IT Potential Construction Fatal Flaw

Posted on August 21, 2010


In Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets, Barry LePatner’s book on the construction industry, builders are a large focus because according to the author, they operate suboptimally in many respects, but particularly in using information technology (IT) to their advantage.

Early in the book LePatner cites a surprising stat on productivity:  32% of time spent on U.S. construction sites is actual work time. The rest is whatever you want it to be:  conversations, walking, breaks, you name it—anything but getting work done. Yes, this stat is tied to more than IT, but poor productivity is an industry bugaboo and lack of investment in techology by construction firms is at least one of the main causes.

The author quoted a construction industry organization that “boasted” circa 2005 that 27% of firms have a functioning website.  Welcome to the Internet Era, contractors; 1 out of 4 of you are only 20+ years late—and the rest are still lost en route!  Think of all the lost opportunity over that time period, all the people that may have looked up your firm and only found an address and map.  Then think of the other 73% who are still in the dark ages!

Sadly, this poor percentage is an indictment of the apparent uselessness of a website as much it is a slam on contruction firms’ lack of business acumen. To think a firm could survive, let alone grow, without a website helps tell the story of how behind-the-times construction is.

LePatner confirms computers are just not used enough.  Too much time is wasted and errors generated with work done by hand. Construction might be the only industry keeping fax machine manufacturers in business. So much opportunity exists for utilizing web-based project management, cost estimating programs and other productivity software it is surprising more do not make the investment. The author notes a recent study that $15.8 billion is wasted each year by contruction companies on ineffective communication alone. These are not numbers that can be ignored, and still keep the doors open.