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CIO's Web portal brings construction company into the digital age

Clint Boulton | March 8, 2016
JE Dunn is using a Web-based portal, which incorporates 3D modeling software, to enable architects, project managers and other constituents to transform the way they share building information.

As CIO of J.E. Dunn Construction Group, John Jacobs' most significant IT project was crafting a new Web portal that gives building stakeholders access to digital blueprints and other crucial commercial documents related to construction projects. But it wasn't until a demonstration of the platform's capabilities at a conference in November that he realized how powerful the software had become.

From a wireless hotspot and a laptop in a hotel conference room Jacobs showed off 3D modeling of buildings, including cost estimate changes on the fly, to about 50 architects. "It was flawless," Jacobs says. "I was blown away by the performance of the rendering of a 3D model over a hotspot and how seamless it is."

The accomplishment didn't go unnoticed by the architects, who quickly tested the software on their own laptops and tablets. They questioned whether the information, updating in real time, was real. Jacobs, who impressed even himself, assured them that it was.

Jacobs' path to the CIO role is unique. He spent his first 14 years with the company in various operations roles and gained technical experience only after weaving together assets from various acquisitions to create standard operating procedures. The idea is that whether JE Dunn was building a hospital in Atlanta or Phoenix, the process and outcome would be consistent. He credits CEO Gordon Lansford with taking a chance on an operational executive who believed that technology could be better leveraged to bolster the business. "I am the least technical CIO in the business," Jacobs says.

Even so, Jacobs knew he needed to turn to technology to make collaboration more efficient for his construction business.

Construction modeling goes digital

Construction companies are not renowned for their technological prowess, as their core business and operations still rely heavily on manual activities. In fact, many contractors continue to cart around and paper blueprints. If a builder wanted access to all of the building information he would have to go to his trailer and get out three sets of drawings and cross-compare them to see the building rendered. But this unwieldy approach is unnecessary in a digital age that enables construction stakeholders to access information via a Web browser and mobile devices.

JE Dunn, a $3 billion company based in Kansas City, Mo., has embraced a digital strategy. "Now, on a mobile device, over a hotspot, I have all of it," at my fingertips, Jacobs says.

Built on Microsoft SharePoint 2010, the Dunn Dashboard consolidates information such as electronic bid submittals and vital details regarding building information modeling. JE Dunn project managers, building owners, architects and subcontractors and use the portal to share information about building projects. The portal also integrates with the company's ERP system, allowing managers to track project financials.

 

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