Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Business of Construction - A Digital Approach

Construction Process Integration

If you are a main player in the commercial construction industry you are sure to have heard recent buzz words such as Building Information Modeling, Virtual Design and Construction, 3D BIM , 4D BIM, 5D BIM and so on. Although this may only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of software integration into the construction process, it has made and continues to make significant economies of scale.

Beyond the Core Business

This implementation of software integration should not be limited to construction operations only, but infused into every aspect of the business model.  The few organizations that vanguard in this respect will start to pull away from the competition with increasing momentum.  There are many potential hurdles along the path to full-fledged system integration, but probably the most potentially destructive one is trying to integrate systems at a level above what the company culture is ready to support.  There is a fine line between pushing the envelope and driving off the ledge.  Those companies that learn to strike the balance, typically early adopters, put a strong hold on competitive advantages and step ahead of their competitors at exponential rates.
The inclination of many companies is to purchase software that professes to contain all the tools necessary to propel it to the top of the market overnight.  The reality is that money spent in this manner is done so frivolously.  When this approach is taken, your software turns into "shelfware" [1] or at a minimum is severely underutilized.  James Benham the President and Co-Founder of JB Knowledge Technologies, Inc. stated, "Historically, business technology has served a strictly operational, unbiased, input/output role; if the cost savings in using a software outweigh the number of employees it confuses, there should be adoption.[2]"  This approach is very detrimental to the vitality of any organization.  As we do with buildings, we need to start at the foundation.  The foundation of successful systems integration is centered on first reviewing business processes and identifying problem areas, second evaluating what potential software and human elements could make the process more efficient, and third implementing the solutions.

Finding a Thought Leader
Now you may ask yourself, how do I start?  The answer to this question may not be the one you are looking for, but here it goes… you have to invest in human capital.  John F. Kennedy once said, “The human mind is our fundamental resource.[3]  The epitome of this statement would be a thought leader.  Thought leaders solve problems through innovative thinking.  The trick is to find a thought leader and allow them to evaluate every perspective of your business model for potential untapped efficiencies.  As with anything worthwhile, it will take time.  Be sure to not cut your company short by pulling the cord before the benefits of the endeavor start to appear.  This individual or team, depending on the size of the organization, should be fully dedicated towards developing solutions that leverage the usage of new technologies and human capital.  As touched on before, a key attribute must be the ability to couple the right balance of integration with what is sustainable in the organizational environment. 
Expanding to Construction Digital Marketing

So now you say, I have heard a lot of philosophy on how I can make my company better, but really don’t know what the tangible product is.  To give a few ideas of what may be expected, let’s focus on the marketing leg of your company.  In specific let’s focus on marketing on the Internet.
I will consider that your company already has a website, as this is status quo at this point.  Many companies may not already be aware, but there are digital analytics tools that can allow you to track every aspect of interaction your website is experiencing. A few tools that provide this functionality are Google Analytics, Adobe Marketing Cloud, Angelfish, and  Web Trends.  For a more in depth look at each of these platforms and more, Tom Demers wrote an excellent blog entitled "Web Analytics Software Comparison: Identifying The Right Web Analytics Tools For Your Business ."

These software applications track items such as how many people visited your website, where they came from, where they went, how long they stayed, where they left to, and so on.  If this information is not being leveraged, now is a good time to think about how your company could benefit from it.   
Through the use of your digital analytics software, you can differentiate between people visiting your site for employment and those visiting to find a contractor.  Once you have identified these potential customers, you can pinpoint the geographical location of the visit, in other words, you can find out who visited your website and market directly to them through traditional marketing channels or enhanced digital channels.  If you are interested in finding additional insight into this type of digital marketing, just type the keyword "Geotargeting" into your browser. 
According to Gary Angel, a prominent web analytics blogger and professional, there are two steps in the digital approach that make the magic. The first is to "Enrich your knowledge of that population (if necessary) with data that can be tied to targetable properties such as attitudes, needs or desires (Name Lookup, Household data, Census Data)."  The final step is to "Create a link between the targetable properties, the behaviors you want to incent, and the messages most relevant to each combination of target group and desired behavior (Survey data in our case – most often with additional behavioral data in commerce targeting)."[4]
 Another tactic would be to have your advertising dynamically follow Internet users typing in certain key words.  This type of technology already exists!  Google's version of it is called "Dynamic Display Ads."  Let’s say an owner’s rep is searching for information surrounding hospital construction and your company’s advertisement is showing up on most of the searches.  Not only is it showing up, but it is your advertisement specifically geared at this target market.  This type of marketing can dramatically increase your ROMI. 

What next???

Well, I hope by now you get the point.  The opportunities are endless and the companies that really foster these concepts will dominate their market.  The key to success is defining your key business requirements and then having people lead the charge with innovation and integration. 

Have you ever wondered why Google has been so successful?  In a Forbes interview, Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of Google's People Operations said: 

“Personally, I believe this culture is an insight about the human condition. People look for meaning in their work. People want to know what’s happening in their environment. People want to have some ability to shape that environment...Google has cultivated a creative and passionate workforce that holds the key to the company’s innovation."

It is not a coincidence that Google has become the giant they are.  Whether you want to be the worlds largest general contractor or the best in your region, apply these principles and you will get there.

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