Survey Says: Contractors Committed to Tech, Industry Still Faces Hurdles
Highlights from JBKnowledge’s 2018 Construction Technology Report
Article written by Andy Holtmann on the Viewpoint blog.
Now in its seventh year, the annual Construction Technology Report compiled by JBKnowledge is one of the most impressive surveys in the industry, providing the latest trends on everything from construction software, IT budgets and workflows, mobile apps, emerging technologies and more. The 2018 Construction Technology Report is now available and we recommend checking it out.
Here are some of the key highlights and themes we saw throughout:
More Work Still Needed on Construction Labor Shortage — Especially Among Women and Millennials
As JBKnowledge notes in discussing the demographics of its report, the number of women and Millennial respondents “are not growing as one would hope as freshly minted construction professionals are entering the workforce.”
Only 0.8% of respondents were born in 1996 or later and just 25.6% born between 1980 and 1995 — a small figure for the 24- to 39-year-old age bracket that once made up the bulk of laborers. This shows that younger generations are still not embracing construction as a career like previous generations did. Additionally, the industry is still dominated by male professionals, accounting for 79.5% of the survey’s respondents, while just 20.5% were female.
The Construction Technology Report notes though, that there is hope in the form of several concerted construction industry efforts to recruit more skilled talent. Among them: a boost in construction science programs at universities, trade association programs and trade schools, ongoing professional training and reverse mentoring, where construction companies are identifying young, tech savvy employees to help train other workers and experiment with emerging technologies.
Contractors are Buying into Idea of New Tech…But Not Necessarily Funding It
More contractors are moving toward dedicated construction technologists, but the bad news is their IT budgets are still limited, this year’s report notes. Companies are spending nearly the same percentage of revenue on technology as in 2017, and construction is still lagging behind all other industries.
CFOs and CEOs remain largely in charge of IT departments, with only large construction companies embed IT leadership under CIOs, CTOs or Chief Data Officers. However, the percentage of companies increasing their IT staffs grew from 35.7% in 2017 to 40.2% in 2018.
Nearly 74% of construction professionals felt well supported by their IT staff, but most construction professionals said they didn’t feel fully equipped or trained to use the latest technologies. Half of survey respondents rated their technology training was adequate or greater, with the other half saying it fell short.
Mobile Construction Technologies Seeing More Use
As the world around us becomes more mobile, contractors are likewise deploying more mobile technologies in the field. The number of construction professionals who viewed mobile capabilities as “not very important” dropped from 20.7% in 2016 to 16.9% in 2017 to just 15.4% in 2018. Among the mobile devices used daily by construction professionals, smartphones were tops with 92.8% usage; laptops were second at 79.7% and tablets third with 62.1%. However, 32.1% said they still don’t use their personal devices at work. Of the remaining, there is an even divide as to whether companies secured workers’ personal devices.
Despite the recent advances Android phone providers have made, it’s still iOS smartphones and devices that reign as the preferred mobile operating system, with 71.8% usage. Windows ranks second with 53.6% and 37.7 usage of Android devices.
The most common usage/ apps being utilized in the field include photo/video (55.3%), daily reporting (53.6%), time management (46.5%) plan management (37.8%) and safety management (37.1%).
Construction Software Usage, Integration Still Evolving
While 79.9% of respondents in this year’s report are using dedicated software for accounting, with Viewpoint topping the list as 18.6% of respondents noting themselves as users. However, just over half (54.2%) of project management workflows were being handled with dedicated software — and it’s even lower for practices like takeoff (38.7%), bid management (31.5%) and client relationship management (25.7%)
As the 2018 Construction Technology Report notes: “Unfortunately, contractors are still relying heavily on spreadsheet, email and document storage solutions…”
The number of software solutions being deployed for different functionalities is continuing to drop. Whereas the bulk of contractors (22.8%) were using six or even more different solutions as recently as 2016, the largest percentage of respondents (21.4%) said they were using just two solutions as of 2018.
Construction software integration remained a key pain point in 2018, with 29.1% of professionals noting that none of their software solutions are integrated with each other and only 6.9% saying that all of their solutions did. When transferring data between disparate systems, manual processes like rekeying data were tops with 51.8%, followed by spreadsheets (44.3%), CSV file uploads (33.2%) and custom-built integrations coming in fourth with 26.8% of respondents using.
Because contractors are still often managing multiple software systems, there can be some confusion and frustration when it comes time to upgrade software.
Contractors Looking Ahead to More Construction Innovation
The percentage of construction companies dedicating budget to research and development dropped from 45.6% in 2017 to 43.2% in 2018, with 42.4% of respondents saying their companies had a defined R&D process, with most of those companies dedicating between 2 and 5 employees to continual innovation.
Innovations like drones, wearable tech, robotics and virtual reality solutions all resonating among construction professionals. But it’s prefabrication technologies that had the highest nod among respondents as 42.1% said they will give construction companies a significant advantage.
Most construction professionals are becoming more comfortable with implementing new technologies, with 63.6% of respondents indicating their level of comfort at an 8 or better, though JBKnowledge notes that confidence from a 10 in 2017. Close to half of respondents reported using voice assistance technologies some or all of the time, with Siri accounting for 58% of this.
While it’s clear that construction professionals are at least more aware of and many are readying for new technologies, there are still a number of roadblocks on a company level, including holdouts resistant to technology changes.
- 38.6% noted a lack of staff to support new technologies
- 38.2% noted budgets were an issue
- 33.8% said employee resistance to change played a factor
- 30.1% indicated management resistance; and
- 28.5% of respondents citing a lack of knowledge about new and emerging technologies
Despite this, the industry has done a good job at trying to educate, train and make construction professionals comfortable with new technologies, and most contractors are realizing that the costs of waiting too long to embrace technology changes are higher than the cost to implement them in the first place.