and Engineering Survey found that only 25% of firms had a digital strategy and only 9% felt they were on the right end of readiness. Since then, we have seen the pandemic speed up the rate of digitalization in the industry. A 2020 Deloitte survey found that 76% of engineering and construction executives were likely to invest in at least one digital technology in 2021.
Whether you find yourself embracing the possibilities the cloud brings, not quite ready to make a change, or somewhere in between, it is important to have a plan in place for adopting new technologies. Here are some tips to help get you started.
Understand Your Business Needs
A number of cloud solutions are designed for the AEC industry, from accounting and project management solutions to project collaboration tools and time capture and other jobsite applications. The options can seem overwhelming, so it is important to understand your business needs to ensure you’re looking at the right solutions. You can start by making a list of your current pain points and identify which types of solutions are best for addressing some of these issues. If you’re unsure, reach out to peers or turn to industry resources like the ABC Tech Marketplace to help point you in the right direction.
Select the Right Vendor
Once you have an idea of what type of solution makes the most sense for your business, it’s time to select a vendor. Here are some areas to consider when evaluating technology providers.
It is critical to select a vendor with an open API. Using cloud technology with an open API enables you to integrate the best-of-breed solutions you are using today and will use in the future. This allows you to leverage key data from the field, payroll, budgeting, customer relationship management solutions, and others to track metrics that are critical to your organization’s financial and operational success. Utilizing an open API gives you the power of choice to use the right mix of solutions to support your unique needs.
When assessing vendors, it is important to ensure that security features are built into the cloud application and that cyber security is a top priority. You should ask about the protections a provider has in place to ensure the right people get the right level of access to the solution. It is also important to look for companies who conduct external audits and have other third-party certifications to ensure financial information will be protected in a highly secure environment.
You have enough challenges running a business; keeping technology up and running should not be one of them. You should ensure potential providers have a cloud infrastructure that relies on a data center that is backed up by a complete disaster recovery program. It is critical to look for providers that guarantee at least 99% uptime. In the unlikely case of a disaster, top providers make data available within 24 hours, with no more than four hours of data lost.
While support is included with many cloud options, not all plans are the same. It is important to understand what each vendor offers with their solution. Some vendors offer trainings and on-demand videos to help teams learn how to take advantage of the system’s full potential to maximize their investment. Top support plans also include unlimited support, regular check-ins, and one-on-one sessions to discuss best practices.
Once you narrow down your list of vendors, set up a demo of all the solutions you are interested in and come prepared with a list of questions to ask each vendor.
Clean Up Your Data
Regardless of your timeline for adopting new cloud technologies, you can make small changes today that can provide immediate gains and set you up for a smoother transition whenever you are ready to make changes to your technology solutions.
Many businesses will admit that their current system is a mess, with so many reports and extraneous items that it is difficult to find the items they actually use. Cleaning up your data can help streamline processes and ensure the information that is most important to your business is easy to access.
A good place to start is to survey employees to gain a better understanding of what reports they’re currently using, where they’re pulling data from, what’s working well, and what could be improved. If you find teams are still relying heavily on spreadsheets or other error-prone manual processes, these are the areas where you should begin making changes.
Get all Stakeholders on Board
Implementing a new solution is only half the battle. You need to ensure people are actually using it. A great way to get people excited about a new technology is to make them feel invested in the process. Involve all stakeholders—including end users, financial decision makers, IT staff, and other key personnel—early in the process. Consider forming a cross-functional team to help with the technology selection and implementation process. Discussions should center around key topics such as usability, the solution’s ability to integrate with other products your business is using, and any other special requirements your business may have. Not only can this group provide valuable insight into what is needed from a new cloud-based solution but having their buy-in can help ensure a smoother transition when the time comes.
Set Proper Expectations
As with any new tools or processes, there will be a learning curve. Employees will be learning how to use the new technology while completing their usual workload, so be patient. It is important to lay out a detailed and manageable timeline that’s broken down into smaller goals, such as cleaning up existing systems, vetting software vendors, and creating implementation and training schedules. Setting aside the required time and resources to properly train employees will go a long way in ensuring a successful rollout.
With so many competing demands it can be difficult for some businesses to make technology a business priority. However, recent challenges have highlighted the need for digitalization across the industry. Investing in cloud-based technologies not only provides immediate gains in productivity, but it will help set your business up for future success. The cloud is no longer a nice-to-have; it is critical for long-term business health.