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The industry continues to struggle with construction productivity. 2017 was plagued by a massive nationwide worker labor shortage and technical skills gap brought on by a lack of trained workers.

This had a huge impact on the nation especially as the country rebuilds from the hurricane devastation in Texas and Florida and the fires that swept across Northern California.

Even though the construction industry carries considerable economic importance, it is underinvesting. McKinsey reports that the world needs to invest $3.3 trillion in economic infrastructure annually through 2030 to keep pace with projected economic growth. Construction plays a central role in everyone’s daily life and accounts for 14.7 percent of global GDP, up from 12.4 percent in 2014, according to Global Construction 2030, a report by Global Construction Perspective and Oxford Economics.

Due to the sheer volume of drawings, change orders, RFIs, submittals, expenses, materials and more, the back office in construction tends to be a chaotic mess of multiple-siloed, legacy, project-management systems that have shackled data over the years. It makes it nearly impossible to acquire a consistent overview of projects and costs. Companies are unable to separate signal from noise. No wonder the construction industry has suffered from poor productivity levels that haven’t improved since the 1950s.

The sheer pace of digital innovations is accelerating at a rapid rate. But this is also causing a technical skills gap in the sector, preventing many construction firms from keeping up. This challenge has compounded various internal and external challenges, and the industry as a whole has struggled to bounce back to its pre-recession levels.

Well-paid construction jobs are going unfilled. Project execution has become more challenging because of the complexity of contracts, regulatory compliance and the unaddressed but growing need for specialized expertise. Coordination between different teams working for different companies is strained with cumbersome legacy tools that don’t enable teams to deliver projects on schedule. High school vocational programs have become almost extinct, which is one reason many states are trying to revive them. The next generation of talent is sadly still stepping onto the jobsite greeted by antiquated clipboards and heavy paper blueprints—these young builders should not lose the technology they have grown up with. Today, construction executives can't secure enough bodies to get the job done. With the scarcity of talent, companies know it will only get worse.

Embracing technology allows builders to do more of what they are actually paid to do—build and plan—and less time pushing papers across job sites and offices. Leading construction firms harness the power of the cloud, mobile-first tools, data, analytics and intelligence to surface the right information that they need, in the exact moment when they need it.

As the construction industry enters 2018, the days of following the paper trail need to come to an end. The sector must embrace better, tech-driven opportunities to collaborate across teams to achieve new levels of data-driven insights, to unlock new productivity beyond the boundaries of outdated legacy vendors, and to inspire a more engaged, more communicative workforce that ultimately benefits a company’s bottom line. Only then will the industry radically reshape the way builders work and boost collective productivity around the world.

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