Survey says contractors are connected, secure

August 11, 2010

More owners and executives of construction firms are using information technology to stay connected to their work, improve security, and manage their projects than they did two years ago, according to the Construction Financial Management Association's biennial “IT Survey of the Construction Industry.” The survey of 538 companies split between general contractors (40% of respondents), heavy and highway contractors (21%), and specialty contractors (34%). CFMA looked at such IT issues as what hardware and software most industry professionals use for tasks as varied as CAD, collaboration, scheduling, and project management. Moss Adams LLP compiled and analyzed the survey data.

Construction professionals are getting connected. The percentage of respondents with remote access capability went from 77% in 2006 to 91% in the 2008 survey. Over the same period, access for branch and satellite offices increased from 32% of respondents to 57%. For remote access at job sites the numbers jumped from 36% in '06 to 60% this year.

Similarly, for employees working from home, remote access went up from 62% two years ago to 90% today. Workers using wireless LAN technology (much improved since 2006) doubled to 60% of those surveyed.

The majority of the construction firms that responded are conducting at least some of their transactions electronically, with both suppliers (74%, up from 59% in 2006) and customers (73%, up from 58% in 2006). Still, they are only using electronic transfers less than 20% of the time.

With the expansion of access to a contractor's IT systems and the increased use of wireless technology in the office and the field, contractors have heightened their awareness of the need for a safe and secure network environment. Only 4% reported a security breach that had a substantial impact on their business in the last two years. Ninety-seven percent said they use anti-spyware software: most (45%) use a server-based solution or server-based/client-based software (35%).

Keeping up to date on the latest security patches increased to 90% of the respondents in this year's survey, up from 81% in 2006. Written security policies are also increasingly prevalent across the construction industry, with 69% of respondents saying their company has one in 2008 as opposed to 49% in 2006.

Hardware: Dell dominates

Seventy-two percent of respondents in this year's survey had standardized with a single workstation manufacturer, whereas only 52% had done so in 2006. However, only 40% of respondents with $5 million or less in revenue employ a standard PC configuration, while 93% of contractors with more than $250 million in revenue maintain a standard configuration.

Dell remains far and away the leader in PC workstations among construction professionals: 73% reported standardizing with Dell in 2008, with Hewlett-Packard far back in second place at 16% of the hardware market. This is the first CFMA survey that counted HP and Compaq as one fully integrated company (HP acquired Compaq in 2002). Gateway, Apple Computer, and IBM/Lenovo each had less than 5% of the workstation market.

Software trends: still no BIM.One of the few faults of the survey is that it did not ask specific, targeted questions about building information modeling (BIM) and the changes it's creating in the industry. Hopefully, CFMA will add dedicated BIM questions in the 2010 survey. In almost all categories of application, the bigger contractors (those with revenues exceeding $250 million) were more likely to use a software solution than their smaller counterparts.

CAD/drafting software. Most respondents (74%) used CAD software. AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT were used by a combined share of 61% of respondents. To no one's surprise, AutoCAD continues to dominate the market. Revit (counted as a CAD and not a BIM application) was third with 2% of the market. Among the largest companies there was also an increased use of Revit (7%) and NavisWorks (4%).

Among general contractors AutoCAD was used by 31% of respondents and AutoCAD LT by 21%. Among specialty contractors, AutoCAD was used by 48% and AutoCAD LT by 19%. Four percent of specialty contractors reporting using QuickPen but a handful of other programs also had significant shares (12% or more) among the largest companies.

Sage surges ahead in PM/estimation

Sage Timberline Office was the most widely used estimation application (32%), followed by Microsoft Excel (19%). Among companies with a volume greater than $250 million, Sage Timberline Office had the highest market share (25%), followed by ICE 2000 (18%). Excel had the highest share among companies with less than $250 million (20%).

Sage Timberline Office was also the primary application used by general contractors for project management, at 24%, followed by Prolog, at 13%. Six percent of respondents used Microsoft Office Project as their primary PM solution. Among companies with revenue greater than $250 million, Prolog and Primavera Project Planner (P3) each were used by 20% of respondents.

Project collaboration programs were used by 43% of all respondents, up from 35% in 2006. Microsoft Office Project led this category with the only double-digit share (11%) of the many collaboration programs. ProLog WebSite was used by 4% of respondents.

The majority (77%) of all the companies in the survey used scheduling software, with the highest use among general contractors, 91% of whom use it. Overall, the scheduling software market is dominated by Microsoft Office Project (32%) and Primavera Contractor (25%). Among GCs, the numbers were similar, with Office Project used by 34%, followed closely by Primavera Contractor (30%). No other application reported significant shares across this market segment.

The survey also addressed such topics as IT budgets, operating systems, and integration. “Contractors must continue to realize the importance of technology in the success of their individual projects and their business as a whole,” wrote Sharon Minnock, president of Minnock Consulting, in the foreword of the report. “The need to make informed decisions around IT, as they would other aspects of their business, is more important than ever.”

As the survey shows, the industry is accepting information technology much more rapidly than it did two years ago. Here's hoping CFMA recognizes that BIM is a part of that industry change and adds a dedicated set of BIM questions in its next survey.



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