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Final Grades: AEC Firms Still Failing to Cash in on New Tech

Final GRADES: AEC Firms Still Failing To Cash In On New Tech

Taking the plunge: Incredibly, most firms with between 50-200 employees still don't have IT departments. (JBK)

Taking the plunge: Incredibly, most firms with between 50-200 employees still don't have IT departments. (JBK)

by JOHN GREGERSON | Dec 6, 2015

After welcoming BuiltWorlds to its very fun 'Back to the Future' anniversary event this fall in Bryan, TX, JBKnowledge Inc., itself, now is focused firmly on the future again, where prospects remain bright for proliferating construction technologies. Last week, the AEC technology solutions provider released the final results of its 4th Annual Construction Technology Report, which surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. contractors, engineers, architects, subcontractors and owners. Results confirm that these certainly are promising – if not always productive - times for adoption of new tech in our industry.

"In its fourth year, I would argue that this report has more relevance than ever, not only due to the number of survey respondents (nearly twice that of last year), but also due to the historical data," notes CEO James Benham. "Most of our analysis compares at least three years of data now."

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True, progressive firms are investigating drones, virtual reality, 3D scanning and other emerging technologies to execute building projects, with some turning their IT departments into revenue generators. Problem is, progressive firms remain relatively few and far between, the report concludes.

That news won't come as a surprise to attendees at last summer's AGC-IT Forum Conference in Chicago, during which Benham previewed the findings, noting that total technology spending in construction still lags that of other industries by as much as 75%. Remarkably, he lamented, average IT budgets remained less than 1% of company revenues from the previous year.

“Lack of budget reverberates throughout the industry," the updated report states. Many firms still reported “unofficial” IT departments, minimal technology R&D, nonexistent cloud security policies or enforcement, and flat technology adoption rates. Without staff and budget dedicated to tech, IT units "could be missing out on many opportunities to be a billable department" and not just be seen as "overhead", Benham concludes.

For what functions do you currently use mobile apps? 

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This year’s report also continues to show that mobile app usage on the jobsite is considered important, but not very important for construction professionals when purchasing software. Field data collection and project management solutions are the most likely to have full mobile capabilities, while project scheduling and prequalification are the least likely. The number of builders using an invitation to bid or plan room software that provides mobile capabilities dropped to nearly half of 2014’s numbers.

What technologies are your firms experimenting with? 

The 2015 survey was produced in partnership with the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), HCSS Construction Software, and Texas A&M University’s Construction Science Department.

For much more, download the full report here. 

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