From Hesitation to Innovation: A Road Map for Embracing Technology in Construction

The construction industry is picking up the pace regarding technology adoption. To analyze project and company performance, construction financial professionals are seeing the efficiencies of next-generation tools, using everything from inspection drones and safety-enhancing wearables to 3D scanning software, cloud-based document management platforms, and integrated approaches.

Despite this progress, not everyone is eager to let go of outdated, manual processes and embrace modernization and efficiency.

A generational and cultural rift is on the horizon for many companies, threatening to undermine their competitiveness in critical domains such as bidding, cash flow management, recruitment, and resource allocation. On one side are the adapters — forward-thinking digital natives who embrace tech — while on the other are the hesitators — those who continue to resist significant changes out of force of habit or fears that learning new software and workflows will be too cumbersome.

This article dives into the coming generational divide over construction technology and why it matters to the industry.

Understanding Tech Resistance

Over the past decade, venture capitalists have poured billions of dollars into a dizzying array of construction technology solutions, flooding the internet with display ads and advertorials, sponsoring industry events, and hammering home the importance of technology. (For more, see “Tech in Construction: From Frenzy to Maturity” in the January/February 2024 issue of CFMA Building Profits magazine.)

Amid this push, contractors have grown accustomed to receiving hyperbolic promises — from vendors of all types and sizes. In a worse-case scenario, a contractor invests in some of these applications, rolls them out, and discovers that they make a marginal difference in performance.

Even as these solutions fall short of their expected results, they can sometimes create additional headaches for time-pressed field personnel and other employees.

For example, Mikeal Kanouff of McClone Construction, described it this way: “Busy construction professionals don’t have time to master 4-6 different pieces of software, all opened and closed separately and all with different logins and passwords.”1

Contractors can also experience disappointments and frustrations related to:

  • Confusing graphical user interfaces
  • Poor customer service
  • Complicated and time-consuming onboarding processes
  • Aggressive rate increases upon contract renewal
  • Incompatibility with real-world realities and workflows
  • Poor overall functionality, such as lost files, dropped data, long load times, or inconsistent performance on mobile devices
  • Slow adoption rates among field personnel or other team members

These factors have all contributed to a noticeable divide that’s taken shape in the workplace. Again, the hesitators (often senior leaders) tend to be frustrated by technology, while the adapters expect to be able to use technology to eliminate manual tasks and save time.

So why does this generational and cultural rift about technology matter to the industry? Because high-impact tools can have actual transformative potential.

Indeed, more contractors recognize the power of digitization and data integration to ramp up their performance tracking, financial analysis, and reporting. They aim to move away from sluggish, error-prone approaches such as out-of-date spreadsheets to manually build the work-in-progress (WIP) report, a still-common practice in the industry.

These contractors see technology as a factor in determining construction winners and losers in the years ahead. They understand that Millennials and Generation Z have grown up with technology and will gravitate to companies with modern tech stacks vs. those that accept the status quo.

Best Practices: Shifting to a Higher-Impact Approach

These days, few construction companies rely on paper and pencil alone. Technology hesitation is not so much an outright refusal to use construction software or hardware; instead, it represents a certain unwillingness to move beyond today’s siloed approaches to older reporting methods and software. Think of it as the way it’s been done for the past 15 or 20 years rather than the way it’s always been done.

On one level, this resistance is understandable: accepting newer and higher-impact technologies requires a more significant commitment to change across all levels of the organization. This cannot be achieved without shifting to a more open, tech-friendly culture. Making that shift might be hard, but the testimonials of construction innovators show that it’s worth it.

Proven best practices can create a faster, more seamless culture and tech adoption shift. Here are a few to consider.

Start a Dialogue

Construction leaders can boost efficiency and productivity by taking a conscious and proactive approach to technology.

A logical first step is to initiate a series of in-depth conversations geared toward identifying workflows and processes that are inefficient or broken. Forming a diverse task force with employees from different departments and levels of tech understanding can be an excellent way to surface these challenges and opportunities.

