Architect Working at Construction Site

The communication gap between field and office is a significant contributor to profit fade. An information bridge, applied effectively, can help.

Industry trends

Bridge the Communication Gap Between the Construction Site and Office

  • Jeffrey Nesbitt
  • 7/27/2021

Key insights

  • Technology and economic expansion have altered construction industry challenges over the last decade.
  • Today, the biggest challenge is often the communication gap that exists between the field and office.
  • The first step in finding a solution is to recognize where the communication gap exists and understand its cause.
  • The right technology can help bridge the communication gap, but not without the right processes.

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COVID-19 aside, the past decade provided the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, which brought on a boom in construction. Along with it, technology infiltrated the construction industry, bringing new challenges.

Today, it’s no longer a matter of wondering where jobs might come from, knowing how to design and construct a certain building, or understanding financial statements. Now, perhaps the biggest challenge for construction firms is the communication gap between the field and the office.

Recognize the communication gap

The communication gap between field and office is a significant contributor to profit fade. But how can you recognize it? First, understand what the gap looks like. Let’s start with an example.

You have a project that brings extra, unplanned work. The project manager in the field creates a change order. But that order isn’t relayed back to the office and the work is already completed. The company has no visibility into the commitments made under the order. Without a process to track the order, there’s a chance it goes unbilled or declined for work already complete.

This hypothetical situation isn’t at all unrealistic. Most profit fade happens when there’s a disconnected project management process between the field and the office. Employees in the field often use paper forms or have software that doesn’t communicate with the back office. If paperwork doesn’t flow effectively through the proper channels at the right time, there’s a missed opportunity for billing.

Lost time spent by project managers looking for project data and dealing with conflict resolution — in addition to timekeeping and tracking actuals in the field — can be a significant expense and an unnecessary burden on your payroll department. Increasing visibility into your projects and understanding them in real time can reduce cost impact and give you the chance to correct the situation.

Understand what causes a communication gap

The root of a communication gap is generally a lack of visibility. Do all departments have accurate, current data necessary to fulfill their jobs? Inefficient systems create data silos, where information is easily missed, duplicated, or inconsistent across departments.

As technology has become more prevalent in construction, many companies have tried to combat the communication gap with added software. But for some, this approach has fueled the gap. Companies have taken department-level approaches that fail to offer enterprise-wide solutions. Without full visibility, technology solutions not only fail to bridge the communications gap, they can widen it.

Build an information bridge

The key to bridging the gap with technology is using the right technology for your business. Ask questions like:

  • Do we already have industry best practices in place?
  • Are we efficient internally before we apply technology?
  • Do we have the right people in the right roles?
  • What processes are manual or in spreadsheets?
  • What are the integration points?

A contractor’s workflow and internal processes are often dictated by the software they chose years ago, which may not work in today’s environment. Before you select new software, identify the processes and internal controls you need to create an efficient system. With that blueprint for moving your company forward, you can shorten the list of vendors to review and choose software applications that make sense for your business. Don’t settle for software that doesn’t support your internal processes.

Applying technology to a broken system provides little value. You can’t determine the best technology solution if you don’t know who is doing what and why. A consultant with experience in the industry can bring insights on internal processes and share what other successful companies are doing. Choose a consultant whose priority is not vendor loyalty, but rather the success of your company.

How we can help

Your passion is building things, not reconciling spreadsheets or conducting labor-intensive, manual practices. At the organizational level, bridging the communication gap is about aligning your construction firm with industry standards. From an internal perspective, it’s about making your job easier so you can be more successful and focus on growing your business.

Thousands of construction clients choose CLA for their strategic needs. Contact us today to learn how our construction professionals can help your firm move forward with a personalized and strategic approach.

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