Contractors Increasingly Turning to Mobile Technology

17 January 2017

In an article for Construction Dive, Sharon O'Malley discusses how contractors are increasingly making use of mobile technology on the job. While the construction industry lags somewhat behind others when it comes to the adoption of mobile apps and cloud technology, more professionals are realizing the benefits of these solutions.

A study from Texas A&M found that construction professionals have been slow to adopt mobile apps, cloud-based systems and other technology, but are slowly recognizing the advantages tools offer especially in terms of cost-cutting and quicker communication.

The Texas A&M study highlighted a number of benefits of mobile technology. These included "omitting duplication of effort, minimizing errors and allowing quicker communication between the field and the back office." One software executive explained that the money a company makes during estimating and takeoff can be lost if there are too many sets of plans maintained on different media.

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Increasingly, contractors are using basic technology on the job, including smartphones, laptops and tablets, the Texas A&M survey found. In addition, the rate of adoption remained relatively unchanged between 2013 and 2014.

The survey found that 72 percent of professionals in construction use smartphones at work, while 53.9 percent use laptops and 50.1 percent use tablets. Another study by the On Center found that 80 percent of respondents use mobile devices for the purposes of bidding or managing projects.

Mobile apps have also experienced growing popularity among contractors. The A&M poll found that just over 50 percent of contractors use mobile apps for field data collection, an increase from the 30 percent figure one year before. More and more, contractors are using mobile apps for a wide range of functions, including project management, invitations to bid, building information modeling (BIM), accounting, customer relationship management (CRM) and estimating.

Ensuring safety

While construction professionals realize the many benefits of mobile technology, ensuring safety is an equally important priority. However, this is an area in which the industry needs to make progress.

The Texas A&M survey found that 49 percent of executives, estimators and project managers use personal laptops, smartphones and tablets at work, yet only 32.7 percent of companies implement security policies policies before employees use the devices on the job. Given the fact that employees can access corporate data on the job, security should be made a higher priority.

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On this front, the survey's authors noted: "Companies are increasingly negligent in not knowing and securing the employees and devices that touch their corporate data."

Lack of security around corporate clouds was another issue the report highlighted. Sixty-three percent of construction professionals said in the survey that their companies did not have cloud security policies in place. Regarding the problem, the authors said that "Companies are out of touch with cloud maintenance and threats."

Plans to transition more to the cloud

In response to the On Center survey, 31 percent of corporate construction staff reported that they planned to transition takeoff, estimating and project management to the cloud over the course of the next two years.

However, there are obstacles, including firms lacking the budget to make the switch to new technology. O'Malley expands on this point:

"Old-school contractors aren't the only obstacle to the adoption of technology in the industry. More than half of the execs in the Texas A&M survey admitted that they don't have the budget for new technology. Others cite a lack of support staff, the maturity of the technology, the steep learning curve, and a hesitation by managers or employees to try it."

But, on a flip side, there's growing confidence in technology as builders are increasingly transitioning to use of digital spreadsheets on the job site. The authors of the Texas A&M survey expect that construction professionals will increasingly depend on drones and wearable technology capable of detecting motion and taking photos capable of syncing with a smartphone.

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The Texas A&M survey wrote that contractors "are more receptive to IT solutions than ever before, even if their companies are not budgeting for them yet."

For builders to remain competitive, they need the best solutions available. NoteVault's voice-to-text mobile construction management tools allow your team to record and send reports. By taking your handwritten daily notes and streamlining them into professional PDFs, NoteVault helps your team complete projects on time and stay within budget.

If you own a construction company and are interested in learning more about the value of apps for contractors, download the 2017 State Of Construction Management Report to hear the latest trends, successes, and challenges for the industry as we enter the new year.

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About The Author

Heather Dueitt is the Director of Marketing and Communications for NoteVault. She brings more than 15 years of experience to the team including teaching at New York University and is a regular contributor for Forbes. Prior to moving to San Diego, she worked with top-tier global brands including Samsung and Dove and her campaigns were awarded over a dozen industry accolades. Heather comes from a family of civil engineers, architects and contractors and has grown up around the AEC industry.