Julian Clayton isn't out to compete head-to-head with big providers of enterprise software for construction projects. The vice president of technology/development at Crescent Construction Services just sees big opportunities to build apps for mid-sized and smaller firms. This is especially true as tablet adoption on jobsites keeps growing across the industry.

Clayton has seen his share of mobile applications that try to do too much, or are too complicated for end-users. So he took his construction knowledge, his tech know-how, built something called PunchList and put it in Apple's iTunes App Store. Before long, Clayton, 37, and his firm's app-building division were featured on Apple's own website, highlighting the popular PunchList app ($6.99), which helps users flag problems during preconstruction. The app is simple; it mashes up other apps, such as connecting with the free, file-sharing web service DropBox for uploading and downloading big files, images and video.

Clayton's work building apps for smaller audiences reflects a trend in the industry to make apps simple and, if possible, specific. For example, Clayton says, a lot of firms are conducting survey work on empty real estate for potential re-use projects. Paper-based checklists and film-based cameras are still common on many of these jobs. His development team is building an app that helps users pull a variety of documents (email, PDFs, Word) and then generates a report along with the punchlisting data. "Many jobs like this are not getting consistent info," he says.

"There are so many mistakes made at every point of the process. We had one example where there was $50,000 worth of lighting sitting in the back of a store that [owners] didn't know about because they had stuck to one paper document that was flawed." The workers thought they needed new lighting. This is an example of the niche productivity apps that Clayton says are a "green field" for smaller firms. It's just the start for his team: "We're going at it full steam."


Article was updated to clarify Clayton's title.