Tech adoption in the construction industry has increased rapidly, particularly in the past year. JLL's State of Construction Tech 2020 report indicates that because of the pandemic, “three years of construction technology growth and adoption has been compressed” into just nine months.
And while embracing technology is generally a good thing, companies can run into challenges when solutions aren’t deployed properly. This is why having an implementation strategy is more important than ever.
To get the most out of technology, firms must clearly map out and execute a plan to ensure that solutions are implemented smoothly and efficiently.
Here to discuss how you can do just that is Tony Peleska.
Tony is the VP and Head of Information Technology and Digital Transformation at Kraus-Anderson Construction, a firm that’s been family owned and managed for over 75 years. Kraus-Anderson is well-regarded in the industry and it’s consistently ranked by Engineering News Record among the U.S. Top 20 Construction firms in the Midwest.
In his role, Tony leads Kraus-Anderson's IT strategic planning and development, as well as solution implementation and project management.
Have a look at what he has to say.
Introducing new technologies can mean major changes within the organization. In addition to managing resistance (a natural inclination people have about change), you also need to ensure that your organization is financially ready to make changes.
Many contractors find it difficult to do these things. Research by Autodesk and Dodge Data & Analytics found that the top challenges to tech adoption include managing the cost of the software and dealing with organizational resistance to change.
Gauging your organization’s readiness for change “is one of the most important factors in successfully implementing technology and innovation in construction,” remarks Tony.
At Kraus-Anderson, Tony says they consider the following factors when determining if they’re ready for change.
The company’s existing portfolio. “It’s very important that we know what our current portfolio of projects looks like,” says Tony. According to him, Kraus-Anderson has a Business Technology Investment Committee (BTIC) that reviews the firm’s portfolio on a monthly basis.
This committee includes the President, Head of IT, Head of Finance, EVP of Operations, General Council and President of Realty
Organizational goals. Tony and his team “have a very strategic vetting process” to ensure that any technology requests align with the company’s divisional and organizational goals. “Individuals or groups must submit their request to their leadership and (if approved) to the BTIC for approval,” he explains.
Budget. They also look at their budget, and when implementing solutions they make sure that there are funds available to carry out their plans.
Process and analysis. Tony says that they go through a specific course of action when it comes to adopting technology.
He explains, “We follow a process from ideation, approval, process reviews, implementation, closeout, and monitoring for all technology implementations. Having dedicated IT project management and business analysis is critical for knowing when the organization is ready for change.”
Customer needs. They also examine their customers’ needs and discern whether the technology that they’re considering can actually enhance the customer experience with Kraus-Anderson.
Throughout all this, it’s important to note that it’s the management and executive teams — not IT — who are the ones owning the decision-making process. This ensures that any tech initiatives truly align with the firm’s objectives and strategy.
When it comes to technology implementation, determining the "what" (i.e., the solution to adopt) is just the first step. Equally important is ironing out why and how you’re going to roll out the technology.
As Kraus-Anderson, Tony says that the company’s Business Technology Investment Committee has developed a process for reviewing and monitoring decision points for successful technology implementation.
This process involves what Tony calls conducting a “Divisional Self-Assessment.” At this stage, individuals requesting for new technology “must review and submit how their request for new technology aligns with their divisional and organizational strategic goals to divisional leadership.”
In other words, they need to conduct a self-assessment and communicate how a new solution fits in with the overall objectives and direction of the firm.
From there, divisional leadership will review the request. If approved, Tony says that “the request for new tech would need to have a lightweight business case that includes defining the problem to be solved, alignment of priorities, dependencies, benefits, and high-level costs. This is submitted to the BTIC for approval.”
If the committee approves the request, a dedicated project manager will start to get involved. According to Tony, “the project manager creates a detailed IT project plan to manage the scope, objective, requirements, communication plan, resources and decision-making matrix, testing plan, change management and cost.”
In some cases, projects need “a detailed process improvement (Lean) review before we gather IT requirements,” he adds.
Another important component of technology implementation is the management of data, metrics, and benchmarks.
As Tony puts it, “Having a data strategy is extremely critical in the success of any technology program. At Kraus-Anderson, we strive to bake our data strategy into all of our key decision making processes.”
The company strives to ensure that their new technology programs align with their data strategy. According to Tony, they use two components to accomplish this.
“We have a Conceptual Model which represents our conceptual data strategy and our ideal future state. It defines our data logic and design as we adapt and change,” he explains. "Then we have an Enterprise (Application) Architecture that aligns programs, applications and tools to our Conceptual Model."
Once technology has been deployed, you also need to set benchmarks so you can measure the success of your initiatives.
Tony lists the following three benchmarks they use at Kraus-Anderson to define the success of their tech efforts:
These benchmarks, adds Tony, are reviewed by the BTIC during the committee’s monthly meetings.
Always remember that adopting and implementing construction technology can be a complex task. As such, you must ensure that your organization is ready for change.
If and when you’re ready, iron out a formal process to roll out new solutions. It’s also important to set benchmarks and KPIs so that once the implementation is complete, you’re able to effectively measure the success of your initiatives. With these steps in mind, your firm can set the right foundation needed to successfully implement and leverage new technology.