Apps that don’t play nice with each other create a lot of extra work for construction professionals with more on their plates than getting software to properly communicate. Whether data gets manually added by hand into each app, uploading spreadsheets or CSV files, or even using email, the lack of integration can be a major time consumer.
JBKnowledge’s annual ConTech Report, one of construction’s most comprehensive surveys on the state of the industry, found that app usage in construction remains on the rise, but points to a continuing trend of poor integration and data sharing between those applications. This lack of integration could diminish the efficiency gains the apps provide in the first place.
Here’s a snapshot of this year’s report.
App Use Continues to Grow
Last year saw a slight uptick in the percentage of contractors using construction apps, with 22% reporting using six or more in the 2020 survey, compared to 21.7% in 2019. Of those apps, Procore was cited as the most popular app for a variety of functions. Procore was number one for daily reporting, with 42% of those surveyed saying they use it. Procore was also the most popular app for capturing and managing photos and videos, safety management, and time management.
Construction apps are only as useful as the project data they contain, so even without integration, data needs to be inputted into them one way or another. Most ideal and efficient is for the apps to automatically share data regardless of which one was used to gather it initially, particularly if the same updated information is available through whichever one you open. However, construction professionals surveyed by JBKnowledge reported a variety of alternate methods for inputting data with poorly integrated apps.
This includes manual input, spreadsheets, comma separated values (CSV) files, custom-built integration or email.
Smartphones Again Top Most-Used Jobsite Tech
Jobsite smartphone use is nearly universal, with 92% daily utilization. It marks the fifth consecutive year smartphones have taken the distinction of the most-used jobsite piece of technology. A close second was laptops, with 83% utilization, followed by tablets and smartwatches.
Among the most common uses for mobile devices given by survey respondents were viewing project documents and service dispatch and billing. Rounding out the list of most popular uses were timesheets for payroll, creating project documentation, viewing BIM models and installation drawings.
The ubiquity of smartphones means apps are getting plenty of use on the jobsite as well, for everything from managing timesheets, to daily reporting tasks, to viewing plans or drawings or taking photos or videos. However, the JBKnowledge survey revealed that 27% of those professionals lack any method of integrating the data between apps, and that just 5% said every one of their apps were fully integrated.
BIM Traction Remains Stagnant
Building Information Modeling, or BIM, has been a frequent topic of conversation in construction technology for several years, but this year’s JBKnowledge Report was the fifth consecutive year the technology has failed to budge an inch in adoption. Nearly 30% of respondents said just one or two people at the organization handle all matters related to BIM, and a quarter said they outsource all or part of their BIM-related work.
Of those contractors who said they use BIM, 61% reported using it for clash detection, 53% said they use it for visualization.
One final aside, is that the report’s authors credited construction technology for helping the industry weather the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
“For a few months in 2020, the entire world seemed to be propped up by technology, this was a great moment to prove tech adoption is always possible if we are diligent,” they wrote. “Perhaps 2021 will push construction toward implementing digital workflows.”