The Benefits of Embracing a Collaborative Approach in Construction  

Have you ever wondered how successful managers and contractors keep their teams and projects on time and under budget? It boils down to collaboration, specifically on job sites and in the technology solutions they use. David Swider is an industry advisor at InEight Inc., an Arizona-based company that helps construction companies visualize, estimate and manage all aspects of their projects from start to finish

In this episode, David explains what “the collaborative approach” is and how it is applied in the construction world. He shares how it’s changing the way vendors, contractors, subcontractors and customers approach building projects. David also breaks down exactly how transparency, data, workflow and KPI tracking work together to drive collaboration.

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Team collaboration is the key to success – in technology and on job sites. When everyone’s success is interconnected, it fosters an environment of collaboration. This is why collaborative platforms shine – teams enjoy transparency while everything they need, such as BIM, KPI reports, and labor statistics, are all in one place. A collaborative job site encourages shared ideas and best practices that traditionally would never make it outside of a siloed team. By opening data and communication across functions and teams, employees become more engaged and leaders see better results.
  2. New modular technology boosts collaboration by integrating technologies. Modular technology doesn’t remove the need for skilled and experienced leaders on the job site. Instead, it allows all the data on a job site to flow between different platforms – which supports, you guessed it, collaboration. Modular technology allows key personnel to spend their time utilizing their experience instead of looking through files to dig up data.
  3. Real-time earned value is the best KPI to assess a team’s effort. Monitoring real-time earned value is the best way to stay in scope and on budget. The real-time comparison of actual spending and progress against what was projected creates insights your team can use instantaneously. Real-time earned value is critical to understand where each part of the project stands to evaluate the efficiency of how your teams are performing compared to the budget.

 

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Episode Transcript

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast, sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax. I’m your host, Mike Merrill. And today we are sitting down with my good friend and industry peer, David Swider. David is an industry advisor at InEight Incorporated out of Arizona, and also helps construction companies visualize, estimate, manage and control all aspects of their capital maintenance projects. So, David has a great knowledge in sales management, project management, and also lead generation.

Mike Merrill:

Today, we’re going to talk about a business practice termed as the collaborative approach and how it’s changing how vendors, contractors, subcontractors, and customers approach their building projects. David is going to break down how transparency, data, workflow and KPI tracking work together to drive collaboration. Hello, David, and thank you for joining us on the podcast today.

David Swider:

Hey, Mike, thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here. Good to catch up. It’s been a while. COVID, we don’t get to see each other at the shows as often as we used to. So, really happy to be here today.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. And now every time I see David in a van, I got to give him a big bro hug. So, it’s been too long. So, getting back to the topic of our conversation today. So, what exactly is the collaborative approach that I was referencing?

David Swider:

Mike, it’s funny, you should say that, right? As much as you and I have been through over the last several years and search engine optimization, you’re seeing the word collaboration, it shows up in every list, right? Version of the truth, collaboration. It’s become a catchphrase.

David Swider:

At InEight, the foundation of our business has always been trying to tie together the scope, schedule and actuals, right? That’s the collaboration we feel is what everybody is looking for and what all the clients are looking for is tying together that in, and the ability more so than just tying together, the scope, schedule and actuals, is getting that information in the hands of the folks who need it when they need it.

David Swider:

And what that does is for companies who are just saying, “Hey, do I jump into a technology? What do I do?” It forces organizations to think strategically, both while they’re planning their work, and then also as they’re progressing their work. Right? So, in my mind, it’s not only across the players involved but also across the tools that they already have in their landscape. So, that’s what I’m saying. I mean, what are you seeing in the market?

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I think collaboration is a key term that everybody uses and I think some companies are pretty good at it. And some, maybe aren’t so much. But I know with API integration, we’re seeing a lot more product to product collaboration, which I think is more the key that we’re all looking for from a technology provider. Would you agree?

David Swider:

Yeah, I would. Right. I mean, and I also am always reticent in, it’ll probably come up further in our discussion of the API too. Right? I mean, a lot of folks hang a lot… It was like bin was years ago, right? “Oh, it’s bin, you got a bin?” Like a stack of them. Yeah. It was a buzzword. Right? So, I had this magic API. And sales guys or vendors tend to have that magic API that gets them right where they’re going. Right? But you’re absolutely right, we definitely see that. Right? I agree with you on that.

