Technical

Construction tech: Are you a rabbit caught in the headlights?

A startled rabbit
Is your construction SME the equivalent of a startled rabbit when it comes to construction tech? (Image: Unsplash)

There are plenty of technology options available to construction companies. So many, in fact, that the choice can be bewildering. Maria Coulter offers six ways to find your way out of the headlights.

A few years ago, I walked into a construction tech and innovation show to get some ideas on solutions for my clients. I immediately felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights. 

People were there on the stands ready to sell me something, but what did I actually want? 

That’s how the mind works when presented with too many options: It does nothing. And that could help explain why a lot of SME and micro-business owners aren’t engaging with tech and innovation to be more productive.  They don’t know what to do.

Six ways to escape the headlights

Last August, I ran a Construction Revolution ‘Race to the Top’ online summit with guest speakers and break-out sessions to look at how small businesses can be more profitable and more productive. One session was all about time and productivity hacks. Here are six takeaways to help you get out of the headlights:

  1. Processes should come before the systems. Consider doing a Process Mapping exercise, which is something I do with my clients. Use Post-It notes and map out processes for the various parts of your business and stages of a contract.  Who does what? What processes are involved? You will likely find some duplications and really time consuming, clunky ways of doing things that can definitely be improved by adopting new technology.
  2. Before investing, think about the outcomes you want to achieve and the problem it is solving. Think about the day-to-day experiences of your workforce and your clients. What do you want it to be like in future?
  3. Think about the concept of how you make a cheese sandwich. If you asked a few people in your business to one, each one would likely be different. Use of technology needs to be consistent. You could find that some people have their own systems and ways of working which results in lack of consistency in service delivery and impacts client experience. 
  4. Finding solutions can be overwhelming. Software companies often just want you to use their solutions rather than what is right for your business. Websites can help you compare, depending on what you’re looking for. Here are some to look at: www.getapp.com; www.capterra.com; www.g2crowd.com.
  5. Do a full options appraisal. Go through a process to identify different solutions and risks including cost, timescales to implement, resources and impact on business continuity. Test the market, get providers to show you how their solutions will help you deliver the processes and steps you need to successfully run your business.
  6. Finally, lay it all out to your team before you implement it and get their buy-in first.  There will be thousands of failed tech rollouts in businesses who have paid a lot of money for new systems before doing any of the above and they are not being used either at all or to full capacity. If this is you, start with step 1.

One of the key messages that came out of the summit was, small businesses desperately need help with their digital journey to find the right solutions. There is a risk that hundreds of thousands of businesses will be left behind on this tech journey because they don’t have the headspace to find the right technology. 

One client of mine took a whole year of trial and error to find the right fit for his business. This is where community is really valuable, talking to fellow business owners who have implemented new technology and innovation can save headspace, time and money.

Can’t we make this easier?

A brilliant suggestion was, that we need a ‘Go Compare’ of proptech or a ‘Which Guide’.

This sounds like a great idea for a business.  If you’re doing it already, let me know.  If not, let’s collaborate and solve this problem because digital transformation has to be inclusive and right now, it isn’t.

Maria Coulter is founder of Construction Coach, coaching SMEs and micro-businesses. She runs an online community for small business owners to get expert mentoring.

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