Put Down the Phone! Time to Create Your Mobile Policy

January 31, 2019 Conley Smith

For the construction industry, the drumbeat around tech transformation is getting louder. If you’re a busy contractor who has only recently moved from paper plans to digital takeoff and estimating, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all.

Regardless of your construction tech savvy, you are probably already a bigtime user of mobile tech (like that device you’re holding in your hands right now.)

In the wake of the iPhone launch 11 years ago, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have become as common as hardhats on the jobsite. If you’re involved in bidding, winning, and building, you may have a hard time imagining how work ever got done before mobile devices—way back in the early 2000s.

Hello? Mobile Moves Beyond the Phone Call

Beyond using mobile devices for basic communication and collaboration like talking and texting, there are lots of other ways the construction industry is leveraging mobile tech. For example, some use mobile time card apps to verify their locations with GPS, complete with data and timestamp. With real-time access to job documents and data in the field, contractors can now avoid costly errors and rework with a few taps on their devices.

For many contractors, mobile and cloud capabilities mean they can turn their work trucks into rolling, mobile offices. Problems on the worksite? Snap a few photos, share with the back-office, and revisions can be uploaded via the cloud. It’s all about pushing updates, resolving issues, and hopefully, improving productivity—right from your pocket.

As more and more apps get added to mobile devices for critical workflows, builders can easily access and keep track of everything from drones to blueprints. As such, keeping data and communications integrated and flowing becomes more and more critical to a contractor’s success.

Anytime, Anywhere Data Fuels Mobile Growth

Once you’re accustomed to the speed and flexibility of anytime, anywhere data, it’s impossible to turn back the clock. The benefits of mobile tech are many—from the convenience of crew transparency to better accuracy for inventory and materials; from easier scheduling and field reporting to fewer delays; to you guessed it—no more lost paperwork.

Indeed, mobile has come a long way since the first JBKnowledge ConTech Report in 2012 when most respondents found mobile technology to be “not very important.” Flash forward to 2018, and more than 84% of respondents felt mobile development and apps were “important” or “very important.”

To dig a little deeper, when asked in 2018 about the importance of mobile capabilities, 42.4% of those surveyed felt it was “important - there must be plans for mobile development” and 42.2% said “very important - there must be a mobile app available.”

A closer look at the ConTech Report showed that smartphones are becoming more valued over laptops. When asked in 2018 about mobile devices used daily, 92.8% checked “smartphone,” followed by 79.7% for “laptops,” and 62.1% reported “tablet.”

Why Contractors Need a Mobile Management Policy

It’s easy to see why today’s contractors have embraced mobile. But does your construction business have a mobile management policy to go along with all those mobile devices? It’s critical to have a mobile data management policy or procedures in place that covers everything from how you choose software to which mobile OS to use and whether devices are provided or if your business prefers a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.

The biggest elephant in the room? How do you secure all these mobile devices in constant use, sharing confidential company information, on construction worksites and in the office? This can be tricky if smartphones are used for both work and personal business. The value of an always-connected employee can also mean time spent answering emails and texts outside of the regular workday gets counted as overtime for a non-exempt employee.

Without a mobile management policy in place, lines between personal and professional can blur quickly. The 2018 ConTech Report found that more than a third of the nearly 3,000 respondents reported their companies had no mobile data management policies or procedures. However, half did say that their companies secure their mobile devices or don’t allow them to use personal devices at work.

With more than half of the respondents saying their phones are used daily for photos/video and daily reporting, contractors should worry how this information is being secured and shared. As more and more mobile devices can seamlessly connect to back office networks, there is always a concern that a stolen or lost device could put a firm’s data and customer information at risk.

Keep Critical Business Data Safe

For many in construction, the size of your business may determine whether the company purchases mobile phones, or you have a BYOD policy. For example, some companies will provide tablets at the worksite to be used at any time for collaboration and communication. Your comfort level with how much control you have over the security of personal devices may also play a role in deciding whether to allow BYOD.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating a mobile policy for your business is what happens when an employee leaves the company. Having policies in place will ensure that an employee returns any company device. With the right policy and processes, you could also quickly lock them out of your construction firm’s network. Otherwise, you can only imagine how a disgruntled employee could transfer your company’s confidential information, causing harm to your construction business.

Want to learn more about keeping your construction data safe? Check out our step-by-step white paper to manage and mitigate risk in your hyper-connected world. Read Managing Risk in the Construction Industry now.

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