The latest count of companies that are offering technology to the construction industry is nearing 3,000! With that explosion of technology, it can be difficult for contractors to navigate the crowded marketplace to find the right solutions to fit their needs. To keep up with all the latest apps and gadgets, a new role in construction has emerged: the Construction Technologist.
What is a construction technologist?
Construction technologists, technology managers, directors of innovation are dedicated roles within an organization. Their job is to navigate the crowded and dynamic marketplace of construction technology and select the solutions that can improve productivity for the organization.
Travis Voss is a well-known construction technologist. Travis serves as Director of Innovation for Mechanical Inc, as one of the top 50 mechanical contractors in the United States offering a full range of mechanical design and construction services. We were fortunate enough to have Travis present on a webinar and share his experience as a Construction Technologist. While not many companies have construction technologists at their organization, Travis shared some helpful tips that all contractors of all sizes can adopt to ensure construction tech success:
1. SPAM can be useful
The endless barrage of emails that flood our inboxes can be annoying. But before you delete that marketing message, take a quick skim. You never know which newsletter is going to highlight the next big thing with an offer to try and test it out. Travis likened it to the gold rush days panning for gold and finding nuggets here and there.
2. Be joined at the hip with IT
Often, the relationship between the construction technologist and IT director can be combative. However, true success for both occurs when the construction technologist and IT director work hand in hand. The IT director should trust the construction technologist is going to undergo the due diligence with regards to an application’s security and fit within the company’s tech stack. Similarly, IT needs to give the construction technologist the freedom to experiment with different solutions.
3. Attend events, webinars, podcasts
Similar to spam, attending events, webinars, and podcasts provide more avenues to find those golden nuggets of information. There is so much valuable content to learn from in the sessions. But most importantly is the content you can learn from other people, which leads to item #4.
4. Network, network, and network more
While it may serve as an inconvenience to spend time at conferences and away from the office and home, networking with peers and making connections with people throughout the industry benefits a company tremendously. Hearing other people’s problems and how they are solving them gives insight into how we can improve ourselves in similar situations.
5. Share freely to benefit the industry as a whole
Networking is reciprocal, and to be a good networker one must be an active participant and also do their fair bit of sharing. That includes a lot of product demonstrations. Even if it is a product that one has no intention of buying, being able to give product feedback to a vendor from an actual user perspective helps the industry as a whole.
6. Adopt a strategic mindset
Many products can solve current problems. However, we need to think strategically about construction technology in terms of short term and long term goals and initiatives. How does it fit into my current stack of other products? If it’s a startup company and they explode, are they scalable? It’s essential to have a forward vision of understanding not only where your company is going, but the industry as well.
7. Conduct pilot projects
Bring in a focus group to test out the software on a particular project. In the focus group, you want to make sure there is representation from all levels of the different stakeholder groups. More importantly, you want to ensure that you have a person that will play devil’s advocate, but you also need forward-thinking individuals who are willing to take on risk. In a successful pilot, a person or group of people rise to be the program’s champion and be the cheerleader to get other people to buy in.
8. Accept failure
We can’t and shouldn’t fail in construction. But we should be able to test out different software applications on a pilot project and recognize that it is not working out as intended. We can’t build and fail, but we can try various tools and fail. Give it your best effort to make it work, but it’s okay to admit defeat and move on. Travis says, “If tech fails, it’s not the tool’s fault. It’s my fault when tech fails. I did not pick the right champion, use case, or I tried to apply tech to the wrong process.”
9. Celebrate the wins
On the flip side of accepting failure is celebrating the successes. Because agile development and lean construction philosophies go hand in hand, there is no end game as we strive towards continuous improvement. What is essential in this process is to acknowledge early success and celebrate the wins. That feel-good moment and celebration will encourage buy-in from others.
10. There is no magic bullet
It’s unreasonable to assume that one system/tool/application can solve all your organization’s problems. Integrations between systems are essential, which is why we look at solutions and partners that have that same vision.
Are you a construction technologist or #constructiondork? Share your tips on ensuring success in construction technology.
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About Travis Voss
Leader of Innovative Technology
Travis is a recent convert to the construction industry. He has spent years in software development, focusing on getting data in the hands of people who need it. This is a mindset he brings to construction now as the Technology Manager at Mechanical, Inc. His goal is to help Mechanical leverage new technologies and evangelize the concept of open data standards so project teams can share information seamlessly.