JBKnowledge, Inc., the privately-held company that created and developed SmartBid and produces the ConTechCrew podcast, recently released its 2018 Construction Technology Report. The report has been created annually since 2012 in partnership with the National Electrical Contractors Association, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, the Construction Financial Management Association, the Construction Science Department at Texas A&M University and others. It surveyed 2,825 contractors, subcontractors and professionals involved with the construction process about their information technology usage, expectations and needs.
Some of the new questions in the 2018 survey provided answers that reveal detailed information about the role of both women and millennials in construction, how use of drone technology has taken off in the last two years and what construction IT professionals expect from their leaders. One thing that stands out, though, is what hasn't changed from previous editions of the report.
Despite predictions of increases in spending on construction technology, the ConTechReport's respondents said their spending was flat last year. According to the survey, the respondents' spent nearly the same percentage on technology last year as they did in 2017. Staffing changed very little as well. While nearly half of respondents had a dedicated IT staff, a large majority still only had an IT staff of one to five employees, despite the breadth of the survey which includes respondents that have less than 20 full-time employees all the way up to ones that have more than 500. Some reported annual sales of $21 million while at the other end of the spectrum, the largest respondents reported annual sales of more than $500 million.
The most common answer to the question of what limits contractor’s exploration or implementation of new technology was "the lack of personnel to support the programs.”
Way back in 2014, ENR reported that construction IT spending was not growing fast enough as a proportion of revenue and this latest ConTechReport doesn't paint a rosy picture of any significant change. JBKnowledge also found that non-IT spending increased 6.9% since 2017, but the report notes that that increase could also be a function of how some companies differentiate technology investments from IT systems.
The report showed that most construction IT departments are still run by CFOs and CEOs, while very few chief information officers or the somewhat new title of chief data officer exist among the respondents. One answer from the report concisely sums up the reality that many construction IT professionals are still dealing with
"I was told recently, ‘We have the right number of people in IT," one respondent wrote. "The reason we have the right number of people in IT is because we have very dedicated employees who repeatedly drop everything and work extra hours (without extra pay) to satisfy our end users. We are basing resources on helpdesk calls with no analysis on WHY there are so many calls.”