Walk through the average North American metropolis and you’ll probably see a number of cranes in the sky again. It’s a sign of good news for construction firms whose projects were stalled or scrapped over the past two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The bad news is that longstanding challenges in construction are probably back too, which is why Procore is trying to enhance the experience of building.
Based in California, Procore offers a software platform designed to help construction firms mitigate the risk of delays, cost overruns and miscommunication that can plague those on site, within offices and beyond. In that sense, it is that rare example of a vendor focused on business-to-business (B2B) customer experiences aimed at a sector not known for making strategic use of technology.
According to Sarah Hodges, Procore’s chief marketing officer (CMO), construction firms are now trying to make up for lost time as the pandemic eases, but are faced with huge project backlogs and an ongoing labor shortage. She cited a U.S. project involving the construction of a high-rise where a firm had to hire a truck driver to bring in a tradesperson because there was no one local available.
This makes it more important – but also more difficult – than ever for building firms to demonstrate a customer experience (CX) based on productivity, efficiency and quality.
“One of the ongoing themes we hear is that construction projects are getting increasingly complex. And then teams are becoming more complex, because they’re more distributed,” Hodges told 360 Magazine. “Then there’s the supply chain. It’s better than it was a few months ago, but it can still be hard for teams to get the materials they need on site.”
Procore’s platform offers such companies a single place to collect, store and manage all the data related to construction projects. These include everything from drawings, photos, and specifications to details about requests for proposals (RFPs) and financial information. The idea is to simplify workflows and improve the ability for team members to keep on top of their action items. This can mean better quality as well as improved safety.
From ideation to execution to learnings
To some extent, the shift to remote work for some construction-related jobs helps make the business case for a platform like Procore’s, which runs in the cloud and can make data accessible from anywhere. Hodges said the goal is to not only provide tools that manage projects from the idea stage through to execution. By taking a more digitized and data-driven approach, Procore’s customers should be able to learn and improve the way future projects are managed.
“As we move from an individual project and that team being out on the site, we believe it’s critically important then to have visibility into how the performance of that project was managed,” she said. “What risks surfaced? What financial management was done relative to what was expected in the estimating stage?”
Hodges said Procore also recognizes that part of the customer experience it needs to deliver involves supporting people in their career journey. That’s why the company has developed a plethora of certifications and online training designed to help individuals advance based on their persona, whether they are a general contractor, subcontractor or a project owner.
Other Procore-developed resources include Jobsite, which provides construction industry news from around the world, a Procore Community to bring users together online and Builder’s Club, where customers gather to define the future of Procore’s products and services.
As for the talent issue, Hodges said Procore has recognized it has a role to play in helping educate and inspire the next generation of builders, which is why she and members of her team recently spoke at an event with George Brown College. Supporting industry associations is another critical way to staying informed about what its B2B customers want and need, whether it involves technology or not.
Hodges said CX success at her firm might mean that customers don’t think about the Procore brand but merely view its platform as an extension of their own firm and an enabler for the work they do. Getting to that point will depend on how well the company can shift the thinking across the industry to see the value in digital transformation.
“There’s so much institutional knowledge in the existing generation that’s in construction,” she said. “It’s about how do we bring that institutional knowledge to the next generation in a way that bridges the gap. I think the companies that are the most willing to be innovative and try a digitally-based approach will be the ones that retain the talent, because that’s what this generation wants.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.