Chicken or the Egg? AKA Process or Technology?

By Guest Blogger Tom W. Gebes | President, BuilderMT

Throughout the centuries, we have often pondered about what came first or what was the most important, the chicken or the egg?  Well why we will not provide any insight to this question this week, we will discuss the age old question for builders and construction professionals, which should come first, the process or the technology.

Over the years I have seen for myself, owners of construction firms who read an article or heard about a great new estimating or jobs cost system and the ad makes it look like this product is the “magic bullet” the construction company needs to solve all of their problems.  Well we can guess how this story typically ends.  The product does not even come close to expectations and joins the other unused software applications that clutter book cases and office shelves.  While I think all of us have seen the advantages of technology, we often times want to take the quick and easy road to success without the proper trip planning or in other words, the correct “road map” to get to where we want to be.

We do not build projects without plans and specifications, we do not take vacations without transportation and hotel plans, so why we would we think we can plan our company’s technology future if we did not plan our business/technology infrastructure?  For most builders and contractors, this is a tough decision to tackle.  You are good at building things and making deals happen, but may not have the necessary skill sets to take the next steps in running a successful construction company that is efficient and profitable.

I have enclosed a “road map” I developed many years ago for the residential builder.  It could be easily modified for the commercial, industrial or heavy highway builder as well.  Let’s take a moment and break this down.

When evaluating your construction company, the first thing I have found helpful, is to divide the company up into distinct departments or work groups.  For example; estimating, bidding, sales and marketing, production, accounting, etc.  Once you have the groups established, start plugging in the staff and their specific duties within each group.  Feel free to review the last two weeks as it relates to the “round table discussions” and getting to understand what each person does within your organization, how they interact to the other work groups and what value or role they play within the organization.

You can see from the chart above, that there are very specific tasks that each staff member has and once completed, this information needs to find its way to the next person in the process.  This is where technology really brings the return on investment (ROI).  Not dictating what each person does, but providing them with the best tool to perform their job as well as the way to successfully communicate this to the next person in the process.  If we go out and purchase technology without a plan, then you end up with a lot of broken arrows or processes, where you have disparate databases or systems that do not talk to one another and thus require more staff time to link the information, not a great situation by any means.

I added a bonus feature in this map as well and that is the use of “Wireless Touchpoints”.  With the increase demand of placing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in the hands of your superintendents or project managers, it only makes sense to provide them with mobile technology that allows them to be more efficient in communicating with your office staff, trades, sub-contractors, suppliers, owners, architects, etc., during the entire construction process.  Once again, finding the right technology that offers integration to your other systems, is an essential ingredient to staying on time and on budget with your projects.

So, while we did not decide which came first, the chicken or the egg, hopefully you have seen that it is definitely process and “Best Practices” that needs to come first and then you will be in a position to place the right technology squarely on top of the processes you have defined.  Good luck and happy building!

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