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Specialty Contractor’s Guide: Implementing Software & Driving Adoption

June 17, 2024

Technology is necessary for survival

The construction industry has been slow to adopt new technologies. According to a recent study by Deloitte, the construction industry’s spend on IT as a percentage of operating expenses is less than half the national average. Piper Sandler, an investment bank that has advised on many of the largest technology transactions in construction to date, further found that construction ranks 2nd to last in digitization across all major sectors. Their research shows that while 7% of the global workforce engages in construction, labor productivity growth in construction averages 1.0% annually, compared to 2.8% for the global economy.

Within the construction sector, specialty contractors are particularly slow to adopt technology. For many years, tech was seen as an optional add-on needed by only the most forward-thinking firms. That perception is changing. With an average 40% price jump across nonresidential construction materials since 2020 and a 500,000-plus worker labor shortage, specialty contractors must focus on becoming more efficient to survive in this macroeconomic environment.

Forward-thinking specialty contractors are responding by seeking out and implementing tech that allows them to boost productivity and, ultimately, profitability. However, finding tech solutions that add real value, and don’t just wind up absorbing time and money with little to show for it, takes proper planning ahead of time. In this guide, we will share our perspective on how to decide whether it’s time for your organization to deploy a tech solution, how to vet a prospective tech vendor, and how to build internal support for your new tech solution once you’ve decided it’s time for digitization.

When is the right time for a new tech solution?

Tech solutions should only be introduced to specialty contractors when there is a clear and definable problem that is already costing time and money, and the cost of the problem can be quantified.

Adopting a new tech solution means big changes for an organization and requires people to let go of old ways of doing things, learn new skills, and follow new processes. Before implementing a new technology, it's important to assess whether the team is ready for a new tech platform by asking three key questions. If the answers are all "yes," then it's a good sign that implementing a new technology will be successful.

Identify Pain Points & Selling the Vision

Once you’ve decided the time is right to begin the tech procurement process, your first step will be to break down the “felt pain” in your organization into a list of more tangible, specific pain points.

Talking through these pain points will help you develop an effective criteria list for the tech you want to bring on board. It will also help you begin to sell the vision by explaining how the tech solution will solve those pain points.

Quantifying these pain points is extremely important. We’ve seen time and time again that this helps teams move away from ambiguous statements like “this will make us operate better.” Instead, create a more compelling vision by clearly stating expected value (e.g., “This will save our foremen 3 hours a week each because they won’t have to do XYZ tasks which they find very frustrating”).

The clearer the vision, the greater the likelihood of a successful implementation.

Throughout this step, always keep in mind the actual users of the tech platform, not just the decision-makers. You’ll certainly need the buy-in of your executives and IT team, but most importantly, you need to consider the people who will be using the tech day in and day out: colleagues in the office, warehouse, and field teams. What are their pains, motivations, and fears? You need to have a plan for addressing each of them individually.

To secure org-wide buy-in, use Kojo’s playbook for addressing pain points and selling the vision to each stakeholder.

Initial Implementation

Once you’ve developed a list of pain points and have buy-in throughout your team, it’s time to begin approaching implementation.

Kojo’s Q4 2023 customer survey responses show that, although implementation timeline varies by software type and complexity, on average, vendors overwhelmingly promise implementation and onboarding training will take between 1 and 3 months.

In reality, it turns out that most implementations take around double that. Watch out for vendors who promise overly optimistic timelines but fail to deliver:

Managing Risks

To ensure successful adoption of a technology solution, it is important to choose a vendor with a proven track record of strong customer retention and successful onboarding. In fact, a vendor’s ability to provide high-quality, ongoing support and training should be critical decision criteria when you select tech vendors. Contractors can use a checklist to identify tech vendors with the necessary implementation and onboarding capabilities.

Keeping the Momentum

Implementation is an ongoing process, and requires support over a period of time. It involves integrating the new tech with your existing systems, uploading relevant historic data, configuring the new platform to fit the way your teams work, and onboarding and training users.

It can be extremely helpful to create an implementation and onboarding roadmap to hold yourself and your vendor’s onboarding team accountable. Keeping the roadmap in a cloud-based spreadsheet will allow you to make necessary adjustments as you go along and keep both teams on the same page.

During the rollout, you need to do the following:

  • Set expectations for your stakeholders and users for the entire implementation process.
  • Make sure your stakeholders remain bought into the process.
  • Allow time for the trainings and implementation to take hold.

Start Your Tech Adoption Journey Today

Tech platforms can be transformative for specialty contractors looking to streamline their operations, cut costs, and boost efficiency. Throughout this guide, we’ve focused on highlighting the need for contractors to do the proper planning and vetting ahead of time. We covered how to know when it’s time to actually begin a tech platform implementation project, how to build internal buy-in for a new tech rollout across the office and the field, how to begin training and onboarding team members, and how to transition from initial implementation to full adoption.

With the challenge of increasingly tight labor markets, tech adoption is a matter of when, not if. This is especially true since new folks entering the construction industry have grown up with computers in their pockets, and want to use the most cutting-edge tools to do their work.

Contractors that develop good processes for tech adoption early on will avoid pitfalls like choosing the wrong platforms, excessive team pushback, or paying for a product that never really gets used or delivers value. Setting up a well-planned tech adoption process is not easy, but by approaching your new tech deployment as a series of manageable, bite-sized steps, and working with best-in-class tech partners who can support you for the long term, you’ll set your team up for success.

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