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2 min read

What can construction firms learn from Southwest's IT failure?

What can construction firms learn from Southwest's IT failure?

The recent Southwest Airlines debacle serves as a cautionary tale for the construction industry. The airline's meltdown, which was caused by a failure to adapt to new technology and stay ahead of the curve, serves as a reminder of the importance of investing in and adapting to new technology in order to stay competitive.

In today's fast-paced business environment, construction firms that fail to keep up with the latest tools and software are at risk of falling behind their competition, or even ceasing to exist in 5-10 years. That said, this does not mean that your company should be on the bleeding edge, but to at least remain current and with the curve at a minimum.  To avoid Southwest’s fate, it's crucial for companies to stay informed about the latest technological developments in construction, and to invest in the necessary technology and be willing to reinvent processes to stay competitive.

One of the key ways to stay informed is by attending construction industry conferences with CFMA, AGC, ABC, and trade associations like NECA, MCAA, WACA, NRCA, etc. Reading trade publications, connecting with other professionals in the field, and joining peer groups are great strategies to acquire knowledge and learn from others.  Contractors should be willing to reinvent processes and to invest in impactful technologies to help stay competitive, such as project management software, building information modeling (BIM) tools, and other cutting-edge technologies that can help streamline operations and improve efficiency.

Staying informed and investing in technology is only half the battle. Contractors should be willing to poke holes in processes, in particular with those that fall within the category of “that’s how it’s always been done”.  

In order to truly take advantage of the benefits, contractors must also ensure that their employees are properly trained to use it. This means providing ongoing training and support to help ensure that everyone on the team is up to speed on the latest tools and software.

Another key consideration when it comes to technology is the need to have a well-defined strategy in place for how it will be used within the organization. This includes having a clear understanding of what the organization hopes to achieve through the implementation of new technology, as well as identifying the specific tools and software that will be needed to achieve those goals.

It's also important for construction firms to stay attuned to changing customer needs and preferences, and to be prepared to adapt their technology and business processes accordingly. This can include things like incorporating mobile-friendly interfaces and implementing digital and accelerated payment options, as well as developing new services and offerings that meet the evolving needs of the industry.

With unknowns like the COVID-19 pandemic that changed lives forever, or another potential recession, positioning your company by practicing “responsible innovation” is what helps top contractors to weather the storms and emerge even stronger in their respective market.  

Challenge your teams to break away from traditional sayings like “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “I am retiring in a couple years, so why bother?” - instead ask “what if we could do this?”. Finding ways to disrupt inherent processes and methodologies is what causes meaningful positive disruption to our industry. A famous quote holds true no matter what industry - “if you’re not growing, you’re dying”, a phrase eloquently spoken here as a reminder by Hall of Fame College Football coach, Lou Holtz.  

To conclude, the Southwest Airlines incident is a reminder for the construction industry to stay updated with the latest technologies, invest in them, and have a clear strategy for their implementation. By providing training, adapting to changing customer needs, and being open to change, construction firms can ensure their long-term success and avoid falling behind competitors. Additionally, it's important to practice "responsible innovation" and challenge teams to break away from traditional processes.

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