Transforming Operations: Leveraging Modern Software Solutions


By Eric Christensen

Long before any thoughts of building software, I worked as a senior estimator, project manager and engineer for a large heavy civil construction company.

We struggled with an information gap between the field and office. As a project manager, I knew delays from lost equipment, incomplete preventative maintenance, scheduling mishaps, etc. cost us thousands of dollars per day.

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When you’re doing underground utility jobs, you have many problems. You need to consider three main things:

  • Where is your equipment?
  • What needs to be done to it?
  • Where are your people going?

Of course, you must take these questions further, such as “Does Dave know that John moved that excavator on Saturday, and he needs to go to a different job?” The complexity increases. I got calls and texts constantly about scheduling and equipment challenges.

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We turned to technology – and we tried everything, getting countless demos. The technology we saw was expensive, complicated, and ultimately failed to deliver on what every sales rep promised us – a simple solution that streamlined daily operations that our field employees would actually use. The software we saw fell into two categories:

  • Estimating software trying to be operations software.
  • Accounting software trying to be operations software.

Your foremen aren’t estimators, and your mechanics aren’t accountants. Your field employees don’t need that much detail.

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I still had to make constant phone calls because what the estimating software said was best, wasn’t the reality in the field. I still got text messages from dawn to dusk from employees asking where their next jobsite was. We still logged into four different telematics/GPS systems to get the full picture of what our fleet needed.

I started to think, “If we just built this ourselves, we’d get it right, it would be easy to use, and have all information readily available to those who need it.” This wasn’t the reality at the time.

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Now, technology and software has evolved to better meet the needs of modern construction. Cloud-based software offers real-time communication between the field and office. Everyone can have the information they need – from equipment locations, inspections and maintenance, to scheduling and field reporting, you can find software available to help.

When we talk with our customers, we see three main trends that convince us that software can now truly make an impact on your bottom line:

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Your Data Can Be Aggregated

If you’ve used GPS trackers/telematics data, you know that unless your entire fleet is from one manufacturer or have identical trackers, you must log into different systems to get the full view. It can seem impossible to create reliable reports, much less customize the reports for how you run your operations.

Now, modern software can aggregate your data from multiple providers via simple integrations. Regardless of your fleet makeup, you can aggregate data from your entire fleet into simple dashboards you’ll get real value from. Don’t forget to ask your provider how you’ll track non-GPS equipment, like trench boxes or augers.

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Technology Can Work How You Do

Many underground utility contractors rely on a simple magnet board or spreadsheet to track equipment locations, schedule crews, and manage work orders. Historically, this worked until you needed to communicate that information to the field. If you’re emailing a spreadsheet or using an office magnet board, it’s impossible for everyone to have the necessary up-to-date information.

Modern technology can now replicate this, providing simple “magnet board” style dashboards to click and move equipment. As an underground utility contractor, it’s critical your provider allows you to schedule crews in the same platform, enabling users to see relevant equipment and project information.

Your Employees Will Use the Right Technology

Construction companies are reluctant to adopt new technologies because they feel their employees won’t use them. If field employees won’t use the operations software, it won’t improve your daily work.

Software has evolved – you don’t need employees to download an app, providers give them browser access. Form collection can be easily done from the field through interactive text messages, enabling instant communication.

It’s worth looking into technology that can help reduce complexity and ultimately sleep better at night – I certainly wish we had this level of support.

Eric Christensen is CEO of IVO Systems Inc. Tags: ,