Always make sure you know where you are headed, and carve out the best path to help you get where you need to be. Never before have such words rang true than perhaps right at this very moment.
As the homebuilding market makes its move toward a comeback it could be tempting for builders to jump back on board the technology bandwagon, tempted by the endless possibilities of automation being promised by software providers across the board. And you certainly won’t hear any negative words from this editor about the role of technology in construction. I will, however, offer some words of caution though as you proceed forward: Know where you want to be and ask software providers how they plan to get you there.
Evidence suggests homebuilding may soon see a bit of resurgence. New housing levels continue to come in at positive levels at the national level, and even though many skilled workers have left the trade, more builders I speak with seem somewhat positive about seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. And in the past few years, many of you have had to turn away from technology investment, and understandably so. But for those of you that may be once again kicking the tires on new software or services for your business, it could be easy to be tempted by some of the messages being advocated from the software community these days.
For example, we are seeing an uptick in software vendors partnering up in order to provide a more integrated set of solutions for builders. While I tend to think alliances provide a great deal of value to the end customer, they do raise some questions that need to be asked. Alliances have the chance of limiting your options in the long run, if you do not fully plan ahead. Think about the needs of your company five years ago. Now think about your needs today. I bet some of your needs have changed dramatically during that timeframe. Now, think about where your software systems were five years ago. Have these systems been easily adaptable to match your needs of today? If not, and you have been forced to make the unenviable decision to move off of a system, have you thought about the impact such a move will have on the rest of your IT infrastructure?
The homebuilding market is very different these days—I don’t need to tell you that. We are hearing about all the great things associated with BIM (building information modeling) and how mobile devices and apps will change the way operations are carried out. These are the things you need to take into consideration when deciding which technology partners with which to align. So when you enter into agreements to work with software providers that integrate their solutions together, please carry out the proper due diligence to ensure these are the systems you plan to be with for many years to come.
Don’t get me wrong, I think some of what these software providers are doing is great and that many have proven longevity in this space, demonstrating the ability to adapt. Just be sure that if you someday wish to add on functionality that isn’t offered by one of these integrated technology systems, that you don’t end up having to throw the baby out with the bathwater and completely start from scratch. Integration can be good, but only when you know your long-term plan.
I don’t know about you, but the general media and the folks on Capitol Hill keep referring to a residential comeback. The reports continue to say the same thing: improvement, improvement, improvement. Respectively, I want to hear from you. How are all of you feeling about the construction marketplace? Do you see a comeback? Are supply costs coming down to make this comeback somewhat of a reality? Are orders for new construction going up?
I am curious; will 2013 be more of the same as 2012? New residential construction spending numbers continue to show increases, not huge, but slight increases. I don’t want to be a naysayer, but I would feel a lot better if you all felt confident in these predictions. So I want to turn the tables and ask you, our readers, what you see. It’s easy to read the predictions, but I would rather ask all of you who have invested in the success of the space more than anyone else.
So here are my questions: When do you start looking at the market stats and know the market is truly making a steady turn around? Are you feeling it yet? Are you seeing new orders? What has to happen for you to feel good about the market? Are you requesting more new permits? How are the banks working with you? I would like to post your responses in our letters page.
Send me your thoughts, comments. Let’s start a dialogue and learn from each other. We are the construction industry and the more we engage in a rapid conversation the more we can rebuild our industry together. Happy Reading!