Michael Carr, president at Touchplan, recently shared his forecast for the A/E/C industry and his company in 2018.
Q&A submitted by Touchplan.
What went well in 2017?
MC: Understanding that efficiencies need to improve and the recognition that there are valuable solutions to get there…
Mobile applications, drones and BIM are just a few options. Leading companies were motivated in 2017 to try what felt like a flood of technology for a few reasons;
- Achieve a superior level of work
- Stand out by adopting innovative and transformative answers early on
- Lead the industry to be more progressive and tech advanced Now that they’ve tried various solutions, 2018 will be a time for them to echo what they deem worth-while. To that note, the conversation has shifted from why companies need to use Touchplan to why Touchplan is the best option.
What was exciting in 2017?
Big name competitors are entering the space, but Touchplan is consistently coming out on top as a ‘no-brainer’ . Companies like Autodesk and Oracle marketed competitive products in 2017, but unsolicited, Touchplan still remains the industry creator and standard which emboldens me and us to keep doing what we’re doing. Creating this disruption and watching others try to follow us validates what we are doing and shows that consumers and businesses are pivoting to follow the path that we saw and laid out.
What did 2017 teach you?
MC: There’s a market for Lean construction, and people don’t need to be convinced of it anymore.
When we entered this year, we were concerned that Lean Construction carried some negative connotations and was not what we wanted to lead our conversations with. Although Lean Construction has been around for more than 20 years, we as Touchplan thought it might be best if we were “second” to mention it on the phone. We knew that people didn’t need to subscribe to the Lean ideology and practice to fully understand and unlock the potential of Touchplan, but were concerned people might think they did and dismiss us if they had had a bad experience with Lean Construction in the past. 2017 taught us that customers are actively looking for solutions to help them on their Lean journeys and they don’t need to be convinced of the benefits. We now actively promote how Touchplan benefits customers looking to advance Lean practices on their projects and in their organizations.
What are you noticing or even having hunches about?
MC: The industry will demand value and real, up-front, proven results from its technologies. I was struck this year by the folks that were into the augmented reality, glitzy side of 3D modeling. When I asked how they anticipated using these tools to improve business, I rarely got anything more than a far off look. No one had discussed the return with them – they were sold on an idea, not a result. My direct recommendation? Stop doing things because they look cool and start doing them because they add value. Things have also been so new, there weren’t a lot of cases to compare to. The lack of answers is going to be unacceptable, and quickly. The tech that lasts will bring real value that people are able to understand, see and communicate to all members of the team.
If 2016 was the year of hypotheses, 2017 was the year for experiments. 2018 will be about analysis and conclusions around whether or not these tested technologies offer what the industry needs – value in the form of tangible improvements to quality of life and the bottom line.
Where does the industry need to go next to be successful?
MC: Adopting a specialized suite of integrated cloud resources and anticipating the ‘changing of the guard’…Cloud resources that are integrated will help the industry moving forward. I think the one-size fits all – do everything with one application and one provider mind-set is dying out, and it’s becoming more about ‘best in breed’ with integrations – so the more specific the cloud resource and the more able it is to be connected to others, the better. Also, more needs to be done to address the reality that a younger guard is stepping into leadership roles. With a newer workforce comes more savviness with technology, new tools that they’re accustomed to, and their best practices. This younger generation that’s coming into its own, doesn’t necessarily have what their predecessors have- decades of experience on the job – but they’re more likely to leverage new tech to help them. With this evolution, there will still be a knowledge transfer problem that needs to be addressed. Even though companies don’t want to lose people with 40+ years of experience and knowledge, it’s inevitable. I think that the new wave of construction technology, specifically Touchplan, can be part of that knowledge transfer solution.
What’s your mantra for 2018?
MC: 2018 will be the year of the trade partners at Touchplan.
Touchplan recognizes that the trade partners are embedded in the integral process of successful jobs and no one is really serving them in the lean capacity. There’s more that we can do as a SaaS solution and as leaders in the Lean space to give them the most value for their projects and for improvement of their own operations. Insight to how things are progressing on their job (like production rates, material requirements or quantities, headcount and manpower requirements) that helps them track and manage their day and provide a higher level view how the trade partner’s business is running is invaluable. For us, it’s critical to provide tools that are specifically designed as solutions for trade partner looking to take their business to the next level. And the great thing about it is we can do it without taking away from Lean project planning and management. It will just give trade partners the ability to operate in a more Lean fashion in the back office and across all their projects using Touchplan.
What should the industry be grateful for?
MC: Grateful for the shoulders that we can stand on, to see further…advances other industries made first like enabling touch responsiveness, mobilization in tablets, knowledge storage in the cloud, real-time updates, etc. have been exponentially helpful in moving the construction industry forward. The solutions to many challenges already exist in a lot of other places – like manufacturing with just-in-time delivery, or in software development with Agile planning. The dangerous assumption has always been that the construction industry can’t be expected to do things the way other industries do them because it’s too outside of the norm. This crippling idea is commonplace simply because construction isn’t done behind a computer or in a temperature controlled manufacturing environment. The challenge is to bring proven solutions from other industries into construction, not by forcing construction to change but rather by re-tooling solutions to fit construction. Provide a better interface, work within constraints that govern the construction industry, but still bring the solution to bear – that’s what Touchplan is all about.
What should be acknowledged and how have we made a difference?
MC: The existence of innovators creating a new normal should be acknowledged.
A couple of people and their ideas have just blown the status quo wide open and flipped it on it’s head. Think of Steve Jobs and Apple with the iPhone and then the tablet – they changed the way people see their phones; no keyboards, just a mini computer in your pocket. Think of Elon Musk with the Tesla or his big ideas with tunnels for trains or SpaceX trying to get to space on its own without the government – its all changing our view of ‘normal’. It is now more acceptable to be open to innovation and new ways of thinking. That’s something we’re trying to capitalize on. It’s okay to be innovative and it’s okay to be an early adopter because we see it around us every day.
There’s a bunch of things that when we started as a company weren’t perceived to be normal, mainstream or even possible. Something as simple as 2 or 10 people collaborating in real-time on different devices was jarring and now it’s commonplace. What was deemed to be unexpected is suddenly just the new normal and we’ve been a huge part of advancing that at Touchplan. We’re changing the way things are done and leaving old ways behind.
Michael Carr, president at Touchplan (a division MOCA Systems), is being published in High-Profile Monthly in four installments. Below is the fourth and final installment.