Posts Tagged ‘construction data’

More is Not Better

March 31, 2010

When it comes to technology in construction, I encounter two themes time and again.

From providers I see solutions that I can best describe as “Walls of Text”, that is to say huge, unapproachable applications with dry, generic-looking,  form-driven interfaces.  – Why is it that you NEVER see a screenshot of a project management solution? Because they all look the same, that’s why!  – Regardless of their application, these solutions feature the Mega Swiss Army Knife approach to software by loading up on countless features that require hours of training before a user can begin to use them productively.

The Mega Swiss Army Knife

On the customer side I hear overwhelming frustration. From users in large, actually the largest, organizations that commit to the mega solution,  there’s the time commitment for training, the time spent on data input, status updates and managing data exchanges with project partners.  Often times, for those in “smaller” organizations (i.e. those with less than $200 million in sales), there is a feeling that these huge enterprise apps are elephant guns when all they need is a .22 caliber rifle. It’s no surprise that many of those in the latter group turn to home-baked solutions for project management, estimating, accounting and other back office functions. That’s right, they choose to develop the software and infrastructure, pay for maintenance and then risk obsolescence rather than dance with the 800 lb gorilla.

What’s the answer? Obviously, no one has offered anything worth embracing yet. My hunch is that the key to the winning solution will be in the interface.  Construction is one of the most tangible, relevant industry in our economy, yet the software in which the industry conducts its business is mired in text and numeric data.  The one solution that actually wins over a significant chunk of market share* will be the one that breaks from the mold and translates that data in a visual manner worthy of the industry that it serves.

*Note- despite my best efforts, I was unable to come up with any market share data for use in this post. If you have any, please provide a link in the comments.  Years ago, when I last saw this market data,  the industry was dominated by the “Other” category with major players like Prolog barely registering in the double digits. It’s no wonder that none of the current software providers include actual market share in their press releases. Instead, they boast of their “X percent” increases over previous years. Which, of course, is code for “We’re embarrassed to tell you how little of this market we actually own.”

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Finding That Critical Project Photo

July 13, 2009

Imagine what it’s like to dig a hole in the sand at the beach. Hand over hand, you dig away and watch as the hole changes constantly with each shift in the sand. Whenever you see anything interesting in the hole (a sea shell, piece of sea glass, etc.) it’s covered over almost as quickly it’s uncovered.

kids-in-the-hole1-600x413

Essentially, this experience provides a summertime analogy for tracking the work on a construction site. No matter what your role on a jobsite, you depend on knowing the condition of your area of interest continuously over the course of the project. The advent of digital photography has made it possible to inexpensively record the physical condition of the project in extreme detail. Unfortunately, recording the digital images are the easy part. After shooting hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of jobsite photos, finding that critical construction image after the fact becomes the ultimate challenge. (Raise your hand if you have a hard drive choked with project photos that are organized by project and date.)

I would like to know what you, as a construction-related professional, do to extract meaningful data from your jobsite photos. Feel free to leave your comments  and exchange ideas with your fellow readers.