The idea of a mobile, collaborative project team started with providing every team member with smart devices (smart phones and tablets). As smart phones have evolved over the years, wireless networks have improved and the data plans offered have become more affordable. And as a result, within the construction industry, the marketplace began developing construction specific mobile apps for a variety of construction management tasks, including remote time entry, punch lists, and basic cost estimating. The increasing usage of smart devices is changing the playing field for mobile app and software providers alike. And, with the addition of the cloud, true, real-time project collaboration is becoming more of a reality.
Software developers have been building applications on mobile-based platforms allowing users to share data instantly with customers, subcontractors, and project management team members, saving users the time it takes to physically travel back to the office to enter data. With this technology in place, web-based software and handheld devices are set to transform how construction teams perform by enabling them to work better together.
The new web-based technologies are helping all participants in construction projects connect less through voice and more through data. Currently, third-party apps are helping groups in the office share valuable business data with groups in the field. However, these apps have inherent limitations. While they send data back and forth between users, the mobile apps are working outside of the Company's enterprise network, so there is a risk that data will not synchronize with the Company's system.
Enter: The Cloud, a web-based network that allows computing resources to be utilized via the Internet. Software developers have now begun building in the cloud, which will result in contractors seeing full-featured software accessible through Internet-connected mobile devices. The early results from a productivity and efficiency stand point have been very positive. Operations have become cheaper and faster as data can essentially be shared on any virtual device. Microsoft's SMB Business in the Cloud survey found that 59% of companies currently using the cloud have reported significant productivity increases compared to those not using the cloud.
With cloud capabilities come the increased capacity to more freely exchange information, which opens the door for the transmission of unnecessary data. This is where another positive comes into play with cloud computing: the goal isn’t to just transmit data, but to get business intelligence to and from the main system. There is no longer a need to rely on a third-party application to transmit data, with the risk of losing it.
Another benefit: contractors can open up their cloud-based system to the owners and subcontractors they work with on a daily basis. This is the cherry on top from a true collaboration standpoint. A general contractor can securely and selectively open its system to collaboration with subs throughout the job – from pre-construction tasks to active construction tasks such as budgeting, bidding, scheduling, tracking change order requests, logging expenses, and verifying the status of change orders before work begins – all in real-time via the internet. The cloud is ready to improve construction project operations. Are you ready for the cloud?
If you are, or if you have questions about cloud computing in the construction industry, contact our Real Estate and Construction accountants and business advisors at 440-449-6800.