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Construction company CIO builds a better business with the cloud

Sharon Florentine | Aug. 4, 2014
The CIO of Webcor Builders talks with's Sharon Florentine about the cloud, changing older workers' minds, technology cheerleaders and the future of construction.

Today, for the cost of an iPad, a cellular account and a small access fee, all entities on the construction site can access drawings, 3-D models, collaborate, use streaming video to view issues in real time and provide near-real-time feedback. This means lower costs, faster construction processes, faster decision making, and up-to-date information in everyone's hands. What specific technologies are most in-demand in the construction industry right now?

VS: We are seeing two technologies gathering major steam in the construction industry: tablets and collaboration.  Tablets bring all the paperwork, such as drawings, RFIs, and inspection forms and outcomes, and puts them on a single device that can easily be carried in a worker's jacket pocket or work case. Now, the worker has less to carry, and, who wants more to carry?  The benefits we are seeing are in real-time changes made to drawings or updates the worker provides on an inspection that now have real-time impact on the job. Parties are notified immediately of issues and changes rather than waiting several hours or days for updates. 

Secondly, real-time virtual collaboration tools for models and drawings have time and cost-savings impacts to the construction schedule. Using virtual collaboration, companies can whittle down several week-long processes of phone calls and face-to-face meetings to a couple of weeks through collaborative online tools such as Autodesk BIM 360 Glue, for instance.

To add another piece to the puzzle, virtual collaboration is leading to increased use of cost-effective and productive off-shoring production of construction drawings and 3-D modeling that would not have been available without virtual collaboration. Are there specific best-practices, applications, tips, tricks you've learned over the years to best handle this continuing transition and embrace of technology? 

VS: I always fall back on the simple rules of adoption - the technology has to be as easy as using Amazon or Expedia (or whatever your favorite online retailer is). Have you ever seen a video on how to use Amazon or Expedia?  No.  Why?  It's so easy anyone can do it without training.  And that's how easy new technology has to be for successful adoption. Over the years — yes, I'm starting to sound old — I've seen great applications die on the vine. Why? Too complicated to use. They solve a problem, sure, but either it takes more effort to use the app than to solve the problem using the 'traditional' method, or a competing app that's easier to use springs up and eats that for lunch.

I've also seen the flipside; mediocre applications that may not solve the entire problem take root and become wildly successful because they're so easy to use. So, one of the keys is that ease-of-use trumps functionality any day, at least in this industry. I've also learned to find my cheerleaders. They say more people are swayed to purchase by real customer reviews than by company advertising, so why not use the same principal inside a company? Let's face it, no one is going to listen to me, the CIO nerd, exhort the virtues of a new technology and how it will save them time and hassle. But when they hear the same story from another employee who loves the technology, all of a sudden I have another adoptee. There's no sleight-of-hand or trickery. It's just a matter of who is delivering the message. And there's no better messenger than a colleague wearing his or her 'same boots'? 


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