3 Critical Questions Every Construction Project Should Ask Before Deploying A New Technology

When it comes to deploying a new technology for your business, it should come as no surprise that there is a laundry list of pitfalls to watch out for. The wrong technology can be a huge waste of time and money—but then again, so can the right one if it’s not implemented correctly.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through 3 critical questions to ask BEFORE deploying a new technology. These questions will help you get laser-focused on identifying evergreen technologies that provide real value for your industrial construction and maintenance project.

Drone deployment at oil refinery


The negative cycle of splashy new technologies 


It’s important to acknowledge that are a lot of things that can go wrong when it comes to technology adoption. Sometimes the technology will be adopted for the wrong reasons. Other times, the project might not have a plan for how it will be used or integrated with other systems. Even worse, there might be no clear idea of what success looks like.

These rash technology adoptions can be perpetuated by the media’s coverage of splashy new technology trends. While that shiny new technology might sound exciting and promising, don’t fall for the trap. They are rarely long-lasting and they often fail to actually solve a pervasive or targeted business problem that will truly provide real value.

The result is a hasty implementation or pilot just to “check a box.” The project tries out the new technology for maybe a couple months, before forgetting about it completely. This is largely because they are not actually central to a business’s value proposition. Eventually, the entire trend dies out in the media and a new technology is spotlighted, with the whole cycle starting all over again.

Here are just a few examples:

From 2018 through 2021, we were seeing lots of hype around blockchain technology, such as Smart Contracts, but this seems to have died down as people realize it doesn’t quite live up to its promises yet (at least not at scale). For example, late last year, IBM and Maersk announced they were abandoning their blockchain-enabled TradeLens platform because it had “not reached the level of commercial viability necessary to continue work and meet the financial expectations as an independent business.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is another great example of this cycle. AI has been around in the form of expert systems since the 1960s and has been used by businesses for decades. However, it has recently exploded into the public imagination through ChatGPT, generative AI, and the like, yet businesses are still in the early stages of trying to figure out how AI can be applied to their industry or specific problems within their industry.

This is why it is so crucial to differentiate between what’s cool and what actually works. The former will fall behind to competitors that can effectively execute the latter.  


Why trendy technologies are especially dangerous for the construction and maintenance industries 

Industrial technology deployment failure | Cumulus Digital Systems 

The negative cycle of overhyped technology is especially dangerous for industries like industrial construction and maintenance. This is because these industries are already lagging behind in digitalization, so they aren’t experienced in systematically implementing new technologies.

The result is that when the implementation of a splashy new technology eventually goes wrong, it can leave a bad taste in their mouths. It can also potentially lead them to believe that digital technologies aren’t well tailored or “ready” for their industry.

In turn, this further perpetuates the myth that digital technologies aren’t well tailored to industries that involve manual work. 


3 crucial questions to ensure your technology deployment has a meaningful business impact 

So what exactly is the antidote to these trendy technologies? We like to call them “evergreen technologies.” These are the technologies that have the ability to provide real value for decades. They are not just buzzwords or trends. Rather, they are fundamental advances in technology that deliver real benefits to your business.

Since project managers are responsible for managing the entire project lifecycle, it typically falls on them to be a champion for new digital technologies. Yet with new technology innovation happening at a mile a minute, it’s even more difficult for project managers to select the right technology that will provide real value to their projects.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to digitalization. It’s more about identifying your business needs and finding the right way to solve them. 

Here are 3 crucial questions that project managers should ask themselves to better identify the right technology to implement. 


1. Where are we at in our digitalization journey? 

There’s no use starting a digitalization effort without first understanding where you stand in your digitalization journey. You have to take baby steps to get to where you want to go. It’s a process that is similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you don’t have the basic necessities, you won’t be able to achieve more complicated goals in any type of meaningful way. 

For example, if you have a maintenance facility that needs to be inspected every year, the benefits of using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for mapping and inspection are obvious. But if you don’t have network connectivity at certain parts of your site, that initiative is going to fail before it’s even off the ground. 

You can use this free digitalization evaluation to determine where you are at in your digitalization journey.

2. Have we thoroughly defined our requirements? 

Systems thinking, the process of examining how all the parts of a system interact with each other, can help you to thoroughly define your project’s requirements. This approach can help you identify potential problems before they occur, as well as opportunities for improvement.

A systems thinking mindset allows you to: 

  • Identify the real value delivered by technologies 
  • Understand the dependencies between different components of your project (i.e., how one component impacts another) 
  • Identify potential problems before they occur by understanding how different parts of your system interact with each other 
  • Establish a comprehensive, commercially viable strategy for scaling the technology beyond the pilot  

One of the most important parts of this step is to use systems thinking to thoroughly define your problem and solution requirements. The problem should be clear and well-defined, while your solution should include actual solutions (rather than just a list of features).

These requirements should be documented in a way that allows stakeholders from different departments to understand them in their own terms, which will make it easier to evaluate technologies based on what their actual impact will be on the project.

The benefit of this approach is that it helps you to avoid the pitfall of just selecting the flashiest new technology. Instead, you’re using a more methodical approach that will help you choose a technology that is solving a real business problem. 


3. What is the cost of NOT implementing this technology? 

Often, facilities and projects think about digitalization as a new cost. Instead, they should be thinking about it in terms of ROI. The right technology will save you time and money that in the long-run far outweighs the upfront cost of the technology.

One great way to do this is by using the list of pain points that you generated while defining your system requirements to determine what they are currently costing you. What processes or tasks are major pain points for you? How much of your time is spending doing these tasks? How many mistakes or oversights could be avoided by automating this task with near accuracy? How much time would it save if you had an automated system that did this work instead?

When you can put an actual dollar amount on the opportunity cost of NOT implementing a technology to solve your problems, it becomes a much more compelling case for digitalization. 


Final Thoughts 


The possibilities of what technology can do are endless. That’s why it’s essential to carefully vet new technologies before investing and spending the time and money to implement them in your business. Technology should always solve real business problems and align with your value proposition to avoid falling into the trap of a splashy new technology implementation that fizzles out. 

By using the vetting questions outlined above, you’ll be sure to avoid such problems by making sure that new technologies are reliable, effective, and realistic in terms of the value that they provide for your business.