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Communicating on a jobsite is incredibly tough. Working in isolation is impossible in construction, and project teams depend on one another to get the job done. But the fact remains that poor jobsite communication is the norm, and it tends to leave workers feeling like they are going at it alone with limited or delayed access to information about the total project ecosystem.

When the jobsite network fails to communicate efficiently, it can lead to safety issues, installation delays, ineffective management and cost overruns. According to a study in the March 2009 Journal of Engineering and Management, poor communication usually contributes directly to rework and this adds an estimated 5 percent to the cost of an average construction project.

But here’s the real problem: Disjointed communication is so common in construction that the industry accepts it as part of the job. In today’s super connected world, where people communicate via social media at lightning speed, jobsite communication is mired in the past. In fact, expectations for jobsite communication should be the same (if not higher) than that of friends and family, who are increasingly using social media as their primary source of connecting with one another.

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are transforming the way people communicate in every part of their lives, and it’s time for the construction industry to get in front of this technology.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of online adults are regularly using social media, and Digital Trends reports one-third of adults prefer to get their news via social media than from any other source.

Why? Because communication that happens on these platforms keeps people connected in real time, no matter where they are and no matter what device they are using. Photos, videos, notes, and even arguments can spread through a connected group on social media faster than any other medium. Communication happens even faster if these platforms are used on a mobile device (which is how adults access social media 65 percent of the time, according to Mashable).

Now consider taking the best of social media technology and applying it to the existing jobsite network. A social platform designed for construction has the potential for enormous improvements in productivity, efficiency and safety by eliminating the need for multiple phone calls, emails, meetings, jobsite visits, handwritten notes and all the other modes of communication still common to construction projects. Multimedia including photos, videos, comments, and a centralized news feed can be accessed and shared by a project team, keeping everyone updated in real time and spreading information through the entire project team immediately.

Instant Media Sharing

As the most widely used social platform in the world with a billion users, let’s use Facebook as an example. A Facebook user on vacation in Europe might upload photos and video of his trip for his friends in America to see. Each piece of media has a comment explaining what his friends are looking at. Anyone in his community can instantly view those photos and the video from any device no matter where they are, and add comments or even their own photos if they want.

Now apply that same process to the jobsite. An electrician wants to let the project team know that all the electrical work is complete so the drywall subcontractor can get started on the job. All the electrician has to do is take some photos on his or her smartphone or tablet and write some notes explaining the work that has been complete, and then share it with the members of the team who need to know. Those team members get the electrician’s update no matter where they are, and instantly know where the project stands and what steps to take next. It's easy and efficient.

At the moment, there’s plenty of field management software available for construction companies, but the majority of it focuses on design, contracts and costs. There has been very little meaningful progress in empowering teams in the field to communicate more effectively. Some early movers took a run at the challenge but the industry has yet to see widespread impact. Point solutions such as plan viewers, punchlist tools and digital checklists are important first steps, but each of these supply only fragments of the total communication solution that is required.

Not Just a Fad

When social media platforms started to emerge about a decade ago, many thought they were just a trend, not suitable for use in the business world. It’s now clear that social platforms are not just fads; they are revolutionary tools changing the definition of what it means to communicate.

This communication revolution should apply to the construction industry just as much as it does to the consumer population. The time is right for industry-wide disruption with a mobile-first, socially focused communication platform specifically designed for the construction industry. A successful platform will deliver the qualities of real time social networks while meeting the unique demands of construction jobsites.

A disruption like this promises to move the construction industry toward improved safety, efficiency and profitability.

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