Contractors are getting with IT

August 11, 2010

Every couple of years, the Construction Financial Management Association surveys its members — general and specialty contractors, as well as the firms that do highway and heavy work — on their use of Internet technology. This time around, 800 firms (including 261 GCs and 274 specialty contractors) took part, the largest sample of IT trends in the field.

The CFMA report details a number of encouraging patterns in IT use by contractors. For example, among general contractor project managers, the use of PCs rose from 72% in 2002, to 89% in the current survey. Among specialty contractors project managers, use of PCs also showed a healthy bump, to 77% currently from 64% two years ago. What's hard to understand is how 11% of GC PMs and 23% of their counterparts at specialty contractors manage to get along without computers? Morse code?

Other findings:

  • 57% of contractor firms have standardized on a single hardware provider. Among those firms, 40% said they gotta have a Dell. Who says advertising doesn't work?

  • Biggest factor in choice of PC: reliability (83%), which was hardly even on the radar screen in 2002 (2%). Significantly behind are "support and service" (60%), in a virtual tie with price (58%) — further proof that peace of mind is worth more than money.

  • 79% of GC firms surveyed said their satellite offices and jobsites were connected to headquarters office networks; 90% of firms with $100 million or more in revenue were hooked up with remote operations.

  • There's a growing emphasis on network security: 74% of general contractors have a written security policy, as do 55% of specialty contractors. Disaster recovery, data backup policies, backup verification, virus protection, and unauthorized access prevention are all on the rise, as expected.

  • On the software side, AutoCAD is king, particularly among biggest GC firms ("over $250 million revenue"), 96% of whom use it. Among specialty firms, though, MicroStation is being used by 60% of the "over $250 million" club, 80% of whom also used AutoCAD. Apparently, lots of double dipping here.

  • Project management software use is up among GCs, to 89% (from 80% in 2002). Most popular applications: Primavera Expedition (24%), Prolog Manager (23%), Timberline Project Management (15%), and Constructware (12%). Among the behemoth firms ($250 million and up), Prolog Manager leads the pack (30%), followed by Primavera Expedition (27%), and Constructware (21%).

One surprise: Actual use of handheld and wireless devices in the field actually dropped from 30% in 2002 to 25%. Maybe that goes back to increased demand for reliability.

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