Mike Merrill:

So, how do contractors make more space to allow for better or more collaboration?

David Swider:

In my experience, and again, we’ll hit that a little bit at the end, but the good contractors don’t really need to make space for collaborations, because they’ve already in mind have already started that collaborative journey as they’re being awarded or even prior to being awarded that work. Right?

David Swider:

Unfortunately, what happens is sometimes the collaboration is forced, because the contractor is driving it, but they’re not engaging the owners, the architects, the engineers, the CMs, the facility managers, the fabricators in that collaboration, right.? It always tends to be maybe a contractor to a sub, or they’re not truly bringing in all of the workflows that need to be there. Right? So, making that space habits.

David Swider:

And in InEight, we’ve identified about 200 project workflows in a typical capital project. Now, we built our platform and have those workflows built out to about 175 of those. But what it does is by building those out, it helps us identifying the who. Identifying the who that sounds like a Dr. Seuss, right? Who and him on that podcast, right? Identifying the who. But in terms of collaboration, it identifies who needs to be in that collaboration, as well as what tools need to be in that collaboration.

David Swider:

So, a collaborative approaches is what we really find that our clients are looking to us for, and you as well, right? Is to give them some of that predictability, give them that outcome certainty that they’re looking for. And the only way they’re ever going to get there is if they’re collaborating at some form, right? Again, what are your clients saying there?

Mike Merrill:

I love that. Yeah. One of the things that we see and a phrase that we like to coin and that we hear out there is live field data, that real time visibility and ability to share with cloud-based technologies, and opportunity to share different data sets for different roles, different people within the organization, having that real time access is a critical piece to allow that type of collaboration to even occur.

David Swider:

Yeah. It really is. Right? I mean, when we look at it, there’s a lot of logos out there. Right? So, I mean, I don’t envy our listeners. Right? How do they know? How do they sift through it? I mean, every other day, I mean, even in our industry, I’m getting my own things to look at. So, it becomes a tough one. Right? But it definitely is, how do you get that real-time data? How do you get those analytics? How do you get those KPIs that really give you the health of your project? That’s what all of, in my humble opinion, over 30 years, that’s what all of us should be striving to do with our clients is help them find that equilibrium in their project to get that visibility.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I completely agree. So, when we talk about modular technology, what is that exactly? And why do you think that’s maybe on the rise today?

David Swider:

Well, again, when we’re talking about modular technology, that’s a tricky question, right? Because I’ll go back to what I said before. We typically think AEC and not the O, right? And it’s often the contractors who are driving the tool selection, as we know, right? The contractor drives it. And I can never understand that. And maybe that’s another podcast for us down the road, right? Mike is. I don’t understand how owners aren’t really doing more of the dictating of what tools are in play. Ultimately, they’re paying the bill. I get that the contractor may say, “Hey, it’s going to cost more, if I have to use a tool” but at the end of the day, they both want the same visibility. Right?

David Swider:

So, but what happens is, to your point earlier, the AECO companies are bombarded with these companies offering that magic API, right? You know the discussion it’s, “Our tool has an API that can connect to your solution, blah, blah, blah.” And then two CIOs later in a boatload of professional services money, you’ve now become, instead of a construction company, you’re now a technology company. Right? So, it becomes very, very difficult to manage that integration landscape.

David Swider:

And again, I’m sure any of our listeners would be familiar to that concern. And don’t get me wrong. To integrate is great. But what value is it, if you’re integrating a platform of connection points, whose connection points don’t solve your problem, right? And you should, for that benefit, pay a percentage of revenue, to have just a bunch of connected points, but don’t solve the workflow. I don’t know that that’s what my clients are asking for and what I’m seeing.

