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You Can’t Teach Old Dogs New Tricks... Unless You Give Them an iPad!

By Sean Graff

You can’t teach old dogs new tricks... unless you give them an iPad!  At Blue Lynk, deploying iPads to the "new dogs" is a walk in the park, and the training is usually less than five minutes because most them are already comfortable with the iPhone’s screen touching, swiping and synching technology. The "old dogs," however, take a bit of a different walk. 

While the construction industry continues to embrace mobile technology and revel in higher productivity levels, lower costs and improved communication, there are significant differences in user comfort and skill levels when analyzing use of iPads amongst construction teams. 

Here, we examine different user skill levels and resistance to change.

Field teams in particular can be heavy on the old dog philosophy, because at the end of the day, no matter how many high-tech gadgets are running in the background, it takes skilled and experienced manual labor to get the job done. At first, I hear the usual comments. "How in the world am I going to see anything on that screen?" "How am I going to remember which buttons to push and when?" And my favorite, "I don’t care what you give me, I’m still going to print my documents!"  Fast forward just a few weeks later and you can’t pry the iPads out of their hands. 

Simply stated, the convenience and ease has been a wonderful surprise to those holding on to old dog philosophy. After a week or two with the iPad, users become more confident about technology in general and less resistant to future upgrades, because, after all, fear is one of the biggest obstacles to change.

Companies who deploy iPads are essentially telling their teams that business is changing. Those you are asking to change must trust that the change is good. Therefore, it is imperative your documents are deployed to the iPad in a systematic, controlled and highly-managed way.  When your teams open project documents on the iPad, both new dogs and old must trust what they are seeing are the most current documents available. More importantly, the correct security must be in place to control access. We have heard too many stories of companies deploying iPads and not managing the document flow or user access, and the next thing you know the documents are outdated or deleted, versions vary amongst iPads and no one knows who is uploading or when.

Suddenly you have completely lost trust in your cool new tool and those with an old dog mentality have a reason to reinforce beliefs in not embracing technology, while new dogs figure out a way to get the iPad to work independently of obstacles. Companies cannot deploy these technology tools and not expect new dogs to configure iPads for their own preferences or old dogs to play with the many features as they grow more comfortable. Caution to those housing documents on the iPad but cutting corners and not managing document flow or security – you will eventually get bit!

Despite concerns, the iPad has a multitude of benefits of deployment. Convenience is just one.  The iPad’s ability to handle the size and complexity of large construction projects, along with its battery life and price point, have made it very popular. Add Blue Lynk’s functionality of drilling down from blueprint to RFI to equipment specs to change orders and you have a winning combination.  As soon as old dogs get the hang of just touching their finger on the screen, they are off and running. When they realize they no longer have to trek from job site to trailer, they became even more protective. I’m not saying field team members are lazy, but when you have a question about a document and you are on the fifth floor of a building, not having to walk down five flights of stairs and across the lot – uphill, in the snow, barefoot – to the trailer is worth the cost of the iPad. 

Flexibility is another incredible feature. Using the iPad in the field across all user levels, then taking it into a high-profile meeting as a key presentation component is a perfect example. To walk directly from job site to meeting without an armful of blueprints, plug in your iPad and pull up the documents of choice is a site to be seen, which always triggers an "ah-ha" moment. Old dogs in particular love how easily they are able to use this technology.

On a recent project we deployed our core document-linking service via the iPad to project managers, superintendents, field personnel and subcontractors. Because we host the documents and set up an operational flow to ensure all changes or revisions are synched back to the iPads as quickly as possible, all principals are armed with the most current documents once synching is complete. Users literally push a button and are off to the field with iPads in tow. Now, we hear comments such as "I will never go on another job without this technology," "Who would have thought it could be so simple" and "What other features can you develop for me?"

I’m proud when recalling the day I saw a favorite old dog showing a new dog a document on his iPad. The new dog was in awe, and it was apparent to all. As I walked off I heard the new dog ask if he had another related document, to which the old dog replied, "You mean this one?" as he touched his finger on the screen.

Who would have thought the hip, trendy iPad would have become one of the construction industry’s greatest tools, except probably the late, great and phenomenal Steve Jobs?

About the Author
Sean Graff is vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Lynk, LLC, a WOSB. Blue Lynk focuses on streamlining the building process by creating efficiencies for the construction industry.  Blue Lynk provides dynamic functionality geared toward teams in the field utilizing hyperlink programming and advanced technologies.  Solutions are delivered that allow the entire team of any construction project – from architects, general contractors to sub-contractors – access to real-time project documentation in a green environment. Reach him at sgraff@bluelynk.com.


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