Cloud Computing and the Construction Industry
“in the cloud” is the latest catchphrase in technology discussions, but the
term has many definitions. According to some, it refers to virtual servers that
allow users to access stored data via an Internet connection. Providing access
in this manner is frequently referred to as using cloud-based or web-based
Others expand the cloud to include any application used
outside of a company’s firewall. As InfoWorld has noted, moving to the cloud
can mean anything from increasing data capacity without having to invest in
additional infrastructure to licensing new cloud-based software. This can be
further expanded to include the use of mobile devices such as smart phones
(e.g., Blackberry, and iPhone) or tablets (e.g., iPad).
and the construction industry
how does this relate to the construction industry?
The construction industry balances back office
functions?billing, paying invoices, running financial reports, payroll,
planning logistics?with the physical presence needed on the job site or in a
client’s office. Today’s technological solutions must be able to serve users in
both work settings.
As a result, making mission-critical business applications
available remotely is a hot topic these days. Remote access allows staff to work
from any location without being tied to a specific physical location. With the
amount of consolidation, decentralization of offices, travel-based positions,
and project work being done in different regions of the country or even
internationally, being able to offer solid, remote-access technology to
employees is critical for a construction company’s success.
For many companies, solving this challenge means moving some
of its applications to the cloud.
One construction company, True Value
Homes (TVH), is able to give any employee with proper credentials access to
these applications through a secure, web-based environment. Before the move,
TVH was running operations on 17 sites; and employees could only work in the
office, so all papers needed to be brought into the central office for
processing and approval. Whereas TVH once had 100 personal computers for 100
employees, now 500 users can access its web-based applications.
“We want to make sure that our employees get the best out of
their workplace,” Arun Nehru, TVH’s director, said. “What we are telling
employees is that [wherever you need to work], the applications are available
from office, home or outside. They need not come to [the] office to work.”
between contractors, owners/clients
cloud-based services also extends beyond the workings of a single construction
company. As Constructech’s 2011 IT survey notes, “Today’s construction
professional also needs to be highly collaborative. The word ?team’ has taken
on a whole new meaning in the construction industry. Every team needs to obtain
a high level of transparency and accountability for the property owner.
Overall, construction companies will be more collaborative, using technology to
connect all project team members?from subs to general contractors to owners?in
one central location.”
Yet, it is highly unlikely that each of the project team
members utilizes the same back office business management applications. So, as
general contractors, subcontractors, and owners individually look to the web to
leverage its capabilities, it will be critical to look at ways that technology
can ensure the secure and timely exchange of project information between them.
noted by Constructech’s 2011 IT survey, contractors will then take project
information “out to the jobsite with mobile devices as well as applying a host
of applications on these mobile devices.” As the survey reports, construction
companies are reporting from the field as well as “carrying out project
management, scheduling, punchlists, and time tracking tasks in the field
This is evidenced by the growing momentum in the use of
mobile technologies in the construction industry. Yet, the type of device
varies as much as the job sites do. According to the survey, “the smart phone
is still one of the most commonly used devices at the jobsite (81% of survey
respondents). Laptops (69%) and tablets (26%) also receive a significant
response.” Given the advances in and adoption of tablets such as Apple’s iPad
over the past few years, growth is anticipated in the use of the tablet in the
construction industry as well.
Given the fast moving area of mobility,
today’s business management solutions need to support the highly mobile
workforce of the construction industry today and into the future.
today’s technology for the future
that mean that your construction company needs to scrap everything it’s using
today for new cloud-based applications? In today’s economy, many companies are
looking more towards extending the applications that they are using today into
the cloud, where it makes the most sense.