David Swider:

Candidly, I think, we got a bad rep, right? Mike, you and I, and again, I’ll stop here, but we get a bad rep in construction for saying, we don’t have great tools or we don’t have technology. Or if I go to one more meeting, where they say, oh, the landscape in construction technology is brutal or the worst, it’s really not. What we don’t have is we don’t have integrated technologies. We have plenty of great technologies. We just don’t have integrated technologies, in my humble opinion. Right? I don’t see that acquisition, just because everybody is wearing the same logo, doesn’t mean they’re any better integrated, right? The tools have to be an integrated.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. To your point, I mean, and this is going way back. I can think of 15 years ago, we had a customer in Texas, a smaller organization. They were utilizing our mobile technology to collect field data. And their owner was so impressed with the reports he was now getting, because we had this live field data being collected, that he mandated that the other four contractors that were also working on that project also standardized on our platform. And he actually helped pay for and subsidize the cost of some of that system for each of those companies, because the value that they would receive by having that real time daily reporting that they’d never seen before, because of these Excel-base, or spreadsheet-based, or paper-based systems.

David Swider:

And again, that makes sense. Right? You could see where it is because again, who wants to show up in a work in progress or a whip meeting in a trailer every Monday, knowing it’s going to be an honors meeting because they’re either not on the same page, someone’s telling a fib, or maybe stretching where things are, or they don’t even know where they are. They’re looking at a report, that’s this thick. How can you find something week over week? And then how good is that data you’re bringing in if you’re ushering it in that way? Right?

David Swider:

So, that’s why we feel that the industry needs to be in that collaborative mindset of truly bringing a modular solution to play. It doesn’t matter what the logo is. Yes, we love always to say, “Your logo, my logo.” But it’s the right tool that gets the information, is the company, I think that wins the game with the owners and the contractors at the end of the day.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I think that’s great. And I think with GCs, are you seeing that because of the technologies they’re standardizing on and maybe the tools that they’re requiring? Are they selecting certain subcontractors because they’re more professional with those tools?

David Swider:

You do. And there’s two things that I see. And again, I’ll dovetail back. I mean, I go back to when technology… I’m an old guy, right? I know I don’t appear in this great video. But I go back when the big technology was, you’d have a mailbox with a light on it, and if a job had your trade on it, that light would light up. And that would send you the notice that there was a job that needed your trade. That’s how far back. I go back to when they take the plans. And the big thing was you could blow them up on a light box and do grease pencil takeoffs. The big thing after that was they threw a GTCO digitizer that would do the measuring. Then it would never put plans and specs online. Right?

David Swider:

So, to your question of, does a GC pick subs because of that? Actually, I was at the World of Concrete when COVID broke out. When I was walking by, two younger college graduates, and the kids were laughing to each other, saying, “Could you believe that the contractor wanted me to walk out with a clipboard as opposed to a tablet?” Right? Again, I was mortified, right? So, when he said that, then you start to think, what tools are they? Are they really selecting it? And now, what it does is it brings to bear two problems, you bring up with that question, Mike, is the subcontractors have to be prepared with technology and the GCs have to have good technology, if they want to attract the talent, not only of the subs, but even the talent on their own teams. Right?

David Swider:

We’ve got a little bit of a generational thing going on, where you’ve got to have a little bit of best of both breeds in order to truly be functional there. And of course, the GCs want to do, because that leads into the more information that they’re getting back or the more accurate, or the more data points they get back, the better off they’re going to know where they are, the better off they can manage that relationship with the owner.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Great points. So, when we have these types of tools, are you seeing that on occasion or in some instances, because they’ve got these technology tools, that maybe they can even bridge that experience gap, or maybe somebody who doesn’t really know, hasn’t been around the block a bunch of times, might still be effective in the role because they have that data and they can simply react to it?

David Swider:

Yeah. Again, it touches on the amount of gray hair I have. Right? So, as we now say, the more seasoned, experienced folks, right? As opposed to me, I just call it being an old guy, right? I wrote an article about, I called it the 35 Years Between the Years. Right? And while the more seasoned leaders have that experience, the technology doesn’t push them aside. I hear it in a lot of companies, right? You’ll get a lot of the, “Will he bid lows?” Right? Will he bid low, folded arms and not going to go ahead and tore up this technology, right? Because you’re asking him to go against generational amounts of gut-feel and money that they’ve made before either you or I walk on their site to say, “Hey, we’ve got a better way.” You’re fighting that. Right? People always ask who’s our competitor or competitors. That gut feel is that instinct, that that contractor thinks they know what they know. Right?

David Swider:

And candidly, the seasoned professional has even more to gain from tools like yours and mine, because now, instead of doing all the manual, keep pressing and finding versions, and looking through spreadsheets and pulling it off of servers to find documents, they now have it at their hands, so they can really take the steps of really concentrating on what they have learned in those 35 years, which is how to do the work at the lowest possible cost and retain the highest possible margin. Right?

