While you may be convinced that information technology (IT) makes work life easier for professionals who work in the building industry, you and your colleagues have some complaints about how IT is executed within your field. You want to continue replacing manual processes and tools with digital ones that support higher levels of productivity.
However, your work’s precise nature and the tight deadlines you live under leave no room for inadequate IT solutions. In most cases, finding the right IT solutions for your firm is as easy as choosing the right service provider.
Here are the top four IT challenges that slow the progress of digital transformations in the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction. We also give you some tips for securing the right IT service provider to resolve these issues efficiently.
1. Ineffective Data Back-Up and Recovery
You’ve worked for weeks on schematics for a client’s new apartment building that’s scheduled to open in one of your city’s most upscale neighborhoods. The project means lots of money for your client and plenty of prestige for your community. It also means that you and your team are under tight deadlines to get the engineering documents finalized and off to the construction team. Then it happens. One of the critical CAD files that was under review by your team was accidentally deleted.
You wisely anticipated this kind of mishap and have a data backup and recovery plan in place for your firm. However, you’re unsure if your IT service provider can recover the most recent version of the file. If the IT company can’t restore that version of the file, your team will be spending a lot of time redoing work and doing quality checks on the new diagrams.
The answer to this dilemma is in your service agreement. Check to see if your agreement supports file-based backups that allow the IT company to back up your data frequently. When in the market for a new IT service provider, only employ one that does hourly backups.
Be wary of companies that only offer incremental, hourly backups. While incremental, hourly backups are better than no hourly backups at all, they give users a false sense of security that their data can be completely and quickly restored at any time. File recovery from incremental backups requires administrators to piece together data from different sources of backed-up files. Missed data is common.
Ideally, you want a service agreement that supports full backups of files on an hourly basis. These types of data backup plans normally require larger storage spaces and higher bandwidths. Look for a well-known IT service provider with the capacity to offer this level of service.
2. Email File-Sharing Limitations
Collaboration among team members on design-build projects can become quite intense. You create floor plans for multi-story buildings and want to get immediate feedback about them from your team. Your first move is to open up your email program, compose a note to multiple recipients, and attach your files. You hit send. After moving on to a dozen more critical action items, you check your inbox for your colleagues’ anticipated responses. Instead of getting marked-up files from your design team, you’re greeted with an ambiguous bounce message.
The message tells you that the email you sent either exceeded the system’s size limit or the recipient’s mailbox is full. For many email providers, the standard size limit for messages is 10MB. However, some internet service providers (ISPs) that offer mailboxes limit incoming mail messages to 5MB. This issue is hard to manage because you have no control over the amount of space left in a recipient’s mailbox, and you don’t know for sure the size cap for incoming messages that his or her service provider sets.
To avoid bounce messages and dreaded email program freezes, you’ll want to talk to your service provider about getting higher limits for the amount and size of emails you can send through your company’s account. You may need an upgrade.
Even if they have the highest limits that ISPs offer, some people still exceed their mailbox spaces. If you’re working with an internal team, it’s a good idea to set policies in place to archive old emails periodically and remove them so that they don’t impact mailbox space.
Experts offer best practices for emailing large CAD files that work well whether your recipients have generous email size limits or not. They recommend placing your files in a folder, compressing the folder into a zip file, and attaching the zip file to your message.
If your files aren’t particularly sensitive, you can always encrypt the documents and upload them to a cloud storage platform. You’ll then be able to email multiple recipients a link to the documents, which drastically cuts the size of the sent email.
3. License Error Messages
Engineering software tools that are produced by Bentley Systems are the gold standard in the building industry. While nearly every architecture, engineering, and construction firm is familiar with Bentley tools and uses them regularly, users’ concerns about unexpected license fees go mostly unaddressed.
Consider this scenario. A small architectural firm has agreed to buy four licenses for Bentley’s Microstation software. As engineers check out the licenses one by one, the decremented amount of licenses shows up on a management platform that Bentley offers its clients. However, Microstation programs are still available to other company users who access them by signing up for a trial. At the end of the billing cycle, Bentley Systems charges the architectural firm extra licensing fees for using more licenses than the initial.
Several engineering firms have requested that Bentley Systems cap their license usage so that access to programs is blocked for members of their companies whether these programs are associated with trial subscriptions or not. Bentley hasn’t yet come up with a satisfactory solution to stop the surprise bills. The problem is so pervasive that new competitors such as Autodesk highlight Bentley’s billing flaw to boost their marketing campaigns.
Suppose you have no plans of migrating to new engineering tools any time soon. In that case, you’ll want to invest in a 3rd-party asset management platform to help you and your team manage Bentley software licenses, track license usage, and stop these billing errors.
4. Poor Customer Service From Outsourced IT
While every IT company claims to have exceptional customer service, the reality is that not all of them live up to their marketing claims. You’ll find data backup and recovery experts who can’t give you access to a backed-up file that was mysteriously corrupted. If the company can retrieve your file, it will make sure that you know that it’ll take a week for its representatives to get the file and send it to you. You’re upset because all that you can remember about your agreement with this company is that it promised that its services would result in minimal downtown to your firm’s operations.
When working with IT service providers, the solution is to document the service needs of your organization, find a company that can fulfill those requirements, and get their performance claims in writing. If a company claims that it can quickly retrieve and restore your backed-up CAD files, get it to quantify a time frame for this task, such as within 24 hours. Before selecting an IT service provider, you’ll want to check out its marketplace reputation. If it has been unresponsive or incompetent with previous customers, it’s unlikely that it will change its operating style for your company.
Continuing to modernize your architectural, engineering, or construction firm with powerful IT products and services offers many benefits. Some of them include improved collaboration and better construction site safety. In fact, you can’t remain competitive without the help of IT. Partnering with a highly-responsive IT service provider with the same values as your company is a great way to solve these top four IT issues and keep your firm moving forward.