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The 2015 AGC IT Forum Conference: Where Networking Begins But Never Ends

BY JEANIE J. CLAPP
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CONSTRUCTOR MAGAZINE

Two guys. Random seating. Casual conversation. This is how most networking begins. But if you’re at the AGC IT Forum Conference, this interaction can morph into a long-term networking relationship, well after the two-day annual event closes shop.

Pat Weichel and Jeremy Fonolio met at the 2014 IT Forum Conference in Chicago, Illinios. What began as a jab at Weichel’s taste of music developed into a conversation about construction, work and IT challenges. "It seems that each year the conference is on the same schedule as Lollapalooza, so music tends to come up in conversation," says Weichel, IT director, Century Companies, Inc. "I made a comment about his music selection on his phone," jokes Fonolio, director of IT & communications, Walsh & Kelly. "He quickly impressed me with his broad range of music."

The two quickly realized that their companies perform the same type of work so as construction professionals they face a lot of similar issues. After the conference ended and they both went back to business as usual, they reached out occasionally to seek advice or query one another on IT issues. This is networking at its best.

Fast forward to this year’s IT Forum Conference, held July 30-31, 2015, in Chicago, and Weichel and Fonolio were back at it, along with nearly 350 other construction technology professionals, a record number of attendees.

HIGHLIGHTS A PLENTY
While it’s difficult to select a favorite among the many great sessions put in place, the Affordable Solutions/Open Forum discussion topped many attendees’ list. "One of my favorite sessions is on affordable apps," says Fonolio. "Last year, I heard about FotoIN, and we currently use it to document utility locates." His company is looking into using Trello this year also, which was one of the affordable solutions discussed during the session, moderated by Rob McKinney, the Construction App Guru. "[Rob ] is an in-the-trenches" guy and an engaging presenter," Weichel says. 

Another valuable session covered unmanned aerial systems (UASs): Drones & Construction: U.A.S., the F.A.A. and YOU. "One of the most valuable presentations for me this year was Jonathan Ziss’s overview on the current legal environment for UASs (drones)," says Weichel. "The information was invaluable and he did a great job of presenting the topic and fielding the questions." 

Never to be overlooked as a highlight was keynote speaker James Benham, president, JBKnowledge, Inc. "James Benham is a fantastic keynote speaker," says first-time attendee Danielle Dy Buncio, co-founder and president, VIATechnik. "Hands down the best presentation." Others would agree. "I find myself saying ‘WOW’ at least a dozen times during his 90-minute presentations," admits Charlie Brawner, computer systems administrator, Tweet/Garot Mechanical, Inc. "He opens my eyes up to what’s really possible in construction technology, but he also fills his presentation with his survey results, which are always fascinating."

Benham covered everything from wearables, 3D printing and drones to augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality. If it’s up and coming in the technology sector, Benham talked about it. 

He also talked about the Construction Open Software Alliance (COSA) with fellow panelists Dennis Stejskal, Sage; John Goecke, StratusVue; and Benny Baltrotsky (eSUB Construction Software).  With 20 companies currently participating as COSA members, the community of construction industry professionals  grows stronger, but needs continued buy-in from more software vendors. COSA, with its efforts on developing open standards, aims to save time, save money, and reduce risk. What’s not to like about that?


Be sure to read Rob McKinney's recap on the 7th Annual AGC IT Forum Conference here


A FEW TAKEAWAYS
Attending the AGC IT Forum Conference provides Brawner, a one-man R&D deparment, with the IT solutions he needs. "I can get more ideas from my peers in two days than I can in an entire year by myself," he says."A lot of important software/solutions we use now can be traced directly back to notes that I’ve taken at the AGC IT Forum Conference."

Dy Buncio knew she’d be interested in the drone conversation, but was surprised at how intriguing the Cybersecurity session was. "It definitely made me re-think some of our current protocols."

For Weichel, there were several solutions he carried home. His company does a "fair amount of gravel mining / crushing, so the session on drones was very valuable." In addition, meeting with the vendors provided some options for him in overcoming a connectivity challenge his company faces at several remote jobsites.

"Some of the ideas presented at the Effective Training session are still resonating with me," says Fonolio. He plans on reviewing how training can be done more effectively.

There are many reasons to attend the AGC IT Forum Conference, one of which includes the opportunity to visit the exciting city of Chicago. As Weichel notes, "There are a lot of IT conferences, but none centered around our industry. The session topics are relevant to what we do every day." Brawner likely concurs. "This year’s conference had the best speakers, top to bottom. The conference gets better every year."


To access presentations, click here.

In addition to all the attendees, the AGC IT Forum Conference Committee thanks its sponsors: .Build, ARC Document Solutions, BirdDog HR, Citrix ShareFile, CMiC, COINS, Computer Guidance Corporation, Genesis Path, HCSS, Intuit, IPM, iSqFt, Kahua, LCPtracker, PlanGrid, Procore, Textura, and Winning Tech

This is an IT event not to be missed. Exciting new ideas are already in development for 2016. See you at next year’s show!

 

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