A running theme of this blog (and of my research and personal interests) is that the construction industry is going to see a dramatic and positive change in how it adopts technology. I've been mulling this over for two days now and am going to write about some of my thoughts on this subject in three parts, with this being the first (I should be grading assignments and exams, but I always find it more interesting to write, or even clean my rain gutters, when grading is the alternative...).
The construction industry spends an incredibly low amount of money on IT. The lowest among many industries integral to our country's economy:
The data in the figure above was compiled by Gartner and was reported by ENR and can be found here. The ENR article reiterates the oft-used Bureau of Labor stat that 70% of productivity gains come from IT. So there's a huge opportunity being lost to improve productivity, which means there's a huge opportunity to be gained.
*Side note 1: Just because the construction industry is losing out on productivity gains based on IT investments, it is making efforts to improve productivity. As my friend Thaís da C. L. Alves pointed out to me, the construction industry is making productivity gains in off-site fabrication, as discussed in this paper (which I haven't yet read in its entirety).
*Side note 2: I understand that the construction industry cannot just wave a magic wand and increase IT spending to 5% of revenues without there being ramifications, good and bad. Construction is a competitive business with low gross margins. Low technology spending, given the low overall relative profitability of the industry, is to be expected.
Side note 2 notwithstanding, I will be writing follow-up posts as to why the construction industry has been slow to adopt new productivity-enhancing IT tools and how that's going to change in the not-so-distant future. Also, the data above represents IT spending across the industry. Some companies have increased their IT spending with very positive results. However, the bottom line is that currently, the construction industry spends way less than other industries on IT and is not capitalizing on productivity gains enabled by IT.