Key Technology Findings from the 2023 AGC and Sage Construction Hiring and Business Outlook
Every year, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), in partnership with Sage, surveys contractors from across the US on a variety of topics impacting the industry. The 2023 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook survey revealed some key trends. Overall, contractors are optimistic about the year ahead, but they have higher hopes for public sector funding than they do for the private sector, in large part due to the changes in work and shopping patterns brought on by the pandemic coupled with an increase in government infrastructure funding.
“Contractors are optimistic about the construction outlook for 2023, yet they are expecting very different market conditions for the coming year than what they experienced last year,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. “Even as market demand evolves, contractors will continue to be confronted by many of the challenges they faced in 2022, including the impacts of supply chain problems and labor shortages.”
Strategic IT planning
As the industry navigates challenges such as the qualified worker shortage and supply chain issues, technology will continue to play an important role in keeping teams connected and increasing business visibility and efficiency. Firms have been more strategic about IT the past few years, with 61 percent of firms reporting that they have a formal IT plan to support their business objectives, while another 8 percent say they plan to adopt one in 2023. These percentages were similar to last year’s findings.
Technology investment levels
Also similar to what we found in the 2022 survey is that most firms plan to keep their technology investment about the same as last year. When asked whether they planned to increase or decrease investment or stay the same in 15 different types of technologies, the majority of respondents, ranging from 68 to 91 percent, said their investment would remain the same as last year in each of the technologies. When it comes to plans to increase technology spending, between a quarter and a third of firms plan to increase their investments in assorted technologies in 2023.
The top category for increased spending is document management software, with nearly one-third of respondents planning to increase spending. Project management software came in a close second, cited by 30 percent of firms. Roughly one-fourth of firms plan to increase investments in accounting software, estimating software, tool and asset management or tracking, and human resources software. Only 1-2 percent of respondents expect to decrease investment in any of the 15 technologies. These numbers were all nearly the same as last year.
Cloud-based and mobile technology
As construction firms seek more flexibility and anytime, anywhere access from their solutions, we have seen more firms turning to cloud-based technologies the past few years. The most prevalent use of cloud-hosted technology is in project management, with 57 percent of firms using it. Nearly half (47 percent) of contractors use cloud technology for field operations, while 45 percent use cloud technology for accounting, and 42 percent use cloud technology for time tracking. Only 16 percent use cloud technology for tool management, while 21 percent say they do not use the cloud. While we saw some gains in these percentages in last year’s survey, this year’s numbers closely matched those in the 2022 survey.
As we’ve seen in previous years, when it comes to the use of mobile software technology, the adoption numbers are higher. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of firms are using mobile software for daily field reports, while 61 percent will use mobile technology for employee time tracking and approval. More than half plan to use mobile software technology for the sharing of drawings, photos, and documents (58 percent, up 3 points from last year) and access to customer and job information from the field (56 percent). These numbers were all in line with last year’s findings.
Top IT challenges
While technology delivers a host of benefits, firms cite several IT challenges. The top challenge for the past few years has been finding the time to implement and train on new technology, with 40 percent of firms citing it as their top challenge. Other top challenges were employee resistance to technology (38 percent), keeping company data secure from hackers (37 percent), and connectivity to remote job sites (35 percent).
These percentages were all within a point of last year’s responses, however, two challenges were mentioned more often than in the 2022 survey. Thirty-two percent of firms said that integration between software used inside their company was a top challenge, while 27 percent selected keeping software current, both up 5 points from last year.
Technology will continue to play an integral role as contractors look to do more with less in the current market conditions. Many of the challenges contractors currently face can be alleviated with the use of cloud-based technology, particularly solutions with an open API. These technologies deliver seamless integrations with software used both inside a business and by external stakeholders. They also provide automatic updates, so solutions are always current, and offer superior connectivity and security features. These benefits will have more businesses turning to the cloud — once they overcome the hurdle of finding the time to implement and train on new technology. Contractors can make the process less overwhelming by starting slow and prioritizing technology that can have the biggest and most immediate impact, then implementing new technology in stages.
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