PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog
Simplicity construction technology traits

5 Simple (Yet Powerful) Traits You Should Be Looking for in Construction Tech

Why Simplicity Reigns King and Queen in Construction Technology

The best technology has always been the simplest.

For instance, the iPod revolutionized the world with its limited functionality but huge memory storage, giving people–for the first time ever–access to hundreds of songs in one teeny box.

The light bulb used a basic filament and electrical current to transform humanity into a species that followed the cycles of night and day to one that can now live life around the clock.

And let’s not forget the wheel. Most people don’t know that this staggering innovation is only about 5,000 years old, but it doesn’t come much simpler, or powerful.

Of course, there are examples on the opposite end of the spectrum as well. Consider the Xybernaut Poma, for instance. Your first hint is the name–let’s be honest, that was never going anywhere. Add in the multiple pieces required to make up this portable computer, and you “look like a freaking Borg,” says Culture of Mac, adding that “The computer’s processing unit was portable enough, fitting in a pocket or clipping to a belt. But once you added the keyboard to the forearm and a clunky-looking, head-mounted optical piece, your cool crashed like a bad hard drive.”

…Let’s just say there’s a reason you haven’t heard of the Poma.

It can be easy to gravitate towards one technology tool that can do it all; the one with all the bells and whistles. However, at the end of the day, simplicity rules when it comes to technology decisions.

Why Simplicity Matters in Construction

The same is true when it comes to technology in construction, where the many choices of hardware and software can be overwhelming. It’s sometimes tempting to go for the highest number of gadgets and functions, but that’s not the best approach. Simple and reliable tech will always yield the most significant ROI, full stop.

That’s not to say technology in construction must be simple on the back end, or that it shouldn’t have a lot of depth. We merely mean that users should be able to pick up a piece of technology and use it immediately, with minimal training, and a relatively functional level from the get-go. If you need one rule regarding technology in construction, here it is: less is more.

So why should you prioritize simplicity above all other construction technology traits? Well, let’s take a look.

Jobs Are Already Complicated

Great technology in construction is there to make life easier, not more complex. Consider the many major steps of a construction project. With a robust design process in addition to the preconstruction stage before construction even begins, consider the many steps and sub-steps needed over several months and years to get to project closeout.

With all that going on, it’s easy to see why jobsites are so chaotic. That many people coming and going, working, exchanging information and trying to collaborate is enough of a challenge; adding another layer of complexity with confusing technology isn’t going to solve the complication.

Simplicity Levels the Playing Field Between Workers

Today’s construction workers come from across the generations. We’re still seeing Baby Boomers out in the field, along with Gen X and millennials, and each brings a different skill set to the field. As such, each brings a different competence with different technologies as well. With such a varied workforce, it’s not fair to dole out technology that only some have the ability to access.

That’s where simple is best. While complex technology in construction might be okay for millennials to operate, Baby Boomers might be left in the dust. Alternatively, constantly patching old software may make it accessible to more venerable generations, but it could quickly turn off those millennial workers you need to keep your company going strong for years to come.

The answer: simple technology. It helps to level that playing field, enhance collaboration and communication and ensure that all workers get the most out of it.

5 Simple Construction Technology Traits for Success

Instead of lamenting the lost art of simplicity in technology (“Remember when all you had to do was invent a round, rolling thing and everyone was happy?!”), a better approach is to tune yourself to that simplicity. Once you recognize it in your options, you can start making better decisions in the construction tech your company and projects purchase.

1. User-Friendly

“Build it and they will come” doesn’t apply to a construction technology implementation strategy. You can’t just go for it and hope for the best later. That’s a sure route to miscommunication, busted timelines and budgets and even lawsuits. Nor should this mantra apply to construction apps meant to make building projects easier.

Instead, you need to select only the best, most effective, most user-friendly tech. As mentioned above, this helps level the playing field between older and younger employees. It also helps to bridge the gap between workers at different levels of management and in different roles and trades. With user-friendly technology that’s accessible to all, you no longer need a different system for architects, engineers, contractors, workers and so on.

Follow this rule, and you can help ensure that your momentous tech purchase ends up being a long-term adoption rather than a trend of the month.

2. Clean Design and Interface

Construction professionals should be all too familiar with the concept of clean design. Busy, overly complicated plans have a Poma-ish aura about them, in which the elaborate gadgets and whirligigs meant to make life easier are themselves adding to the nightmare of confusion.

If you’re in construction, you know the ideal approach is one of absolute minimalism, with the most straightforward route to achieving an end almost universally the best one. The same goes for technology in construction. The best construction software will have a clean design and interface, which will, in turn, yield powerful results for its end users.

3. Speed

Speed is an obvious, yet often overlooked factor in simplicity. Think about it: How many times have you given up on tech because it loaded too slowly? If you’re doing a work-related task, consider the amount of time lost if you have to sit there and wait for an interminable page or app to load.

The best construction tech will load quickly and have the power behind it to complete workflows and tasks efficiently. We’re not just talking when the system has a light burden, either. Great tech will keep up with the fast-paced nature of the construction industry even when large teams are using it during the height of a busy workday.

4. Easy to Connect

Much like the unified theory of gravity and electromagnetism (still unsolved, for anyone feeling motivated), we have yet to develop a construction software that covers all aspects of the design and build process.

Most likely, you are using several technology solutions to complete your goal. Hopefully, you’ve chosen best-in-class options that already make use of simplicity in their fundamental design. However, to make technology in construction more effective, you need those solutions to connect.

Luckily, there are very simple and good ways to do that today, so make sure you choose the tech solutions that connect and integrate with your other core technologies easily.

5. Consistent and Accessible Across Devices

Most importantly, your technology must be readily accessible to anyone, anywhere. Your field workers most likely use mobile devices, while your team in the office in trailer likely uses desktops and laptops to do their work. If they can’t interface, you’re in trouble. The moment your apps stop working is the moment your teams stop recording important details, communicating with one another and safeguarding the project’s budget and timeline.

A sound technology solution will be compatible and virtually the same across devices. It will enable communication, offer access to the plans and documents and allow everyone to make notes or send information–again, all across devices and location. Simply put, software powered by the cloud makes it simple to access what you need from wherever you are.

So before you sign on the dotted line, always check which devices your software will work for.

The Takeaway? Invest in Simple

In today’s construction landscape, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with the pace of change due to the sheer number of new technologies emerging on a daily basis. We’re well past the wheel and light bulb, living in a time where novelty arises every moment rather than every year or century. It’s enough to kill anyone’s attention span and actually reduce efficiency, if you let it.

The good news is, construction teams have some outstanding options. There are many construction software choices out there, and as long as you prioritize simplicity, you’re taking the first step toward a positive impact on your workflow and the success of your organization.

Further Reading:  What Happens When You Get Rid of Paper in Construction...

Grace Ellis

As a Content Marketing Manager at PlanGrid, Grace is the managing editor for the PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog. With over eight years of experience in marketing, communications and PR for technology companies, she is specialized in high-quality content creation across both traditional and digital media platforms.