Michael Flippo - stock.adobe.com
Only five short years ago, the commercial construction industry wasn't at the top of most shortlists of those likely to emerge as a burgeoning vertical for MSPs. But tremendous growth and a dramatic increase in competition within the sector have led construction companies to develop a critical reliance on sophisticated IT solutions built for their industry.
Construction companies are generally large businesses with large workforces, numerous devices, dynamic projects, multiple locations that tend to frequently change, complicated logistics and complex supply chains. To maintain their competitive spirit, increase transparency with their vendors and clients, and keep operations cohesive in everything from project site management to inspections and billing, managed IT services have become a necessity.
It's a trend that only stands to sharpen as the construction industry continues its rush to innovate. Standards on the horizon include drone surveying, 3D printing and GPS wearables to monitor increasing safety regulations -- all of which translate to more data and an emphasis on consolidating platforms and keeping systems online and secure.
Furthermore, in the COVID-19 environment, construction industry experts are forecasting a paradigm shift that will see tech integration as the make-or-break factor for construction companies' viability. Job sites have resumed under new safety protocols, and tech-enabled social distancing will be the norm. Accessory elements such as meetings with building officials are expected to continue remotely.
In my company's South Florida market, building inspections have gone virtual. Projects that rely on input from the public through events like town halls now use digital platforms to connect with public stakeholders. Collaboration with architectural firms and engineers depends on integrated IT. Meanwhile, the push to cut hard costs will intensify, as skilled labor remains a top challenge for the industry and material prices remain in flux.
In these contexts, managed IT services providers familiar with the complexities of the construction industry are indispensable. They mediate the dizzying speed of implementation. They find opportunities for consolidation and ease of use. They insulate against the halting of extremely expensive projects that put employees on hold and delay deadlines. And they alleviate staffing concerns via remote monitoring and management and by tending to multiple issues simultaneously without the need for additional internal staff.
Getting started with IT services for construction firms
For MSPs looking to gain familiarity with construction as a vertical market, it is important to begin by understanding the logistics. Typically, a construction company will assign teams to each job site for approximately 1 to 3 years, keeping a core executive and sales team at the main office. This can translate to a significant disconnect between each remote location and the main office, but it presents MSPs with a clear opportunity to provide exceptional offerings.
Next, you'll want to look into partnering with some of the big contracting software companies. As part of your IT services for construction companies, come up with dedicated job site configurations. This will include each site's respective devices, printers, internet and so forth, enabling you to deploy resources easily and prepare the on-site team in advance as to how things will work. Another possible strategy is to put programs in a private cloud to push apps and data to a central location, which becomes a crucial tool for day-to-day communication.
Lastly, have a reliable voice-over-IP (VoIP) offering ready. Management teams are invariably enthusiastic about dialing an on-site construction engineer via extension without having to fumble around for a cellphone number. VoIP becomes a significant time-saving tool that -- when deployed properly -- greatly increases communication while keeping it under the corporate umbrella.
As your construction-specific experience grows, you will encounter more and more challenges unique to the industry. Each situation will morph into a chance to build expertise and set yourself apart as an IT specialist within this major business sector. You should keep constant tabs on how the industry is evolving and facilitate the evolution of your clients. Often, you will find that you can begin formulating solutions before potential issues ever come to fruition. This will result in a cache of highly loyal, long-term clients.
Ben Filippelli is the chief technology officer of Level5 Management, a managed IT service provider based in Boca Raton, Fla. Filippelli is also a member of The ASCII Group, a North American IT community of more than 1,300 MSPs, solution providers and systems integrators.