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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 CIO.com's Sharon Florentine about the cloud, changing older workers' minds, technology cheerleaders and the future of construction.

CIO.com: How does embracing technology like this ultimately benefit your business? How does it benefit your customers and partners? 

VS: The biggest benefits we see from new technologies are quality and cost savings. Yes, it's great to have all the details I need on a tablet rather than lugging 3-ring binders and rolls of drawings around with me. Yes, it's faster to update time reporting while the employee is on the construction site than to trek a city block back to the job trailer to update time cards. 

But the real benefits shine in the quality of delivered products due to the real-time collaboration and feedback, which leads to cost savings and increased profits.  Customers receive higher-quality buildings earlier than scheduled — this can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexpected owner profit from rents or sales — and partners benefit from reducing costs, reducing re-work, and enhanced productivity.

CIO.com: How do you decide which technology is best for your company when there are so many choices? 

VS: I sometimes get asked this question by younger workers, the upcoming future leaders in the workforce. I tell them, besides the usual consideration of costs, scalability and ROI, there is no crystal ball to give you the answer.  Everyone from the C-suite-level down through senior management is making their best decision based on what they know now and what they think is going to happen in the near future.I tell them to look at all their possible options, boil decisions down to the best two or three choices, and then ask themselves, 'If I were the recipient of this new technology the CIO is providing for me to use, would I be happy to adopt it?' Slip on the user's boots and walk a mile. That'll usually tell them which choice is best.

CIO.com: What's the industry outlook for construction for the next 12 to 18 months?  

VS: We think the outlook for construction is still strong in the next one to two years. However, it is very difficult to tell what the future of the economy will be with our current uncertain economic state.Construction is tied to real estate prices and interest rates.  Commercial loans are still reasonably priced, with banks flush with cash and the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates at historic lows. 

In the San Francisco Bay Area, construction is booming and home prices are escalating again, quickly. On the flip side, unemployment is still an issue; consumer sentiment is still not where we would like it to be. Combine this with any sudden economic reaction to reduced spending, Fed policy changes, interest rate increases, or bank lending practices, and the construction industry can come to a halt quickly. The 'new economy' has put long-term blinders on many of us, and our forecasts do not push out much further than two to three years.

 

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