David Swider:

So, in our industry, let’s face it, everybody is looking to reduce that risk, right? AI can provide instances and dependencies, but the seasoned professional, have that benefit of learned experience as well. So, it’s not so much the A or the artificial, it’s more of the intelligence, so they can leverage both data points now. And it makes that seasoned professional even more.

David Swider:

I don’t want to just get up on a podium here, but where it really helps for folks who are thinking about, do they jump that digital divide is, now, you are also closing that gap. You’re closing that generational gap because now the less seasoned professional, right? Can go ahead and learn from that benchmark, that AI, learn from that boots in the field experience. So, that now when Susan retires to Bora Bora, you can wish her well, because all of Susan’s knowledge is now captured in tools like yours and mine, where you can leverage benchmarks and find best practices, and find years of experience and tribal knowledge that now you retain. It’s your business, right? That’s our companies that we deal with. That’s their intellectual property. They shouldn’t lose it because somebody retires.

David Swider:

So, I find that once we get through these discussions, the more seasoned professionals become even more of an asset and it helps bring up the next generation a little bit quicker.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that.

David Swider:

Are we out time? I’m sorry, man. I got going there. I forgot.

Mike Merrill:

It’s all good. So, speaking of that, what I’m hearing you say is, it’s not only the what, but the why. And the why is something that seasoned professionals just have that wealth of knowledge and can plug into that technology, and make that tool even more efficient than someone who doesn’t know why. Right?

David Swider:

It really is. Right? And then if you have that, think of what else you get. As somebody who might not know the answer to that why, now you have that data inference in your hands. So, why? Well, you can take out the anomalies. Well, why do we think these trades get 40 welds an hour? When everything we say, show they get 20 welds an hour. Well, then why build the next estimate out that’s just 40 welds an hour? Because as soon as you flip it over, your guys in the field are 20 welds short an hour. Now, they’re playing that game. So, you’re already kicking somebody out of the blocks in a bad way.

David Swider:

So, that’s why we think, again, a collaborative platform allows us to set scope early, identify those markers, track the progress against those, and truly give visibility to all the players. I mean, can’t really say it’s not a secret sauce, but it’s mathematics and it’s visibility, and transparency, that again, I think the companies that are succeeding now are providing to their customers.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. And with the tools of today, why not? Why wouldn’t you?

David Swider:

You can make it easy, make it easy, right? Again, I’m not saying, because again, AI and that kind of stuff, it still gets that, “Oh, you Hocus Pocus, how are you going to predict this? My job isn’t the same. No two jobs are the same.” Now, understanding that, but getting data inference points and production rates and actual numbers.

David Swider:

I mean, how many times have we heard that on the job and the trailer door busts open, and we’ve got to work stoppage or a psych condition that needs an answer, right? We’ve got everybody standing around on a shovel. And if you’re not armed with some data, you’re going to make a decision, that PM or that project engineer is going to make a decision, again, maybe based a lot on gut feel. Right? And maybe something that’s say schedule and maybe a little bit of budget right then and there. But now all of a sudden, fast forward to six months from now, when we’re revisiting that area, where that incident happened and we just put a fix in, and now let’s say that fix causes a problem for what we’re doing near that fix. Now, what have we done?

David Swider:

So, now that error you have, because you didn’t have a collaborative platform, you didn’t have the data that you needed, now it gets compounded and keeps hitting in the head with a hammer because it will continue to come back and haunt you throughout that job.

David Swider:

So, if you have things where you can say, “Hey, I can remove some of this risk. I know this happened on our last one. Let’s be aware of that.” Whether it’s safety, whether it’s collision clash, whatever it might be, having that information upfront is again, where things really sit to make somebody a productive company, to be able to transfer that data back and forth.

Mike Merrill:

I love that. So, that’s a really nice segue into the next thing I wanted to bring up. And it’s a term I’ve heard you use at InEight. And before that for, well, over a decade, the term real time earned value as a KPI. What does that mean and what components make up that term?

David Swider:

Mike, and that’s the very key to all of it, right? So, one of the things that keyword does very, very well is earned value and does visibility, right? And what earned value is, I think if we take a step and talk about the importance of earned value, it would be good to start with what is earned value for some of our folks who may not track it as often, or why it’s important to have, right?

