Many construction companies are adopting tablets on jobsites and raving about saving time and money in the process. Gartner Inc. predicts that the iPad will retain more than half the tablet market until 2015. But what about tech support in the field when the stuff breaks down? Who is helping to train users on the software that runs on the devices so that time saved with the technology doesn't turn into time spent to support it?
These are some of the themes behind the tablet's rapid rise, according to recent interviews with major construction firms during a conference sponsored by field management software provider Vela Systems in Boston in early September.
“The ease of use of the device is wonderful for the end user,” says Barbara L. Daum, director of quality at Industrial Contractors Inc., Evansville, Ind. “Providing the training and support is the difficult part. Especially with the small IT department that we have.”
To meet these training needs, Daum's team uses more than just the tablets. They use Sharepoint, Microsoft's collaboration software, which allows project team members to post demos and tips on performing tasks.
She believes offering guidance for basic actions, such as how to create a PDF, is important because many superintendents are too embarrassed to admit they don't know how to use the technology or to ask for help.
In his role as director of information systems for construction management firm Balfour Beatty, Jason Bentley described during a presentation how the firm piloted the iPad, coupled with Vela Systems software, before standardizing its use across every division in the firm.
Bentley also described the iPad adoption as one more tool in an array of technology and software that key project management teams deploy. Unlike other tablets that the firm piloted, the iPad has been easy to adopt. He presented a slide during his presentation that said “Superhero skills Not required” to use the iPad.
The ease of use claim hit a nerve with some who are trying to wear a lot of hats in their smaller firms. Would there need to be training? Would there need to be in-house tech support beyond what Apple offers? Most importantly, would firms need to create a new position for training and supporting the mobile team?