Traditionally, the construction industry has been slow to adopt new technology and/or IT services. And for those companies who have adopted technology, they have typically been creating their own proprietary software for equipment maintenance and tracking, billing, and general project management. Although these systems may work well within the microcosm of their individual companies, they make sharing information and interacting with other companies difficult and expensive. Because of this, many construction companies are turning to cloud services. But, are cloud-based services useful within the construction industry? The answer is “yes.” Here’s why.
BEING IN THE CLOUD
Let’s start with a definition of the cloud. Over the last few years, the term “being in the cloud,” has become a popular catchphrase. However, the cloud and its services have actually been in existence for several decades. The cloud is really a collection of servers and routers whose services are rented to companies for data access and storage needs via the Internet. Over the past 10 to 15 years, the advent of virtualization and security software, lower price points for broadband connectivity, and the introduction of the smartphone and tablet to the business world have allowed the cloud to become an affordable and ubiquitous service.
With the undeniable efficiencies afforded by using the cloud, the construction industry has begun to “dig in” and is now able to make their mission-critical applications available to workers at remote locations. These applications typically range from back office functions, such as billing and payroll to planning logistics, equipment maintenance, and tracking. Due to the distributed nature of workers and equipment in the construction industry, the ability to access applications anytime is more important than ever. Processes can be streamlined and construction professionals are no longer tied to the physical home office location.
The beneficial uses of cloud-based applications for the construction industry are many. The top ten cloud benefits are:
- Applications are available anywhere there is an Internet or cellular connection.
- Contractors can manage project information, such as drawings, employees, and equipment, on location.
- Streamlined operations with real-time collaborative tools.
- Hardware and software agnostic services.
- Lower cost of ownership (i.e., no purchase and maintenance of hardware and software to process applications).
- Fewer IT-related headaches.
- Easy service scalability.
- Quicker payments via on-site change order, billing, and payments.
- Better security as all information is protected within the cloud.
- More efficient communication.
Today’s construction professionals, regardless of title, need the ability to collaborate on every project. This involves executing and most importantly, embracing a new level of transparency and accountability to connect and share information among all team members—regardless of physical location. To enable this transparency and accountability, all team members need to leverage the same applications in a uniformed manner. If individual teams are using different applications or even different versions of the same applications, sharing information becomes an arduous and time-consuming task. A unified information flow via a cloud-based orchestration helps to ensure the timely exchange of project information. Simply put: The cloud brings a new level of efficiency to the construction industry.
The most common way to access the cloud is via a mobile device. Devices range from tablets and smartphones with operating systems such as Apple’s OS, Google’s Android, and Microsoft Windows-based software. These powerful, yet relatively inexpensive devices are taken to jobsites where field personnel can access a host of cloud-driven applications. Given the notable adoption of mobile devices and cloud-enabled applications, today’s construction companies are compelled to support this new, highly-mobile workforce.
One company, B2W Software, has embedded its entire Operational Networked Elements (ONE) platform into the cloud to create an easy-to-use and flexible mobile tool that gives construction professionals anytime, anywhere access to core business data with the highest levels of uptime, security, and scalability.
The ONE offering, which includes its Estimate, Dispatch, Track, and Maintain elements—networked in a single, unified platform—gives construction personnel and executives mobile device access to real-time data right on the construction site and beyond. This newfound level of access to all information results in more informed decision-making, deadline adherence, and maximized profits.
For many construction companies, embracing the cloud just makes good sense and they are extending applications into the cloud to improve workflow and efficiencies. The efficiencies are gained through real-time access to back office data, such as project management and materials data, as well as information on general contractors and subcontractors. Given this new method of doing business, a “cloudy day” on the construction site is a productive day indeed. ■
About The Author:
Kevin Brown brings more than 20 years of leadership to his role as B2W Software’s chief operating officer. His experience stems from building collaborative organizations with strong customer focus, while driving profitability for both venture capital-backed startups and publicly traded S&P 500 corporations. For more information, visit www.b2wsoftware.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, March 2015
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