Software Adoption for Heavy Civil Construction Operations

Read the article in Construction Executive

Top Four Tips for a Successful Implementation

By Greg Norris | Monday, July 9, 2018
 

 

Alphonse Karr said, "The more things change, the more they are the same." Even as technological innovation continues at a breakneck pace, far too many heavy civil construction companies are content to maintain their business processes exactly as they are.

This reluctance to innovate and experiment has had serious consequences for the construction industry. According to a 2016 study by McKinsey, labor productivity in the construction industry has remained little changed from where it was two decades ago, even while economic productivity across industries has improved by 30 percent.

Stuck in their ways, some organizations fail to capitalize on the chance to get a leg up on their competitors. Unfortunately, in many cases, construction companies are wary of implementing software solutions due to fear of the unknown or a previous bad experience. Organizations that lack experience with digital transformations often fall victim to "false starts," bringing new software on board without any long-term, well-thought-out strategy behind it. As a result, the implementation falters because there was never a good plan for integrating the technology with existing processes, or for training employees to use it after its introduction.

When false starts occur, workers—especially those with more experience in the industry—revert back to the processes they know well. What's more, they grow more skeptical and less open to further attempts at technological change. 

To take advantage of recent technological advances for a construction company, choosing the right tools and platforms is only half the battle. Follow the four guidelines below to make sure there is an established strategy to enact IT solutions that last.

1. CHOOSE A POINT OF CONTACT

False starts frequently occur because no one feels truly responsible for the software once it's been installed. In order to counteract these tendencies, select one individual within the company who serves as the go-to for information and implementation.

The right choice of an employee for this role will depend on the internal specifics of the organization. Although some construction companies have IT personnel who could perform this duty, many others do not. According to one study, 29 percent of construction companies have no formal IT plan and 38 percent of them have no dedicated internal IT staff.

Whether this role comes in the form of a chief information officer (CIO), an IT administrator or an external advisor, selecting the right go-to is critical in order to ensure that the adoption of new software is effective.

2. SET GOALS AND METRICS

Ultimately, if contractors don't know what they are hoping to achieve by migrating to a new software platform, they won't have any way to decide if the deployment has been successful. For one, they should already have an idea of what their company's long-term business objectives are. Before hastily adopting a new solution, take the time to delineate how the software will align with these objectives.

A team of employees from across the organization should also collaborate to create a set of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for the software. These figures will help determine what impact the new solution is having on workflows. The appropriate metrics and KPIs will be different for each individual organization and tool. For example, a digital platform to improve repair and maintenance processes may reduce the proportion of unplanned repair tasks or decrease the amount of time mechanics spend traveling between the jobsite and the office.

3. ACHIEVE USER BUY-IN

Of course, no software deployment can be successful without its users wanting it to be. Hopefully, the choice of tool was a prudent one that will improve the workplace and make employees' jobs easier. Even the best solution, however, needs to win over its users and prove its worth before it can be accepted as a valuable part of the workflow.

One way to get buy-in from stakeholders is to start with a pilot program. Introduce the software to a test group and get their buy-in before rolling it out to the rest of the company. Not only does this method ensure key personnel will help validate the change to the rest of the company, but it allows for a “walk-then-run” implementation that makes the change easier company-wide.

When looking to pilot the new software with key stakeholders, involve a group that is receptive and most likely to succeed and set an example for the rest of the organization.

If choosing to implement the technology and then achieve user buy-in, plan to obtain comprehensive feedback from personnel in different areas of the organization. To get feedback on a repair and maintenance platform, for example, speak with everyone from equipment operators and mechanics to foremen and executives. 

And remember, the process of getting user buy-in doesn't stop once the new platform is in place. Inform the software's expected user base about the change early on and engage in training initiatives to make the transition as smooth as possible.

4. FOLLOW UP

Digital transformations are a hot topic in today's business landscapes as more organizations seek to harness the power of technological solutions. However, digital transformations should be thought of as a journey, not a destination. Once the new software is adopted and has undergone a successful implementation, there’s still more work to be done.

A true transformation to digital relies heavily on a commitment on the part of company management to support employees in the adoption of new software and champion the positive changes it can make to the entire operation. 

Buy-in to new changes, especially those that involve overhauling long-used paper processes to which workers are accustomed, can be difficult. But it can be won with committed support from management throughout the transition and beyond. When employees can see the positive benefits to their jobs and lives, it’s far easier to get on board. 

It’s important to remember that once the switch is made to a software platform, it’s not a done deal. Check in at regular intervals with the new software’s users to ensure the transition has gone smoothly and that the software is being used effectively for its intended purposes. Also, be responsive to any complaints or suggestions. 

If employees and the business are able to get the most out of the software, the benefits of making the transition are easy to see.

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