Construction firms are squeezing out a little more cash on technology investments, but many still cling to the use of spreadsheets for project management, a new survey says.

Technology consultancy JBKnowledge queried over 1,000 construction firms of all sizes about their technology investments for the 2014 survey, which it will release in full in early December. The respondents included engineers, estimators, C-level executives and project managers; 74% of all the respondents identified commercial construction as their main business, with every discipline, such as civil, federal and highway construction, also represented.

"We were really pleased to see the use of a lot more tech than we have seen in recent years," says James Benham, the Dallas-based firm's president. "We saw wide- spread adoption of 3D printing and quadcopter utilization" for aerial photography and photogrammetry in the results this year, he adds. "We're seeing contractors experiment with technology in a way that they really never have before." Field-data entry continues its rapid ascent with firms that are shifting away from paper-based field-data use. The results show that firms are using GPS with RFID tracking systems, 3D printing and increased use of laser scanning, to name a few investments."Despite that, we're still seeing a lot of contractors struggle to get off paper," he adds. Microsoft Excel and spreadsheets were among the top answers to questions on almost every category of software that firms use for project management. As handy as it is for many tasks, Excel is "grossly overutilized" for project management and schedules, Benham adds. "It doesn't have the intelligence built into it that [much other] construction project software would have. So, that's a really big inhibitor to moving forward."

Other industries spend about 6% to 8% of their revenues on IT investments, while construction is still in the 1% to 2% range, Benham notes. "If there's one major takeaway, it's that we don't spend enough money on tech."

To see the full results and details, see the JBKnowledge infographic here.


This story was updated to refresh a link to the survey information.