Digital Builder Ep 54: How the ABC Tech Alliance Empowers Industry Collaboration & Innovation

We all recognize the importance of exploring and adopting technology, especially in today's rapidly evolving construction landscape. But the challenge isn't so much about understanding the significance of tech—it's figuring out which solutions and innovations to focus on.

Should your firm adopt robotics or focus more on mobile technology? Do you need to invest more in bidding or project management software? Is it all of the above?

Navigating the world of construction tech isn't always easy. In this episode, we distill the most significant trends and offer insights on how to design an effective technology adoption strategy.

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On this podcast episode

We're joined by Matthew Abeles, VP of Construction Technology and Innovation at the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Matt discusses the "why" and "how" behind technology usage in construction and shares his thoughts on how firms can harness data and technology more effectively.  We also explore how the increase in collaboration between construction technology companies is empowering the larger industry to innovate and solve more complex problems.

Recent highlights from the ABC Tech Report

Every year, ABC publishes its Tech Report. This report provides an analysis of the latest technology trends, adoption rates, and operational efficiencies within the construction sector. It surveys hundreds of industry pros to get a pulse on how various firms are integrating new technologies into their workflows.

According to Matt, this year's report surfaced some interesting findings.

The first was all about robotics. "I found this to be super interesting. Robotics can take a 10-day task and make it four without any safety incidents," he shares.

Matt also brings up business intelligence (BI) management and project bidding software, which helps contractors increase their bidding efficiency.

Beyond operations, he says some ABC members are developing technologies to improve mental health. "Total human health is so important to us; we found one of our members created an app to actually enhance mindfulness and wellbeing for their employees."

In addition, Matt points out that this year's report doesn't just shed light on what technologies firms are using. It also explores the "why" and "how" behind tech adoption.

"Last year's Tech Report looked at what our members are using, and this year we focused on why they are using those technologies. The feedback we received [from the previous report was] 'Tell us why. Tell us how tech is making our members safer, more profitable, and helping firms win more work.'"

He continues, "And that's what we did. That's how we changed the narrative compared to other reports out there," adds Matt.

What drives tech adoption?

Small and mid-sized contractors are increasingly leveraging digital tools. When asked what's driving this adoption, Matt points to the rise of accessible and affordable technologies like smartphones.

"You'll see almost everyone here has a cell phone device. Technology is more customized than ever and more readily available," he remarks.

It’s worth noting that organizations like the ABC exist to help small and medium firms succeed, and promoting tech adoption goes a long way to doing just that.

As Matt puts it, "The tech alliance itself and our whole effort was created specifically to support small to mid-size contractors to be more profitable, win more work, and be safer."

The importance of crafting a data and technology strategy

What do successful tech-enabled companies have in common? The answer isn’t always clear-cut.

"There's no one size fits all," Matt explains. "While there's an increased interest in technology in a very crowded space, our members all have different needs customized to their business."

His main advice regarding adopting technology is to "have a strategy and a plan."

Take data as an example. Matt points out that there are a lot of tools to collect information, "but if you don't have a plan for that data, you'll end up chasing your tail."

Tech adoption pitfalls to watch out for

Technology adoption may be on the rise, but many firms still struggle with implementing digital solutions effectively.

According to Matt, this often happens when companies are too set in their ways and don't shift their processes. "The most common pitfall is everyone doing things the way they've always done it," he states.

He adds that companies must focus on their unique requirements and objectives, do their due diligence, then implement a tech strategy accordingly.

"Don't just do what your competitors are doing. As I mentioned before, everyone has different things they need to focus on. Falling into that trap of doing whatever else is doing is not going to be the best solution."

Matt continues, "In most cases, there are solutions that will solve 90% of what you need. And they'll be a fraction of the cost. So instead of spending a fortune, you can get 90% of that problem solved at a fraction of the cost if you do your due diligence."

Looking ahead

Matt sees more collaboration in the industry's future.

"I love seeing the collaboration of tech companies partnering and integrating together. I think you'll see many of the members who support the ABC and our tech alliance, and they're collaborating to solve a bigger problem in construction."

New podcast episode every week 

Digital Builder is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. Remember, new episodes of Digital Builder go live every week. If you're interested in learning more about the future of construction—and what you can do to shape it—catch the full episode of the podcast below.

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Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.