Task force responsibilities could include:

  • Soliciting honest feedback from both office and field personnel about the company’s pain points and missed opportunities
  • Interviewing technology vendors and participating in product demonstrations to understand whether and how
    technology could bolster performance
  • Gauging each platform’s costs, effectiveness, flexibility, ease of use, implementation time, and level of customer support
  • Formally recommending technology solutions to the company
  • Asking non-company colleagues about their experience with the technology/company in question
  • Organizing and executing plans for employee training for the new tools/methods

Focus on High-Impact Technologies

The company/task force should focus on high-impact technologies that stand to move the needle on project and company performance.

If the aim is to ask end users such as executives, accountants, PMs, project engineers, and superintendents to learn how to use a new solution, then the “juice needs to be worth the squeeze.” That could mean steering clear of atomized tools that merely tweak a single process, focusing instead on solutions that empower the company to better understand and monitor multiple KPIs as a part of a bigger-picture change.

To achieve this, create a technology road map to ensure everything is thought out. Your team can prioritize what is needed to create a minimum viable product and then plan for future customizations and integrations.

Communicate Goals & Start Training Early

To ensure a smooth transition, communicate openly about the company’s goals and a commitment to helping employees adapt.

This point cannot be stressed enough: investing in a technology platform without communicating its importance and strategic purpose can be read by hesitant employees as “use it only if you want to.”

It can be a good idea to start training early rather than waiting for the system to be fully implemented. Even in the discovery phase, contractors can begin having teams watch videos and join Q&As related to the new product. The goal should be to ensure they are processing and retaining the information to understand the latest technology.

Early training can ease the learning curve for employees and approach go-live more confidently, which can lead to feeling excited vs. being ambivalent or afraid.

Prioritize End Users

When contractors change their tech stack and workflows, they must recognize that no matter how great the technology is, some office and field personnel will hesitate or resist.

Management and others involved in the rollout should acknowledge that not everyone in the company grew up with technology. Some people might feel perfectly at ease standing amid open girders on the seventh floor of a hospital that’s under construction, but learning a new piece of software could fill them with dread.

Those implementing the change should put themselves in the shoes of different end users at the company. In many cases, high-level construction financial professionals immediately grasp the value of gaining real-time insights into project and company trends.

However, this might not be as apparent to busy PMs juggling multiple construction jobs. Their mindset could be, “I already know how to enter my requests for information (RFIs), job costs, billings, change orders, and labor hours into Excel. I’m still just entering numbers into my computer with this new software. Why can’t I just keep doing that?”

The message from the company is simple: by using this tool, PMs, superintendents, and engineers will be able to do their jobs more efficiently and with fewer errors. Their higher performance will, in turn, translate into financial and personal rewards for themselves and the company. Praise and incentives for compliance can help, but these stakeholders should also understand that the company expects compliance.

Accommodate Different Learning Styles

Some employees might respond best to shadowing a colleague who feels comfortable with the new tool; others might want to go slower than their peers or rely on one-on-one tutoring rather than group learning. Further, some employees might prefer to learn via self-study.

Before selecting a solution, identify your team’s learning styles to ensure that the training included in your contract is a good fit. When you accommodate different learning styles, you can lessen employee concerns, decrease anxiety, and inspire confidence in the new approach. It is a mistake to assume that everyone will absorb the information on the same timetable and in the same way.

Walk the Talk

The C-suite’s actions, decisions, and behaviors significantly influence the company’s culture. For example, let’s consider a company that launches a new executive dashboard that puts project and company financials right at the fingertips of those in the C-suite. What happens if the CEO still asks other employees to recreate and print the same old spreadsheets in Excel rather than using the new dashboard?

The disconnect between signing off on adopting new technologies but not actively supporting the use of the new tools can undermine unity, trust, and the commitment to progress — ultimately impeding the organization’s success. If you want cultural changes to permeate throughout the organization, then they must start at the top.

Show How It Works

Instead of simply telling employees that the tool is valuable, leaders can show them what it does.

For instance, PMs might have access to customized dashboards showing them only the information they need to do their day-to-day jobs. A member of management should give a quick tour of the insights that emerge when everyone uses the new system and how multiple data streams flow into an executive dashboard or financial workflow.

The controller could also use the tool during a meeting to show how certain features can save time and help them understand the bigger picture. This could be presented in the following way:

“This will flag out-of-date billings, and as you can see here, we have already improved our collection times. That means we’ll have more cash to fund our operations.”

