How to Make Construction Technology 'Stick'
Statistically speaking, 70% of change initiatives fail. Don't let your construction technology rollout be one of them.
Almost everyone in the industry has a story. You put months of effort into selecting the best technology to automate your workflows. You run a pilot, create processes and procedures, and gain management buy-in. Confident in your choice, you roll the new technology out to your teams. The result is a resounding flop. Within a week, no one is using the new tools anymore; they have already reverted back to the old ways of doing things. Sound familiar? If so, you aren't alone.
The industry is ripe with stories like this; big expenditures, big plans, and big failures. We all hear the grumblings from time-to-time. Between meetings, conferences, news stories, and social media, there is no shortage of case studies on change initiatives (technology or otherwise) that failed to yield their anticipated returns.
But there are also a plethora of success stories. Those success stories aren't always prevalent in discussion. A new ERP program that achieved it's desired goals isn't as gossip worthy as a program that cost $2.0 Million, ran 40% over budget, and failed to yield a return on investment. However, those successes inspire replication; their foundations can be emulated so that other teams can build upon them and achieve the same, if not greater, gains. There are lessons to be learned from implementation failures; there are greater lessons to be learned from implementation successes.
To assist you on your digitization journey, we have worked with industry subject matter experts, with decades of experience in successful technology deployments in the AEC industry, and compiled their top tips and tricks to maximizing your technology ROI and make new technology 'stick'. Here are their key pointers:
1. Choose Solutions that Automate and Improve Your Existing Workflows
If you aren't a brand new company, you already have existing processes that have served you well over the years. In fact, they have kept you in a competitive industry position if you have been in business for any length of time. You're obviously doing a lot of things well already.
But the industry is changing; technology adoption is on the rise and your competition may be making moves to gain ground and surpass you in the market. Knowing this doesn't mean you have to rush out and select a highly advanced and complex digital solution to maintain your edge. Good technology augments good process. To get the most out of your digitization journey, select a solution that augments what you already excel at. Look for tools that streamline your existing processes to get the best return on your investment.
On the flip side, many industry technology implementation failures have a common premise: teams selected solutions that required a complete overhaul of their operations model and they didn't have the support, capital, resources, or buy-in to see it through. Complete overhauls are costly, labor intensive, and risk-laden. If you don't need to upset the apple cart, why take the chance? Seriously, just eat the apples; don't throw them all over the floor and hope they find their way back to the barrel.
2. Engage End Users in the Selection Process
At the end of the day, those on the front-line must deploy the solutions that are selected. Give them a voice and engage them in the selection process. This accomplishes two things. Firstly, it helps narrow the selection process to tools that actually add value to the end-user's workflow. While some solutions may be exciting or look great in demo, they may not meet the needs of those that actually need to use them. Avoid the disconnect by getting that input early.
Secondly, engaging end users at the outset helps garner the investment of the group in program success. If these teams are involved in solution selection, they develop a sense of program ownership. This ownership makes it more likely that this critical stakeholder group will champion the program and drive adoption and sustainment.
3. Stage Your Rollout
Too often, teams try to accomplish too much too fast. Technology adoption among project teams is a process; it must be supported to achieve the best results. Part of that support includes giving teams the requisite time needed to get comfortable with system use. This support can be achieved through effective staging.
Often, new deployments are done on projects that are 'in motion'. While achievable, this approach can be challenging. Although difficult, we can add new features to a car while driving. However, expecting the team to jump from their existing car to a brand new car, while driving down the highway, isn't practical; rarely is it successful.
Ideally, new rollouts will occur prior to a project kicking off. This approach enables teams to get in an entirely new car, learn how to navigate, and accelerate at the beginning of the project. We can then strategically add features at key project milestones to reduce the risk, or plan to release additional features on future projects. Whichever path you decide to take, staging the rollout is key to supporting teams and reducing implementation risk.
4. Knowledge is Power - Let People Know What's in it for Them
Across the organization, understanding the purpose of any new program is key to success. If I decided to require all employees to wear a new ID card with an RFID tag, at all times, from tomorrow forward, I would probably receive heated emails and see fleeting results. I may even see a few of those tags in the trash bin. Hey, maybe the new tag doesn't look good with your ensemble. People resist change when they don't understand the purpose, or what's in it for them.
On the flip side, if I announce that these new ID cards can be read at a muster station in the event of a chemical release, and therefore help to ensure employee safety, I would probably get much greater buy-in right off the bat. That information empowers people to understand the point of the program. In this case, they know that there is an upside to having to carry these new cards.
Successful technology deployments invest heavily in educating stakeholders early. Education may consist of awareness videos and sessions, online training, classroom training, and coaching. By providing teams with the awareness, knowledge, and skills needed to ensure their success, leaders empower end-users to embrace the program and facilitate its success. Knowledge is power; make sure to empower your teams early.
5. Get Feedback Early and Often
When is the last time you contacted a company to provide feedback on a product you purchased? Assuming you haven't bought any defective products recently, it's likely been a while. People tend to avoid going out of their way to provide feedback with the exception of two circumstances: the product absolutely amazed them or the product didn't work. When we are rolling out new programs, that level of feedback isn't going to cut it.
Once the new technology has been deployed, host focus groups frequently to evaluate areas of success and identify areas of potential improvement. From education to integration, there are often minor adjustments that can be made throughout the process to improve outcomes. The result may not be 100% on day one, but you can get close to it with incremental improvements over time. Gain the insight of those making the magic happen early and often; their feedback is critical in ensuring that you are actually seeing the gains that were anticipated.
Technology deployments don't always go as planned. If teams fail to adopt newly deployed technology, you won't see a return on investment on tool purchase and setup; worse yet, you now have a team that will be less willing to engage with and embrace future programs.
But that doesn't have to be your story; don't be another statistic. Successful teams leverage successful strategies and tactics to reduce program risks and improve outcomes. By selecting tools that make work processes easier and more efficient, empowering and engaging your stakeholders, staging program deployment, and gathering continuous feedback, you too can be a success story by making construction technology stick, without all the superglue and duct tape that other teams resort to...