The skeleton of an industrial building.

According to the survey results, BIM technology became more advanced from 2012 to 2013, but accessibility and cost effectiveness of BIM solutions did not. (Image credit: nikonaft / 123RF Stock Photo)

A new report by JBKnowledge Technologies Inc., provides interesting perspectives on technology adoption by the commercial construction industry, and the picture is startling in both the types of technologies in use and the numbers of firms using them.

In fairness to the report creators, the limitations of the survey that provided the data for the report are well pointed out, and because of that it is possible to analyze the numbers with a reasonable expectation of finding results that are meaningful. Take for example the technologies estimators are using.

Because 30% of the survey takers were estimators there is a large enough cohort of them to feel they represent a reasonably accurate picture of the estimating technology being used in the commercial industry. Although the survey included responses from multiple sectors of the construction industry, nearly 80% of the responses were from the commercial sector, so that’s where this analysis focuses.

Estimators holding on to MS Excel

For those who create and sell software and cloud solutions to the construction industry it will no doubt be a surprise to see that nearly 63% of surveyed estimators are still using Microsoft Excel as their primary estimating tool. What’s even more stunning is that 13% report still using manual and paper processes. The fact that OnCenter’s On-Screen Takeoff was the second most popular estimating tool suggests a question or two since On-Screen Takeoff is a takeoff tool. Whether estimators are doing takeoffs with that tool and then feeding the results to other estimating programs, or, are using the tool for takeoffs and using OnCenter’s estimating solution as well, is unclear.

In third place was Sage 300 followed by Other. The Other accounts for 20% of the responses and includes well-known names such as HCSS Heavy Bid, Bid2Win and WinEstimator. Those solutions also show up in the Construction Financial Management Association’s annual technology surveys where in 2010 Heavy Bid was shown with 8% of the market, Bid2Win with 4% and WinEstimator’s WinEst Pro with 2%. By comparison this survey shows Heavy Bid with 2.7% of responses, Bid2Win with 1.2% and WinEstimator with 1%.

Integration challenges still persist

The survey responses also showed that construction is very challenged with integration. While more than 80% of respondents said that integration was “important” or “very important,” nearly 30% could only get two of their regularly used software applications to talk to each other, and only a little more than 3% could get six or more applications to integrate. While third party plugins and custom integration utilities were two avenues mentioned as being used for integration, MS Excel and manual processes were reported as still the predominant ways of sharing data between applications with nearly 90% saying that’s how they are tackling integration. Perhaps even more curious is that nearly 19% of respondents reported not transferring data at all.

Construction has been challenged with integration since software developers started creating options for the industry. The very same developers however, haven’t really made integration a priority. Respondents noted that bid management, project management and estimating vendors were making the most progress toward integration. Meanwhile, a new organization called the Construction Open Software Alliance, or COSA, is working to expand integration efforts. The organization is trying to get those who are developing technology solutions for the industry to use the agcXML standard developed by the Associated General Contractors in 2008.

You can read more about this survey right here.