PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog
Your Mobile Construction App Needs Cloud Based Project Management: How the Cloud Helps You Get the Most Out of Your Mobile Construction App

Why Your Construction App Needs to Be Powered by the Cloud: How to Get the Most out of Your Software with Cloud Based Project Management

Don’t Go Mobile Without the Cloud

One app download at a time, mobile devices are revolutionizing the construction industry with cloud based project management providing real productivity improvements on jobsites. Is your construction technology up to speed? Like most things in life, not all apps are created equal, and a construction app that doesn’t include cloud based project management capabilities might be ineffective in actually improving your team’s efficiency.

You might be thinking, if it’s on your mobile device, it’s automatically part of the cloud, right? Not always. It’s easy to get confused; both cloud computing and mobile computing involve accessing the Internet with a device and using wireless systems to get to your files and data. While a construction app might look like it has all the bells and whistles with a sleek interface, without being powered with cloud computing, it’s a lot like using a pen without the ink. If you want to work from home, visit a jobsite and have the details you need or even collaborate with your team while you’re at a conference or on vacation, you’ll need both a mobile device and a cloud storage system to get the job done.

So, how many construction companies are not using technology with cloud capabilities? According to a 2016 study from Associated General Contractors of America and Sage, 59% of construction firms surveyed had plans to use or already used cloud based project management software, leaving over 40% of companies virtually in the dark.

Whether or not you’re part of the more than 40% not already using the cloud, a thorough understanding of how cloud technology enhances your project is critical to implementing the right software on the job. To help you understand the difference between a mobile app and cloud based software on your mobile device, we’ll go into details below as well as explain how the cloud benefits the construction industry and your projects. Although there is overlap, plain mobile apps vs cloud based project management apps are distinctly different and construction professionals today are finding unique jobsite benefits that only the cloud can offer.

Mobile vs. Cloud Computing: How to Tell the Difference

Cloud computing and mobile computing are two very different components, but when they are used together, they allow you to work or access the data you need from anywhere that has a working wireless connection. The easiest way to tell the two apart is by the role they play in communication:

  • Mobile computing includes the device you use to access the internet and could be a phone, tablet or laptop.
  • Cloud computing is the virtual storage space that holds your applications, files and data and allows you to securely access it when you need to.

When choosing a construction app for your projects, the sweet spot involves the combination of mobile and cloud: mobile cloud computing (MCC). But first, let’s take a closer look at the difference between mobile and cloud computing.

What’s Mobile Computing?

“Mobile computing” is a broad term that describes the different types of devices that allow you to access the Internet and your personal and work data, no matter where you are in the world. If you have a connection and a connected mobile device, you can access your data.

Mobile computing improves your connectivity, allows workers to perform tasks from home, from across town or even around the world with ease. Mobile computing also increases connectivity; if you use Facebook, Twitter or any other social network from your cell phone, laptop or tablet, then you’re engaging in mobile computing, whether you realize it or not.

At home or work–and even in some public places–you can connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot or network to access the information you need with a mobile device. If you’ree in your car, elevator or remote area with no access to Wi-Fi, then your device will use a wireless network (if one is available) to connect. If you’re like most people, you have a smartphone handy all the time; this device is at the heart of mobile computing and serves as your gateway to the cloud. However, one major downside to plain mobile computing is the potential to lose the connection. Everyone has experienced a mobile dropout at some point or other, and this can be a huge inconvenience if you are relying on a connection to complete work in a timely manner.

What’s Cloud Computing?


Further Reading:  12 Skills Every Successful Construction Project Manager Should Have

Despite the odd name, “the cloud” does not refer to weather patterns. Instead, cloud computing actually refers to the storage space that holds your data, applications, images and more securely in place until you need to access them. If you’ve used Google Drive or Apple Cloud, you have been using an app powered with cloud computing. One of the most valuable aspects of devices powered with cloud is the ability for you to switch devices and have the same information. So, if you’re accessing information on your tablet and then switch to your smartphone, your can seamlessly pick up where you left off.

Besides being able to access your documents at any time, the number one benefit of cloud versus mobile computing is security. For instance, when you need to access a file, download a photo or call up a schematic, you use a connected device like a computer or smartphone, to access your secure cloud storage and acquire the piece you want. Your items are stored safely in what amounts to a virtual filing cabinet until you need them.

