| Written by Rose Morrison
Amid the buzz in the construction technology community, it can be difficult to determine what digital tools are right for your team, let alone your entire company. These choices are even more challenging for companies just beginning their digital transformation. As technology reshapes the industry, is a construction tech stack actually something you need to consider? It is if you want to avoid costly changes and wasted time.
Luckily, there is some method to construction tech stacking. Knowing how to approach it can help you identify the tools you need so you build the most effective stack for success.
What Is Construction Tech Stacking?
A tech stack is the collection of apps, devices and digital tools a company uses in its various departments. A company’s tech stack should be a combination of items that serve distinct purposes yet work well together. Collectively, they help workers do their jobs with greater ease and efficiency.
Unlike enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, which are often a suite of technology tools from one vendor, a construction tech stack is made up of multiple solutions, which address a specific challenge or goal.
The process of tech stacking is about identifying the right digital tools to meet the unique needs of your team. Some items are multifaceted, with functions that fill several needs from one convenient program or device. These are the ideal digital tools to build a construction tech stack with. Every new device or app added to the stack should have concrete benefits and, most of all, work together.
Quality over quantity is the general goal when it comes to tech stacking. All too often, companies fall into the trap of adopting new technologies simply for the sake of digitization. But just because you add more devices, programs, apps and digital tools it doesn’t mean you’re actually solving your team’s struggles.
This is similar to throwing money at a problem until it’s fixed. While this eventually might resolve things, time and money can be saved by using a more strategic approach. Building a tech stack works the same way. Construction project Owners must find digital tools that are a good balance between value and benefits.
A good place to start is by identifying specific areas or issues your team consistently grapples with. Could technology solve these challenges? For example, your team might have trouble managing all the documents that come with a construction project. In this case, a good addition to your construction tech stack might be software that helps employees digitize and organize documents. But don’t stop there.
After identifying a problem, dig deeper and see if there are any similar or peripheral issues. So, while your team definitely needs software to manage documents, they might also have an inefficient system for obtaining timely approvals on contracts or change orders.
Rather than researching software for these two problems separately, see if one digital tool will solve both issues. This approach keeps your tech stack as streamlined as possible. The goal is to find a Swiss army knife rather than multiple separate tools.
This approach is known as integrated tech stacking, which is all about compatibility and collaboration. An integrated construction tech stack prioritizes digital tools that can be used by many team members, fostering collaboration by removing technological islands. To put this into perspective, most people would agree that it’s easier for a team to work on a document when everyone uses the same format, rather than half the team on Microsoft Word and the other on Google Docs.
How to Choose the Right Construction Tools for Your Tech Stack
Construction technology has developed rapidly over recent years. Innovation is leading to more advanced, effective solutions and significantly more quality options. While this is good news, many Owners may find themselves at a loss for determining which specific solutions would best fit their needs.
This is where tech stacking becomes more strategic. Identifying problems helps clarify where the construction tech stack should be concentrated. When deciding which solutions to invest in, remember to look for solutions that increase efficiency while improving workflow. The key is not to invest in as many digital solutions as your budget can handle but to strategically choose the best ones for your unique business needs.
There are a few things to consider in the selection process. While complexity, ease of use, functionality, and price can all play a role in your decision, remember to also think more broadly about your organization. Software compatibility between teams and departments can often be overlooked. Each digital tool you add should include benefits for other teams within your organization.
Make sure that your construction tech stack works well with your corporate ecosystem. For example, your login for the construction app is connected to your corporate authentication system, your contractor’s pay apps or A/E and supplier invoices are automatically pushed to your accounts payable system, and project closeout data is automatically shared with your facilities management team.
Let’s go back to that scenario of needing document management software. Your team might need a streamlined way of housing and managing documents, but who else in your company may need to access those documents? Your facilities management team? Your finance team? When you start looking more broadly you may find that the software you originally wanted might not play nicely with the facility team’s FM software. Or there’s no way for your finance team to access the contracts they need. Your team may benefit from a one-off solution, but a software platform that integrates well with in-house solutions is better for your company’s tech stack.
Differences like this determine whether your construction tech stack is optimized correctly to benefit your department as well as your business. So, before you commit to a software platform, review your organization’s needs and goals against the limitations of any solution you’re considering.
Create a Construction Tech Stack that Works for Everyone
Technology is becoming more critical in the construction industry. Digital tools can be incredibly helpful and add a lot of value. And with all of the digital tools available, there’s no need to be cursed with complex, clunky and disconnected software programs.
The key for Owners is finding the right balance between one-off programs and suites of tools. An Owner’s project managers may be interested in technology that will allow them to collaborate on drawings with their architects and engineers during the design phase, while construction managers may want a common platform to manage communication between contractors, and your architects, engineers and field reps may want a mobile tool to access project data that includes the ability to report from the field.
Even if needs are different, project stakeholders are all working on the same projects and looking for common data. By selecting three different solutions you may gain limited success in the beginning, but create confusion among the team and double-data entry errors between systems. And worse yet, you may not be able to create and use comprehensive reports unless you’re able to bring data from these disparate systems into one.
Remember, you don’t have to sacrifice ease of use to gain efficiencies – the best software programs provide both. Start your stack with the essentials and add more to the mix over time if needed. When built right, your construction tech stack will boost your team’s operational functionality while delivering a heightened level of agility across your overall organization.
Begin Transforming Your Construction Stack Today
When you’re ready, Projectmates’ technology team can help transform your disconnected construction software programs into a true construction tech stack. For a complimentary consultation with one of our experts, contact Projectmates today.