Startups and job sites are unexpectedly alike…
Once I heard that a construction project is like a startup. I agree with that statement in many ways. What makes a startup so similar to a construction site?
- In a startup, the real business performance never fits the business plan; in a construction project, the initial planning rarely matches the result.
- In a startup, most people in the team have worked together for only a short time; in a construction project, the teams from each company working in the project tend to be volatile, being created for the project and destroyed upon its completion. Each project presents many new relationships among contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers.
- In a startup, all internal and external processes are established and refined along the way; in a construction project, the processes tend to be set up at the beginning but vary over time. The only consistency is change.
Many of these changes happen because, as with startups, construction projects exist in an environment full of uncertainties where speed is often key.
In such situations, the best you can do is to focus on what really brings value to your project – preparing yourself for uncertain outcomes – and hope that the rest of the things just work out.
…but at the same time they are very different.
But what are the differences between the startup environment and the construction world? Aside from the more evident, I am inclined to focus on two:
- The level of digitalization among their members and how this digitalization helps them improve productivity.
- The number of companies involved to produce the product at hand – and the complexity of the relationship among them.
Think about it.
- Could you imagine a startup managing their communications merely with emails and phone calls? This is exactly what happens every day at most construction projects. The smaller the project, the more likely this is to occur.
- What about assigning tasks to people and tracking how far they are with them? Could you think about this being done on paper in 2019? Contractors and the crews onsite still rely on paper for much of their project management.
- And what about supplier management? Well, startups don’t have many suppliers, so it tends to be easier. Construction projects have tens or hundreds of them, making the task significantly more complex. And to complicate it further, information is not shared transparently, so the potential for bad surprises is huge.
Many problems exist at a jobsite…
What can go wrong in a typical construction project? A site manager will ask these questions daily:
- Has the right concrete been ordered?
- Are the suppliers going to deliver when specified?
- Do we have the people we need on-site?
- Are there enough vests and helmets?
- What about nails?
- Is it going to rain?
- Do we have enough fuel for the compressors?
Any of these concerns can make the day’s work change course, and the economic impact is huge if you start counting all the direct and indirect costs. Hence there is usually somebody on-site dedicated to the last-minute checks. And this is very stressful and potentially damaging to the bottom line.
At the end of the work day, when people leave the site and go home, it is time to collect all the paperwork (delivery notes, invoices, quality reports, progress reports, and more) and start organizing the clutter so the work for the next day can be properly planned, the relevant people informed, the headquarters reported about the status.
…and many of them have a solution.
As many people are already aware of, digitalizing the construction industry is key to improving productivity. I would add that it is critical to provide peace of mind to the different people working around a construction project.
If you happen to have relatives or friends working in the construction industry (whether in an office, on-site, or for a supplier), have a chat with them and you will realize how hectic their days are.
The people in the construction sector need digital solutions to better perform their jobs and gain a sense of control over their projects. They deserve it.
Ignasi Salvador, Ogun CEO