Anytime you have a device and a connection, you can interact with, download and access your pieces in the cloud. Since your files are stored in a virtual space, they can’t be lost or damaged like paper can be. Even a laptop can be damaged–a single cup of coffee could destroy months of work if it lands on your laptop. Saving your files in the secure cloud won’t bring your latte–drenched laptop back to life, but it will ensure you can access all your files and pick up where you left off.

What Are the Benefits of a Mobile Cloud Computing System?

Beyond construction, a mobile cloud computing system has many benefits for users and organizations, making it easy for teams that are in different locations to collaborate. All data and files needed to perform a job or work on a project are all stored in one central location; employees can then use a mobile device to access the files or applications and perform the tasks they need to do to get the job done.

Some benefits of a cloud based project management system include:

  • Enhanced accessibility: You can access your cloud applications, files, documents and projects from anywhere, including your home, jobsites and client’s offices.
  • No manual updates: Your cloud applications are automatically updated, so you do not have to tackle this task on your own (or risk missing an important patch or feature).
  • Improved collaboration: When you access a file and make a change, every member of the team can access your freshly changed file instantly. Features like screen sharing and virtual workrooms further enhance collaborative abilities and make it effortless to work as a team.
  • Added security: You can lose a phone or laptop, but even if you lose the physical mobile device you use to access your data, your files are held securely in the cloud storage space until you need them.

How Does Cloud Based Project Management Benefit the Construction Industry?

In particular, cloud based project management is providing the construction industry a world of benefits, making the projects that use them more efficient as a result. In fact, according to Construction Dive, “As construction sites become more high-tech and the people managing them become increasingly connected, more industry professionals will likely shift toward implementing a cloud based strategy for data storage and sharing. That capability will allow project teams to streamline operations, giving each user the up-to-date data they need in real time—a process that, ultimately, will help compress any lag in information sharing and decrease the potential for error.”

Mobile cloud based software allows you and your team the ability to double check documents, work orders and blueprints from any location, so you always have the data you need to finish a task. Furthermore, it also prevents long trips to and from the office, simply to deliver a photo or check a measurement on a schematic.

The enhanced collaboration provided by cloud based project management makes it easier and more efficient than ever for teams to work together. Changes are tracked, and each team member or supervisor can see at a glance what checklist items are complete and what items are not. In the event of a change report, the entire team can be notified at once; the impacted workers can start resolving the issue, while others can adjust timelines and schedules to reflect the pending change.

Another unique benefit of cloud based project management is scalability. For your company, mobile cloud computing makes it easier to take on additional projects when you can place a bid, answer a question or have a needed conversation, even if you are not in the office. Since you have your information right at your fingertips, any mobile device allows you to provide a client or customer with the details they need and ensures you don’t miss out on any opportunity or deadline.

As mentioned, one of the best features of cloud computing for the construction industry is the one thing you don’t think you need until it’s gone: security. Lost or hacked documents can be a royal pain, and recovery efforts can be extra burdensome of time and resources if you aren’t backed on the cloud. Cloud computing is the only option if you want to guarantee the security of your documents. By keeping your customer data, financial information, blueprints and proprietary details safe in the cloud, you can get back up and running in a hurry if something happens to your device or office. If a broken laptop or lost phone is one of your biggest nightmares due to the fact that you could lose hours, days, if not months of work, then a cloud system is a must. Accidents and unexpected events just tend to happen, but accessible, off-site storage can’t be damaged if your business has a fire, flood or another emergency, so you can get back to your real work if there is damage to your office or systems.

Upgrade to the Cloud Based Project Management

The results are in: you need the cloud, not just mobile, when it comes to construction productivity software. You wouldn’t use a pen without the ink, so why would you settle for a mobile construction app without cloud based project management? Yes, a plain mobile app may look like you have a fully functional tool, but without the crucial component of cloud, it’s more or less useless. If you’re not using a mobile device and cloud storage yet for your company, it’s time to upgrade or make the switch. The boosted efficiency and productivity–and sheer convenience of cloud computing makes it a worthy investment for construction firms of all sizes.

Lynn Langmade

Lynn Langmade is currently the Director of Content Marketing at PlanGrid, where she develops content strategy, manages the editorial calendar, and oversees content production workflow. Lynn is also the managing editor of PlanGrid’s corporate blog and social media channels.

As an early adopter of social media, Lynn has over 45 thousand followers on social media. In 2014, Lynn was the recipient of the Marketo “Revvie” Award in the Socializer category. She has a PhD in English and over 15 years B2B high-tech marketing experience.