“And look at this function — it helps us ensure our cost codes are accurate and complete. This can help us save millions of dollars over time.”

“But the solution only works if you use it, so I want you to take a few minutes to consider the potential impact of this on improving our billing processes and cost accuracy. Write down how you see yourself leveraging its capabilities to overcome any specific challenges you’ve encountered in your project management role.”

Why Do It: How to Benefit From Technology

The right technology can significantly impact construction contractors and the industry, allowing C-suite executives, accounting managers, and other construction financial professionals to stay competitive by making informed, data-driven decisions.

In many respects, the complexity of construction projects and companies makes them ideally suited for the benefits of more data-driven approaches.

For example, accurate forecasting is critically important in construction, given the need to carefully manage and allocate cash, crews, materials, and equipment. Analytics-based approaches allow for rapid readjustments to quickly changing costs and other project data, which is much harder for contractors to achieve when relying on sluggish, manual reporting that can soon become outdated.

“Imagine you are doing a job two or three hours away, and you budgeted your fuel prices 10 months ago,” said John Cooper, Partner and Head of the Construction Practice at CPA firm HoganTaylor. “A quick jump in gasoline prices can eat into your profits in real time if you can’t pivot and change your expected forecast quickly. The same goes for all supplies on projects.”

Similarly, leveraging technology allows contractors to streamline processes, automate repetitive tasks, and improve efficiency. This, in turn, boosts productivity, enabling professionals to deliver projects more effectively and meet deadlines.

In project management, for example, cloud-based solutions allow office and field personnel to collaborate and communicate more effectively through accessible, real-time data. These systems make for faster and easier sharing of RFIs, drawings, photos, submittals, safety forms, daily logs, and other files/information.

Cloud-based solutions allow personnel to see all aspects of their projects in one place via a mobile or desktop app. When combined with analytics, project information can flow into the accounting system. This eliminates the need to manually enter data into both systems and recheck those double entries.

Good project management platforms can also be customized for the needs of field personnel. Additionally, automatically generated data visualizations make it easier for PMs to grasp what’s happening with tricky concepts such as over- and underbillings. “They have gained a better understanding of how over- and underbilling works,” states Phyllis Dyer, CFO of Industrial Power Solutions. “They don’t have to do anything but open the dashboard. As a result, they’re focusing on it more.”

Efficiencies such as these lead to cost savings and increased profitability for contractors. By adopting high-impact technology solutions, they can reduce manual errors, optimize resource allocation, and identify cost-saving opportunities. Ultimately, this can lead to increased profitability and financial sustainability.

A Strategic Imperative for the Industry

In a rapidly evolving industry, technology is no longer optional — it’s imperative. As the industry traverses the generational and cultural divides, one truth becomes evident: embracing technology is the key to thriving in this dynamic landscape.

For construction CEOs, COOs, and CFOs, this message carries a special significance: the time to act and embark on your technology journey is now. Whether you’re a digital native or a seasoned industry veteran, the benefits of technology adoption are undeniable. It’s not just about keeping up; it’s about staying ahead and leading the way in a competitive industry.

Technology will continue to evolve in the years to come, offering construction companies opportunities to streamline operations, make informed decisions, and deliver projects more effectively. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are promising even more significant advancements.

Take the next step and move from hesitation to innovation — initiate dialogues, form task forces, focus on high-impact technologies, communicate goals, prioritize end users, and accommodate different learning styles.

Actions speak louder than words, and leadership must set the tone for the entire organization.


Embracing technology isn’t just about staying competitive; it’s about futureproofing your business, enhancing employee satisfaction, and driving your company’s and clients’ success.

The construction industry is at a pivotal moment, and the message is clear: adopt technology to thrive and take that first step on your technology journey today. Your future in construction depends on it. 


  1. “Connecting a Subcontractor: McClone Construction.” ProNovos. June 7, 2022.

Copyright © 2024 by the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA). All rights reserved. This article first appeared in January/February 2024 CFMA Building Profits magazine.

About the Author

Samantha Lake

Samantha Lake is the Chief Operating Officer at ProNovos (, a construction technology firm, in Atlanta, GA. Samantha has more than 16 years of diverse experience in associations, technology, organizational culture, and training and development.

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