Part II: Get Onsite IT Right

Part II: Get Onsite IT Right

In the coming days, we’ll be posting about how midmarket AEC firms can use digital to survive and succeed through 2020 and beyond. The first post, on streamlining systems to cut costs, is available here.

The AEC sector can be chaotic, with multiple projects in various stages from planning to completion. It gets even more complicated with all that goes on outside the main office.

In the past, we’ve seen AEC companies begin and end their jobsite plans with rugged devices. But the temporary office spaces typical to construction sites bring so many more challenges. The sites can be vulnerable from a security perspective, and (as we mentioned in a previous post) it’s critical to have health and safety compliance. The networks themselves can be an issue, complicating communication between the central office, a home office, and the jobsite.

In terms of users, the temporary jobsite staff may not be as IT-savvy as full-time workers. A further complication is the sudden rise in staff who work from home, a trend we see continuing even after the pandemic passes.

Even when you get all of the above right, in AEC you learn to expect surprises: our clients frequently have to improvise on-site. One example that comes up a lot: when the site manager has to make a last-minute order to get materials to the jobsite. Often he’ll call a friend, somebody he’s known for decades. They make a verbal agreement, and the job keeps moving.

But then an invoice turns up in accounts payable that nobody recognizes, and now you’ve got people playing detective: who made the order? Who is the supplier? What were the terms? Whole days are lost trying to figure it out.

With better systems, site managers can easily initiate a P.O. from a smartphone. The details are available to everyone, so there are no surprises, and the transaction appears on the next report.

While every job (and every firm!) is different, overcoming these issues invariably requires flexibility, attention to detail, and a willingness to learn and improve from project to project. IT leaders need to strike a balance between data security, the immediacy of the information, the lack of bandwidth at construction sites, and huge files.

Despite all this complexity, sometimes the simplest preparations can make the difference at a jobsite:

  • Ensure that paperwork can easily be scanned, shared and filed
  • Don’t forget to allow for printing
  • Make it easy to recharge devices

Finally, we can’t overstate that IT leaders must get directly involved and take ownership for getting it right. Without a strong CIO or CTO, you’re guaranteed an inefficient jobsite.

If you have questions about onsite IT, or anything else involved with AEC, feel free to get in touch.

Coming soon: our next AEC post on Building Information Modelling (BIM).

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organizations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.