Is Your Construction Company Ready for Digital Transformation?

Digital technology is the buzzword of the day, and many companies are jumping on the bandwagon to take advantage of all it has to offer. The construction industry has a lot to gain from applying new technology to increase productivity. But to do it successfully, it’s important to consider the culture of the company.

The process for managing change can seem like a New Year’s resolution—a grand effort at the beginning with dwindling energy as time progresses and with transformation never occurring. This article explores the barriers to fully experiencing the benefits of new technological solutions, and how to prevent improvements from being thrown into the wastebasket of discarded ideas.

The Complexities of the Construction Industry

In construction, the difficulty starts with getting everyone on board with the same process. Working with a wide array of individual contractors, who may or may not be on board with your particular process, can be a challenge. Construction is known for its fragmentary processes, and some have concluded that that’s a major factor in trying to achieve better productivity.

What can a manager do in this context? Pushing change in an organization means dabbling into the human psyche, and applying ideas related to organizational behavior to help you manage your teams.

How plans go awry

If you have ever worked in a large organization, you have likely witnessed a failed change plan. It often starts out as a massive top-down effort that promises to solve all the problems an organization might be facing. Eventually, however, the effort starts to crumble into disarray. It then becomes an extra administrative burden that some people drag their feet to accomplish, and eventually gets forgotten or abandoned.

Sometimes, this can be an expensive mistake, with software licenses valued in the hundreds of thousands purchased for years ahead of time, and maybe even temporary, high-paid expert consultants put on staff.

Confirming the anecdotal evidence, a study by McKinsey shows that 70% of change management projects fail. Knowing this, what can a business do to usher successful change through their organization?

What are the barriers?

A major barrier can come from the same people expected to enact the changes, people working in the field. The reason for this is that oftentimes, these people know a lot more about the problems that need to be solved, and either see the proposed solution as inadequate, or as completely contrary to what should be done. Management, seeing only a fraction of the picture, may be approaching problems only partially. When people in the field, who care about the work they do, see things go awry with what they feel are poorly-conceived notions about what an improvement process looks like, they are going to resist. They may be your best workers, but end up becoming your principal resisters.

Agents of change

A solution to this problem starts with getting buy-in from the right people in your organization. You can use “agents of change” to help push the process along. This exchange of information and ideas can even help management understand the problem better, and perhaps end up finding another, better solution.

This process can also help you diminish the fear of change in your organization. Changing habits can create a lot of anxiety, and underestimating the power of that anxiety can doom your efforts. Learn about the best ways to approach what will essentially be a change of routine habits. Think about how to build positive feedback from changing a habit, rather than being a victim of the negative feedback that may eventually result.

The right software for the job

When looking at software solutions that have the potential to create changes in behavior, it’s important to find out how it was designed. Does the company that created the software have experience in the industry? Do they understand the problems facing organizations like yours?

Some software solutions come from well-intentioned software companies that may have a superficial understanding of the problem, and have a lot of expertise in design and programming. The result is a flashy software suite that looks great on paper, but that doesn’t have a basis in construction industry best practices.

On the other hand, there may be options created by highly-expert construction professionals, but which may also have flawed software design. This will produce a dysfunctional system that doesn’t serve you properly because of bugs and overall poor design of the system. Focus on finding solutions that bridge that gap, engaging highly valuable partnerships with construction industry experts and experienced technology firms.

Not all software solutions are created alike, and it’s important to consider whether it was designed with buy in from key staff in mind. Was it designed by people who understand your industry in and out? In the case of our Trestles Labor Management System (TLMS®) software, we’ve used our many years of experience working with frontline supervisors in lean construction techniques to make sure that the application is intrinsic to construction industry principles.

Changing culture

Digital transformation is possible for organizations that take a couple of things into consideration. Acknowledging that it could be a major disruption for some, especially your most competent staff, is the first step to making sure this change is managed correctly. Getting buy-in from those affected by the process is key, as well as addressing the fears that people may have. In the end, your digital transformation process could be the start of an overall change of culture that leaves your organization healthier and more productive.

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