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January 2016

Cloud collaboration for the construction industry

A new era in design culture: Cloud Collaboration for the Construction Industry

Architecture, Collaboration, Construction, Google Apps, Technology | No Comments

Every now and again, technology throws up an innovation capable of reinventing whole industries. Each sector benefits from technological change to a different degree, and some have been faster to take advantage of these breakthroughs than others have. The design industry has benefitted hugely from the advances in Cloud storage, but firms have been slow to realise its potential for streamlining operations.

What is the Cloud?

The Cloud is an innovative technology that stores individual and company information on servers, rather than saving to individual hard drives. By uploading data to a central “cloud” for storage, it’s accessible from anywhere in the world with internet connection. The service provider is responsible for software maintenance, enabling all users to access the same document, meaning everybody is on the same wavelength, an essential element to the collaboration process.

The technology has made the sharing and co-authoring of files easier and safer than ever before, but it’s also inspiring a new era of collaboration, an era where people at opposite ends of the planet can now upload, comment and collaborate on documents together in real-time. By sharing new ideas, concepts and theories in a digital space, processes become more democratic, and designs take on a new dimension.

Create everywhere

As communication technologies continue to develop, employees no longer need to be physically present in the office. Instead, access to reliable internet and a functioning device is all that’s required to hit deadlines and maintain a competitive output. In the construction industry, being on-site no longer means being out-of-reach, and travel-time doesn’t have to mean downtime.

Thankfully, enterprise collaboration is enjoying a newfound interest as firms begin to realise the potential Cloud technology has for the modern business. With increased competition, a growing demand for instant output and the consumerization of IT, firms are beginning to realise that the future of the industry doesn’t lie in the hard drives of yesterday.

By being able to create and contribute everywhere, collaboration no longer has a time limit. Delays in the design process, caused by disparate sleeping times and other engagements, narrow to minimum levels whilst deadlines no longer define when employees can make it into the office.

Cloud collaboration for the construction industry

Unlimited storage

There is no end to inventiveness, so it stands to reason there should be no limit to where you store ideas. Unlike traditional computer hardware, the Cloud comes with the option of unlimited storage. This means designers don’t have to keep deleting as they go, enabling an uninterrupted creative process and nurturing an environment where original thought isn’t limited to the size of a hard drive.

Reduced costs

Whilst reduced expenditure may seem like an insignificant element in collaboration, every aspect of a firm’s functionality has a knock-on effect, particularly outgoing costs. By switching to a Cloud-based storage system, more user-friendly, portable devices can replace out-dated hardware. In turn, this reduces the amount of energy required to power office devices, further lowering costs.

Likewise, replacing the out-dated software suites such as Microsoft Office 365 in favour of a more mobile and innovative solution, such as Google Apps for Work, can save significantly on outgoing charges. This saving extends to enabling a greater mobility, with staff no longer tied to hardware in the office.

Cloud collaboration for the construction industry

Collaborate in real-time, all the time

Great ideas don’t stick to a working schedule. That’s why it’s important you have a means of recording and sharing your ideas, whenever they come to you. In the same way, needlessly convoluted communication system shouldn’t hinder collaboration. It is essential employees can pass information between each other in as efficient a manner possible, and that’s where the Cloud comes in.

Constantly sending documents back and forth between collaborators hinders the process of organic creation. It also increases the risk of losing work by continually creating near-duplicates of documents, meaning the odds of sending the wrong document between staff increases with each new communication. Because slight changes can make all the difference, it’s essential everyone is working from the same document. This can be difficult for designers working on the move, particularly if they’re relying on other people’s devices to meet deadlines.

By saving all work to the Cloud, it is constantly accessible from any device, providing they have an internet connection. Software like Google Apps enables users to collaborate in real-time. The process of editing a spreadsheet, adding dates to a calendar or uploading files to a directory is streamlined. Designers using cloud collaboration continue to share ideas, concepts and designs even when based on the other side of the world.

Cloud collaboration for the construction industry

Never lose work again

There’s not much worse than spending hours working on a document, spreadsheet or slide presentation only to lose it the following day. With local storage based software suites, this can be a result of several things. It could be a result of a hardware malfunction in the device on which the data was stored; it could be a result of losing the data on a pen drive or external storage device; it could even be the result of having to create duplicate copies of the same document, resulting in deletion of the most up-to-date file.

For whatever reason it happens, losing work seriously hampers any kind of collaborative effort. The Cloud protects your data and when used in conjunction with software like Google Docs, saves all work as you go.

The edit history function on Google’s office software also allows employees to go back through and see the edits made to a document. This is vital to the collaboration process. Understanding how a colleague has reached a design concept can make the difference between discarding or implementing an innovative approach.

Still to make the switch?

Firms still working from local servers and operating using local storage may have a number of reasons for not making the jump to cloud collaboration. Concern about switching from traditional technologies is inevitable. The majority of workers are used to communicating and collaborating either in person or via their email. However, this system is now hopelessly outdated for the competitive world of construction and project design.

In response, Google engineered a number of solutions, including integrating email alerts into collaboration software. By combining all the elements of previous design and communication software into one App package, Google has brought the Cloud to a more accessible level, meaning even the most technophobic employees can take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Cloud.