By James Benham
Today, the information technology (IT) decisions presented to CEOs are less about which technologies should be employed and more about which technologies should not. The consumerization of IT means as more employees become savvy in technology needs, requests once limited to the IT department are pouring in from all ends of the company. Team members expect their business technology to be as user friendly as their personal technology.
The past ten years have been about allocating the right corporate technologies to cut operating costs from tight budgets without complicating processes. The next ten years will be about making sure those technologies fit together to achieve corporate objectives. As an executive, there is an obligation to shape the corporate IT strategy and choose the right solutions, but technology providers also have an obligation to provide flexible solutions that accommodate the strategy – building a bridge that drives greater efficiency.
In the 2012 Construction Technology Integration Report, 450 professionals in the commercial construction industry evaluated software technologies used in the office and how those technologies integrate and adapt to meet project management needs. Nearly 50 percent of respondents said they rely on four or more construction software applications on a daily basis. However, 40 percent of respondents noted that not a single one of their independent software applications integrate or communicate with each other.
Somewhere in the rush to develop the latest and greatest software technologies, the average tech provider’s objective changed from simplifying processes to simply automating processes. The end users of construction technology settled for time and cost savings in each automated process, without considering the net effect of trying to integrate across applications. Some of the companies surveyed pay upwards of three thousand dollars per year, per employee, in annual subscription licenses. A surprising 52.1 percent of those companies say when they transfer data between those expensive solutions they do it manually, via spreadsheets. Considering all of those licensing fees, it doesn’t add up when not a single departmental software talks to the other and transfers data automatically.
Historically, business technology has served a strictly operational, unbiased, input/output role – if the cost savings in using a software outweigh the number of employees it confuses, there should be adoption. However, in evaluating personal technology, expectations are higher in the form of graphic user interfaces, customization, predictive analytics, and best of all, open integrations. The expectation is that a smartphone should know what we want, when we want it, and give it to us all in one application. Even Apple has conceded they must integrate their offerings with major content platforms, recently releasing seamless integrations with Twitter and Facebook and ditching their own proprietary social network, Ping.
The construction industry is one conduit in the global business environment that is raising awareness about the efficiencies of technology integrations in business. A fundamental shift in the expectations placed on the IT department and external technology providers must happen before corporate IT solutions will integrate in the same user-friendly manner as personal applications. In the construction industry, the demand needs to come from the builders, from the project managers, estimators, project owners, and executive team saying, “Our complementary software, no matter the provider, can and should communicate, to simplify our processes across the board.” The active response then needs to come from technology providers willing to work with their clients to make their software the most useful it can be – and decision makers should settle for nothing less in a technology provider.
Thus, the Construction Open Software Alliance was begun. The goal is to collaborate and learn from industries with similar initiatives, and start change across those industries. In the construction industry, there needs to be an increased adoption of an application integration standard. That standard was written five years ago, yet has been completely unused since its inception.
To further elaborate, open application integration standards are sets of code that translate data in a common language between two different software applications, no matter the provider, host, or manager of that software. Most applications on mobile devices run open applications, allowing users to pull and push data from related programs to create a seamless experience. The power of cloud computing means it’s possible to never have to navigate far from any screen, on any device, to get the data needed. It also means the elimination of thousands of hours spent on data transfer time through total integration.
The breadth of technology available today, no matter the industry, means the CEO can afford to be picky, and demand customization. Process efficiency and profitability are at stake. Why is it what we love most about personal technology, can’t or isn’t implemented in business technology? The capabilities for full information systems integrations in the cloud are out there, it’s about time corporate leaders started to demand them.
James Benham is President and Co-Founder of JB Knowledge Technologies, an information technology services provider. JB Knowledge Technologies conducted the Construction Technology Integration Report. Request a copy of this report by visiting, http://www.smartbidnet.com/ctisurvey. JBKnowledge provides IT services to construction and risk management firms across North America, the Caribbean, and Middle East.