"The challenge with technology is that it is not a sustainable competitive advantage," says James Benham, CEO of construction-technology firm JBKnowledge Inc.
"Why? Because other people buy the stuff you have [competitors upgrade their technology to equal or outdo yours].
"If you were using BIM in the early '90s, you had a strategic competitive advantage," Benham illustrates with an example. "Now if you’re not on BIM you’re in the minority. It’s no longer a strategic competitive advantage because everyone else got it.
"What is your strategic competitive advantage as a contractor's IT director or chief information officer?
"Your approach to adopting new technology -- the culture of innovation in your company -- not a specific tool that you acquire. That’s a temporary competitive advantage."
Benham delivered this wake-up call about how to approach construction technology as part of his keynote at the Associated General Contractors' IT Forum in Chicago in July, 2015.
He suggested a handful of ways to make sure you develop the tools to make your company's technology adoption a strategic advantage:
- "Dedicate some technology staff and budget to research and development." Two important notes: 1. the cross-industry average for IT budgets is 3.5% of revenue; and 2. if you bill R&D to projects, it will be sustainable.
- "Conduct periodic tech reviews. Look for paper and Excel usage, and automate them with software solutions." Don't like what's on the shelf? Build your own software team and write your own software.
- "Make sure that innovators, not naysayers are in charge of technology at your company."
- "Become a tinkerer yourself. Get a 3D printer, become a drone pilot. Go play with technology. Go become a modeling expert; actually learn it."