When it comes to cloud computing in construction, the question isn’t so much should you take to it, but rather what is the right amount? Information technology managers in construction are struggling with the tongue-in-cheek “fully vs. partially cloudy” dilemma regarding which construction technology applications are indeed best suited for the cloud.
The debate has been generating much discussion on Constructech‘s own LinkedIn group lately, where many believe it comes down to the decision of which applications to take to the cloud, and which to leave in the standard delivery model.
Dan Morrow, information technology manager, Lincoln Builders, www.lincolnbuilders.com, Ruston, La., doesn’t believe that 100% to the cloud should be the goal for construction companies. Instead, he believes the cloud is best suited for only the applications and business processes that make the most sense for your business.
“Programs that sync data in the background are a perfect fit,” says Morrow. “Data that is fetched via realtime requests may or may not present more of an issue. As a general rule, the more unique the software/data is to your specific business the more cloud resistant it might be. Start with services that every business uses. Get a comfort level, and then move to industry-specific software, (and) save any custom ‘in-house’ software for last.”
John Geffel is managing partner with a business consulting group VALUE:driven Group. Geffel, who spent many years in construction software, formerly senior vice president and general manager for Sage Timberline, believes the nature of construction makes it a good fit for the cloud model. Yet, as he points out, this model has still been relatively slow to catch on in construction due to various reasons such as the high cost to convert and personnel that is not comfortable with moving data off the premise.
“However, this is changing and will continue to accelerate as many companies are forced into considering very expensive updates to their internal IT infrastructure driven by the renewal cycles perpetuated by the traditional on-premise model and as large on-premise software platforms transition to the cloud,” adds Geffel.
A recent survey of Constructech readers shows the applications best suited to take to the cloud include sales, scheduling, and project management. We have seen a growing interest in using the cloud for applications like project management in construction. Software providers continually embrace this model with companies like Meridian Systems, www.meridiansystems.com, Folsom, Calif., and Viewpoint Construction Software, www.viewpointcs.com, Portland, Ore., as just two examples, developing strategic partnerships for bringing their project-based solutions to the cloud.
Then there are those times when there isn’t a natural fit in the cloud. In those instances, Wes Smith, president, The Cram Group, www.thecramgroup.com, New York, N.Y. suggests Citrix XenApp. It is the product behind what most people mean when they say an application is “Citrix-enabled,” says Smith.
In his blog, AECCloudblog.com, Smith calls Citrix XenApp a “key enabler” in the cloud equation for construction in that it can create your own cloud-based application using your existing software, as opposed to abandoning what you are already using. Smith suggests asking two things of determining whether or not to include XenApp as part of your cloud strategy: Do your users need to work offline, disconnected from the Internet; and do your use cases require emails and notifications that would enable users to follow a link and drill into a specific area of focus in the application.
If you can answer ‘no’ to both, says Smith, then you may be a good candidate for using Citrix XenApp as part of your cloud strategy.
The cloud has created much buzz in construction these days with many in the market still looking for answers. As with any technology investment, a good rule of thumb with the cloud is to take it in small steps. As suggested by many, start with those applications that every business uses and gain a comfort level with employees. Based on that experience, you will then know your next steps.