Mobility tools such as tablets and cloud services are yielding investment benefits for contractors and specialty contractors, according to a new research study by McGraw Hill Construction. But for many of the 300 contractors surveyed for the report—58% general contractors, 42% specialty contractors—significant gaps need to be addressed to leverage the tools for a better return on investment.

Despite the rapid growth in the adoption of building-information-modeling tools among contractors, integration of BIM with mobile apps is still in its infancy, said Harvey M. Bernstein, vice president of Industry Insights & Alliances at MHC.

At Bentley's "Year in Infrastructure 2013" conference, held on Oct. 29-31 in London, Bernstein noted that, when asked to rank the greatest benefits of mobile tools, contractors put at the top of the list better team collaboration (76%) and improved productivity (68%). Bottom-line benefits, such as shorter project schedules, lower project costs and increases in project ROI, also were significant for those that are tracking the benefits, the research noted.

However, only about half (51%) are tracking information flow at all, and only 20% are tracking the flow of their information outside their own firms. There is a significant need to help industry understand and improve the flow of information, Bernstein added. "We need to encourage the industry to track and report the benefits so they can justify investing in information mobility, thereby improving their profitability," he said.

The survey found that access to data and information—and security of that data—ranked among the most important drivers of investment in information mobility. Still, only 37% of those surveyed report that workers are able to access data from outside the trailer. Contractors said gathering and analyzing real-time jobsite data are their most important goals.

You can download the free, 52-page Smart Market Report at the McGraw Hill Construction analytics website.