Digital Construction Tools Must be as Easy to Use as Their Alternative: Paper

Despite a massive influx of digital solutions, construction teams continue to resist adoption. One reason: complicated tools require weeks to learn and intensive training and experience to master; time that many teams don't feel they have.

Construction is one of the least digitized industries, second to last only to agriculture. Digital solutions are prevalent and widely available, yet adoption lags. Many speculate that construction project teams are simply technology adverse. While in any industry there will always be some that resist new approaches, the assumption that the construction industry somehow employs more of these individuals is fundamentally flawed. The reality is that many teams are struggling to find solutions that simplify, rather than complicate, their workflows.

Caution: Feature Overload

There is no shortage of digital platforms that focus on automating design, planning, procurement, and building. Sit through any technology demo; whether the pitch is for a planning tool or a data management platform, there will likely be no shortage of functions, features, bells, and whistles. In fact, sales teams often spend hours running through each in detail, highlighting their combined value proposition.

What takes a sales team 3 hours to demonstrate can take a user 3 weeks or more to learn. Want to move around a few line items in your project schedule? No problem, go find a scheduler who has completed the training, click these 6 buttons, enter this text, remove the existing links, remove the lag days, link them with these other 4 activities, click save and hope it works. 15 minutes later you have an updated schedule, which the team now wants to adjust again to look at additional options. Sound overly complicated? It is, which is the primary reason that teams continue to revert to easier to use options to facilitate their planning workflows.

Features add value to the seller; useful features add value to the buyer

Simplicity is Key

Construction teams that resist any technology deployment have one stable fallback; paper. When the digital solution fails, paper will inevitably take its place. The reason: paper is reliable, it's simple, and anyone can use it. If simple solutions are widely embraced, why aren't more technology providers striving to offer simple solutions that teams can easily adopt and deploy?

Complicated solutions restrict access, which in turn lessens adoption. The more features, bells, and whistles that are added, the more difficult the platform is to use. Even with training, attrition in usage for complicated platforms happens early. People use simple to use tools; they toss complicated ones. Just ask the makers of any fad kitchen gadget; when their customers realize that it's faster to just chop vegetables by hand, they do so. The gadget becomes another clutter item in the drawer (just ask my grandmother).

The Best Solutions Offer Step-Up Approaches

Going digital in construction isn't going to happen overnight. We can't simply slide a tower in place and expect teams to leap to the top. The most effective solutions in the industry are offering a phased approach, providing a series of steps that can assist teams on their digitization journey. Those steps must be simple so as to encourage use and prevent teams from defaulting to paper-based solutions. If tools are as easy to use as paper (or close to it), and deliver better results, teams will naturally embrace them.

How to Effectively Select a Solution

Ultimately, effective digital tools augment effective workflows. Choose tools that empower teams to accomplish more, leveraging their current work processes. While bells and whistles may seem like a great add, sometimes they are nothing more than a distraction, and at worst sometimes they actually disrupt or lengthen workflows, thereby reducing performance potential.

Just because it wows people doesn't always mean it's going to add value

Effective tools empower the end user. Many times, the end user isn't represented during evaluation or sales meetings. Purchase decisions are sometimes made by executives with good intentions but a lack of detailed workflow understanding. End users can add a great deal of value to the selection process. Engage them to gain feedback on ease of use, value proposition, and overall applicability to their current work processes.

Lastly, use the paper test. If the tool is so complicated that you anticipate teams will revert to paper out of frustration, they probably will. Often times, simple solutions are a better bang for your buck, while more advanced platforms may provide value years into your digital journey. Don't get sucked in with the wow factor of complex technology. Paper has no wow factor, and it's still the go-to planning tool for many. To achieve success in your digital journey, seek out tools that are as easy to use as paper, but that provide much better return on investment.

At Pull Plan, we embrace simple. To learn more about our solutions, and why teams are so successful using them, reach out to us at

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