Contractors often invest available capital in heavy equipment, new personnel, office expansion, etc., while often viewing IT as an “expense” that needs to be managed. Meanwhile, customers are demanding more from contractors in the way of efficiency, project controls, schedule and budget management, overall visibility into projects, modeling, and prefabrication. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), Public-Private Partnerships (P3s), and Lean methods are gaining momentum as well. This is all to say that the construction environment is under tremendous pressure to change.
Is technology dragging the industry forward reluctantly or are changes in construction shifting the demands for automation and better solutions (e.g., prefabrication)? This article reviews current and future technologies as well as their impact on construction organizations. It also provides important context for which IT managers and their executives can begin to plan around.
The IT Staff
As available technology has progressed at a rapid rate, there have been several obstacles to consistent adoption. Historically, contractors have IT staff for maintenance and infrastructure, not for expansion, and most contractors have fewer IT staff than what they actually need. For example, a company that has an IT manager might really need an IT director, or a company with an IT director should have a CIO.
A common refrain from senior management (e.g., CEO, president) is that their IT staff lacks leadership and direction. Sometimes that is difficult to provide if the manager spends most days resetting passwords, ensuring servers are running, and managing updates. Senior management is also often unwilling to help enforce stricter IT governance (e.g., stronger password protocols, controls over website access, rules around bring-your-own-device), which means IT staff are consumed with problem-solving and less engaged with strategy.