An Essential Guide to Fostering Your Internal Tech Advocates
We all have that one family member or friend in our lives who we can trust to go for a specific recommendation. Whether they are a car enthusiast, self-proclaimed foodie or fashion trendsetter, they might not be a registered expert, but in your book, their advice is as good as gold. The reason why they are your personal product and lifestyle influencer? Their passion for their area of specialty is undeniable.
In construction, one area where more peer guidance and recommendations is needed is technology. Clearly, construction technology options are also flooding the market, and it’s hard to keep up. As you consider various options for streamlining construction processes and improving communications, it can be overwhelming to stay on the cutting edge. It’s not just as easy as texting your tech-savvy cousin and asking for their advice. Especially given the fast-paced and demanding building environment, it can sometimes feel easier to ignore the task entirely.
Before you go Full Ostrich and bury your head in the sand forever, thereby missing the chance to improve productivity at your organization, here’s some good news: your company likely has a secret weapon for evaluating the various options with expertise: your internal construction technology champions, of course.
What Is a Construction Technology Champion and Why Are They Important?
As Construction Dive points out, finding a technology solution that matches your niche and needs is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Choosing the wrong one can mean misunderstanding, poor organization, lost documents, wasted time and squandered funds. Not good at all.
However, “contractors can better steer their investment by tapping into the talent base that understands that challenge deeply, living it out daily.” If encouraged and provided a venue, workers and leaders passionate about technology will come forward to share ideas that might well renovate your entire approach to technology.
“The ideas may start small, but they have the potential to change the company’s trajectory if they can be scaled to the whole enterprise,” adds the article.
Considering how critical it is for today’s modern construction companies to stay ahead of the competition, technology and innovation are the best ways to get there.
But to make that a success, you need buy-in and support from an organization. That’s where these tech champions come into the picture, by:
- Advocating for your technology needs
- Creating buy-in and support from the rest of the organization
- Overseeing implementation of new technologies
- Auditing them on an ongoing basis to identify new opportunity in future
- Searching for problems and fixing them as they come up
It’s true that technology is just another tool in a large toolkit–but it’s a very important one. Therefore, if you haven’t yet found and supported your internal construction technology influencers, it’s time to start today.
How to Find Your Technology Champions in Construction
So, just how should you find your construction technology champs? Look for identifying features such as:
- Passion for Innovation: As we mentioned, the key to any influencer is passion. Anyone who is motivated to advance progress with technology can help your organization. Look for those who already have a track record of advocating for, implementing and leveraging technology.
- Tech Savviness: You’re seeking people who consider themselves early adopters, literate on new tech options. While they don’t have to be able to write code, they should have a firm understanding of what makes technology good, and what doesn’t. Note that this shouldn’t be your resident IT worker, which requires its own support and sphere.
- Team Player: Your ideal technology champ likes to get others involved collaboratively, understands both the fields needs as well as the office, and digs the business side of construction in general. After all, you want them to leverage feedback when they are advocating for new technology. You don’t want a one-person show.
- Entrepreneurial: Your chosen champion should be capable of running a test project or focus group, and needs to bring new ideas to the table consistently.
- Good Listener: Technology champions in construction can take the feedback and critiques of others into play. You don’t want someone who is too headstrong for this role, especially when making decisions about organization-wide technology.
- Metric-Driven: It’s crucial your champ has a knack for numbers and can show real return on investment. After all, construction is a low margin industry and every dollar and minute saved matters. If they aren’t fluent with numbers and figures, you can still take their ideas, but likely you shouldn’t delegate too much responsibility.
As you can see, technology champions in construction need to possess a wide variety of traits to make for successful additions to your decision-making team. Luckily, the role is also a highly interesting one, especially to budding professionals. It could be an excellent way to attract the younger generation–which can potentially help solve the problem of young people avoiding the construction industry.
How to Support Your Technology Champions in Construction
Before you hand over the keys to let your technology champions take the wheel, it’s key to choose the right people and set up a system to guide their success. Just remember, your way of choosing and leveraging tech champs doesn’t have to match the next company’s. Instead, it’s all about what works for you. Either way, here are a few tips to keep in mind when embarking on this lucrative journey.
Find Your Structure
Many people assume they have to find one champ. But for you, there might not be just one technology champion. You might have a whole team of them in your company. Alternatively, you may have one team member on a particular project who is passionate about advancing it forward.
Either way, think carefully about how you’d like to structure your tech champions before choosing who(m). Ask yourself:
- What fundamental problem(s) are you trying to solve with technology that you need an advocate to help with?
- Is it an official role? Or is it more of a side job and role?
- What’s required of them?
- How do they bring ideas and proposals to the table?
- How does your company define success for your champions? How is this communicated to them?
There’s no right answer, only the best one for you. But setting exceptions beforehand is vital.
Put Your Pre-Notions to Rest
There’s no obvious choice for your technology champions in construction, so don’t come into the search with preformed ideas. While it might feel easier to pick a young employee on the assumption that as a millennial they’ll be more in tune with technology, that’s not always the case.
On the other hand, don’t dismiss an employee because they feel “too green.” Again, think carefully about what you need a technology champion to ultimately “do.” The right answer will stem from that answer, whether it’s a tenured superintendent who’s seen everything under the sun or a fresh graduate, or even both if you decide to go with the team structure.
Give your Construction Technology Champions the Freedom to Explore
Perhaps nothing will do more harm than creating too rigorous of a program or expectations for your construction technology champions. Exploration and autonomy are critical to finding the best solutions for your firm.
If your technology champion has their own role such as the “construction technology officer,” then it’s obvious that exploration is part of their position. However, if you’re making your official tech champions people who have other job duties, you’ll need to free up some of their time to explore.
No matter what, it’s essential you provide them with plenty of opportunities to talk and connect with others, especially those in the field. It’s vital they have full access and abilities to learn about the real pain points of a wide range of team members. That way, they’ll know what technology will have maximum potential to alleviate.
Listen and Empower Your Champs to Make Decisions
If you’re designating your employees to advocate for technology, you need to listen to them, even if it’s different from what you expected them to bring to the table. This doesn’t mean going all out on every large-scale idea they have, but you should allow them to run tests and pilot programs on a smaller scale.
If you have doubts, let them show you their case rather than dismissing it. Give them a budget to experiment and be able to accept failed experiments just as much as successful ones. Admittedly, learning to delegate is difficult so you might need to practice.
Offer Opportunity for Advancement
One key question you need to consider when creating your technology advocate program is: what’s in it for them? It’s critical to offer advancement opportunities if you want to keep people motivated to find the best solutions for your company. Obviously, you’re looking for a return on investment for creating the position (even if it’s part-time). But they’re looking for something too: a career boost.
So offer them a route to success. Whether you let them choose new technologies to help you create a picture-perfect jobsite or make clear that success will mean promotion in their main sphere of focus, you must provide that path.
Also note that advancement can come in more than one format, not just a promotion. Other opportunities include a chance to be the face of the initiative, additional leadership training and workshops, and being able to work on large and impactful projects.
Construction Champions In Construction: A Marathon, Not a Sprint
At the end of the day, putting in the effort to identify and support your construction technology champions is a brilliant move for the company. It makes your workers feel valued. It helps you stay on the cutting edge and outsmart the competition. And it ensures you choose the solution that makes the most difference on your bottom line.
Remember to take it slow, though. Implementing a new system requires time, and you’re doing more than that: You’re starting an entirely new way of doing business. Just keep working toward that destination, and you’ll see results sooner than you might think.