Industry Predictions 2020
Construction is a complex and highly competitive industry that has started to rapidly adopt technology as margins grow tighter, labor becomes more expensive, and new entrants constantly push boundaries. Construction’s productivity challenge—exacerbated by low profit margins, ongoing labor shortages and high administrative costs—makes data more valuable than ever for firms looking to stay ahead of the curve. The good news is that digital adoption in construction is on the rise, although the industry “still trails broader digital adoption maturity,” according to Deloitte’s 2020 Engineering and Construction Industry Outlook. Like Deloitte suggests, 2020 may not be the year when the industry reaches full adoption maturity, but it is very likely that many firms will be turning to digital tools to increase their bottom line. As project management software unicorn, Procore Technologies, is rumored to be preparing for an IPO this year, construction technology will undoubtedly be a major theme in 2020.
Based on what we’ve seen in other industries, my prediction is that digital adoption will give rise to the need for these new systems to communicate with one another. In order to make real time decisions, companies will need real time data from across all business systems. Considering the many silos that exist within any operations tech stack—from back office functions like payroll, contract management, and finance, to field systems like project management—finding a way to ‘bridge the gaps’ will be crucial.
There are many solutions available, most of which need to be integrated; however, firms should consider the benefit of moving to an enterprise construction platform that supports multiple business systems natively, as economies of scale can help drive efficiencies when all information is readily accessible. Platforms like CMiC are making it easier for firms of all sizes to deploy an enterprise-class system, substantially reducing implementation and ongoing costs.
Naturally, as firms transition to digital environments, there will come opportunities to better measure and derive insights useful for decision making. Tools that can accurately ingest and forecast project cost information, as well as connect field operations to the office, will likely make strong appearances in 2020. Being able to easily map and forecast true project costs that include overhead and productivity will provide executives with the foresight they need to plan and continue growing their businesses predictably.
Likewise, as resources become costlier, making sure those assets are as productive as possible can bring a good return on time spent, keeping projects on schedule and on budget. In addition, being able to easily share project data with the field, such as drawings, changes, or feedback from consultants, will speed up decision making and boost morale on the jobsite. Timely and accurate communications across teams—enabled by digital platforms—will be key this year.
While 2020 may not be the year BIM completely replaces 2D drawings, or artificial intelligence and augmented reality replace workers on-site, it will be a year where the value of bridging construction and technology will be noticed. The early adopters of past years are beginning to reap the rewards of their efforts in the form of streamlined operations, complete visibility and improved communications.
For those who are waiting for the stage to be set for a company-wide digital transformation, now is the time, as those who have the benefit of unified business systems will be the ones to profit most.
Jeff Holek is a tech consultant and product leader with expertise in fintech and construction. He is currently helping CMiC—industry pioneer in complete and unified ERP and FIELD solutions for construction and capital projects firms—design innovative solutions for project controls. He looks forward to developing strategies and capabilities that bridge construction and technology in impactful ways.