With the fourth industrial revolution in full swing, the construction industry must evolve to stay relevant and profitable in an increasingly digital business environment. Fortunately, it seems construction businesses have responded to this call for transformation, with recent research revealing that R&D spending among American construction businesses rose by approximately 77% since 2013.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the move to digitalization. McKinsey & Company’s latest survey shows that two-thirds of C-suite executives believe the pandemic would accelerate transformation in the construction industry.
Digitalization offers businesses the ability to automate low-value tasks and improve operational efficiency by uniting a fragmented industry. However, despite increased investment in the use of digital tools, the construction sector struggles to improve productivity and efficiency.
As a result, business leaders have adopted a strategic approach to digitalization, choosing to invest in transforming individual tasks or outsourcing specific IT and business functions. While this has the potential to improve productivity in isolated business divisions, it only further entrenches the heavily siloed nature of the industry.
Why has digitalization not changed the way construction businesses operate?
The construction sector is notoriously fraught with business silos, which hinder businesses from improving operational efficiency and productivity. This is difficult to overcome due to the number of stakeholders involved in construction projects.
Contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, regulators, and remote staff all operate on their own digital platforms and use specialized software made specifically for their own use cases. This creates a massive hurdle for businesses attempting to establish a cohesive digital ecosystem that provides business leaders with a holistic view of their operation. Integration presents these businesses with an opportunity to close the gap.
Here are 5 ways integration can help construction businesses make full use of existing and upcoming digital tools.
How integration unlocks the true potential of digital tools
1. Bundle legacy systems with cutting-edge technology
Business leaders are advised to view their organization as a collection of interdependent divisions. Any decision that is made in one department will create a ripple effect throughout the business. This is why, when investing in technology stacks, business leaders should invest in complementary technologies that improve productivity across the business rather than only in highly specialized use cases.
However, this does not mean that construction businesses that previously invested in specialized tools for specific use cases need to discard them. These businesses can still build a truly integrated digital ecosystem. Integration service providers help business leaders combine first and third-party applications into a single platform. This allows business leaders to view services and technologies as a bundle rather than a collection of incompatible APIs.
2. Reduced attack surface for cybercriminals
As the construction sector continues to digitize business functions and processes, cybercriminals are gaining access to multiple points of attack. When business leaders subscribe to or purchase individual digital tools, security protocols come with each one. However, these services and products normally connect to the internet to operate as intended. This means that a single security vulnerability in a single product could give malicious actors access to the entire ecosystem of digital products.
To protect themselves from malicious actors, construction businesses must ensure they minimize the surface area for cybercriminals to attack by securing the gaps between software and hardware. When products are integrated, the pathways that the tools use to communicate are protected by the integrator.
3. Scale your services depending on specific business needs
The onset of the pandemic highlighted the importance of agility in business. With industry leaders expecting new products, new materials, shifting sales channels, and other disruptions to change the ways construction businesses operate, business leaders could feel the pressure to invest in new technology to improve communication and business processes.
However, CFOs are often wary of approving heavy financial outflow to emerging technology as it requires specialized maintenance and potentially increased technical hiring. The major financial benefit of integrated technologies is that they are, by their very nature, agile and customizable. This means that businesses can scale their technology to respond to sudden changes in demand or the requirements of individual projects.
4. Have a bird’s-eye view of the entire operation
The major benefit of digital transformation for any business is the insight generated by the data collected from technologies used on a daily basis. While technology generates a significant amount of data, this data is often kept within specific business operations and is not shared by different stakeholders. For business leaders to achieve a true bird’s-eye view of their operation, they require the information to be consolidated in a single location. Integrated solutions give business leaders the ability to call upon real-time data analysis to drive better business decisions.
5. Enable collaboration and cooperation across business divisions
The construction industry, despite increased investment in technology and collaborative software, still struggles to encourage communication between business divisions. At the construction site, managers and workers still use paper to conduct security checks and workers in the office still communicate through isolated WhatsApp chats and email chains.
Even if businesses introduce cloud-based document sharing or specialized communication platforms, employees are still likely to use them within their operating silos. When these barriers are broken with integration, managers can communicate with each other on connected communication platforms while linking to documents that provide the relevant contextual information. Once these silos are broken, workers are encouraged to communicate between business divisions and collaborate to improve the business functions they work on.
Ultimately, the construction industry is ripe for transformation and the adoption of emerging technologies is only expected to grow. With integration, construction businesses can ensure that the benefits of any digital investment are felt throughout the organization rather than individual silos. Technology works best when combined in a cohesive ecosystem, and integration can help business leaders bridge the gap between seemingly disparate digital systems.