A Look at the Construction Industry and Information Technology

A Look at the Construction Industry and Information Technology

January 7

The information technology needs for the construction industry encompass a wide array of disciplines — anything from project management to building materials procurement to computer aided drafting applications. There are a few managed service providers that support this unique industry, but many smaller construction firms rely on an internal IT function. Larger firms leverage IT-derived efficiencies to streamline processes, achieving cost optimization and other competitive advantages.

Good Construction Depends on IT Providing a Means for Collaboration

While construction companies use typical IT hardware and applications for standard office software and accounting functionality, what really sets it apart from other business sectors is the collaborative nature of the construction process. In many ways, software to support construction follows a similar workflow pattern as seen in the software development industry: design, construction, and testing. Security and industry compliance also play an important role in all aspects of construction project.

Success in construction depends on the close collaboration between architects, engineers, as well as the actual foremen and workers getting dirty on-site. CAD design files, project plans, and bills of lading need to be easily shared between responsible parties. Information technology — whether delivered by an in-house team or a managed service provider — must facilitate this teamwork essentially in real time.

Could Google Revolutionize the Construction Industry’s use of Information Technology?

A project in development at the tech industry giant, Google, has the potential to revolutionize the world of construction. An October article in ArchDaily revealed details about this project, codenamed Genie, currently on the plate of Google X — the inventors of the Google Glass device.

Genie is essentially a Cloud-based collaborative platform where architects and construction engineers work in real time while on a project. It seems almost like a version of DevOps for the construction industry. Genie also includes a collection of state of the art simulators as well as an advanced analytics engine.

Google estimates its project has the potential to save both 30 to 50 percent in manufacturing costs while lessening the time from design to completed construction by a similar percentage. All told, Genie could save the industry nearly $120 billion each year.

Does the Construction Industry make Sense for the Managed Service Provider?

In many cases, a MSP can easily provide the typical information technology services needed for a construction company — things like servers (hardware or virtualized), office and accounting software, in addition to mobile and desktop support. A provider would need to specialize in the industry and its applications like CAD, construction project planning, and materials procurement to provide full service. If Google’s Genie project takes off and truly revolutionizes the industry, it will be another area of expertise for a managed service provider to learn.

What makes the construction industry different from most standard businesses is its project-based workflow. The computer applications that support those methodologies also are unique compared to standard IT practices. These all need to be considered when looking to offer MSP services to the industry.

Are you an MSP hoping to work with clients in vertical markets? This page has some interesting articles on the tech needs of various vertical markets.