David Swider:

So, first you need a budget at completion, right? So, how much work should be done by the end of the project for a given set of activities, right? So, that’s the first part. You need a budget at completion in order to get to earned value.

David Swider:

Now, to illustrate, let’s say we’re doing, I don’t know, let’s say we’re doing 500 foot of pipe, and we’ve estimated that this is going to be $20 a foot. The budget at completion then, obviously is a hundred thousand dollars. So far so good. I know I’m an old guy, but my maths still holding up.

Mike Merrill:

You got it.

David Swider:

All right. So now, we’re coming up to earned value. So now, the next thing we have to add is the actual cost, right? How much has the work we completed cost us to this point of progress, right? So, there is no equation for this. It doesn’t depend on how much work was done, but it’s actually the actual dollar spent.

David Swider:

So, in our example, let’s assume the actual cost right now is $55,000. Okay? So, the earned value will tell us how much in dollars or workforce hours, should I have spent to achieve this much progress. Is that still correct?

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David Swider:

So, the formula becomes very simple. Earned value is the physical percent complete times the budget at completion. Right? So, now I’m getting to answer your question, right? I just taken us back just a step to make sure everybody that we’re tracking on earned value.

David Swider:

So, using our example, let’s say we’ve installed instead of 500, let’s just say we’ve installed 300 foot of pipe. Well, here’s earned value on that, right? So, if earned value is the percent of complete times the budget at completion, we now would say 300 feet divided by 500 feet, times the budget at completion. So, that would mean 300 feet divided by 500 feet is 60%. 60% of a hundred thousand would be 60 grand.

David Swider:

Now, in this example, let’s say we spent 55,000. So, if we said today, “Here’s where we are. This is what we’ve earned.” We’ve now earned $5,000 more than we could have been. Right? Now, again, in our company, we take it a step further. We do, “How much have you spent?” So, it’s not only how much have you earned. If you tie earned value to schedule, now you’re saying, “How much have I spent?”

David Swider:

Now, bringing down that whole path to answer your question, earned value is critical and why tools like ours are a need is because, how could you possibly look at an owner, or a contractor, or somebody in the face and say, “Here’s what percent complete I am.” Or, “Here’s what I’ve earned so far.” If you don’t have access to that information. If you’re not getting data of where are we today. I mean, heck, if you’re waiting for it to come out of your accounting system at the end of a week or two weeks, “This guys are lit. It was two weeks.” We’d be lucky. You’re looking in the rear view mirror. You can’t make up the budget or the schedule for that time that’s passed. And that thing is old. So, now how far are you really behind? Right? And that’s where I think we start seeing the rumble a little bit. So, that’s where we look at some of the front end of it, right? Is earned value is critical in our opinion of transparency and project certainty is knowing where you really are in your job. Sorry, go ahead.

Mike Merrill:

I was just going to say, especially in a market like this, where most places are so behind and so booked out, and so busy, that before they even get an opportunity to really analyze the last job, they are three more jobs deep, right?

David Swider:

Yes. It happens, right? They’re blowing and going, if they don’t have longer jobs, shorter tail jobs, that happens. But a lot of times we get asked, well, does somebody ever see that folks lose perspective of that. Right? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of somebody losing financial perspective on a job since I was a kid growing up. My dad and he’s knocking the materials of Legos off the table and laying out blueprints. I knew full right well, how well we were doing on that job or we weren’t. Right?

David Swider:

So, there’s no shortage of folks who will get in somebody’s backside about, “You’re not hitting the budget or the financial aspirations of this project.” But again, it’s like the quote says, Mike, it’s not what you know, it’s what you think you know that ain’t so that gets you in trouble. Right? Now, that was attributed to Twain. And I did a whole thing for another podcast on it. But that’s what gets a lot of our folks in trouble is, “Oh, I think we’re 30% complete.” Based on what? By your man hours alone? Because if you don’t have quantities put in place, are you really that percent complete?

Mike Merrill:

Right.

David Swider:

Right. So, I mean, those are the things that tools like ours or companies like ours seek to do with our clients. And as I’m sure WorkMax is helping your clients. Right?

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. For sure. So, when you have that kind of data and you’re utilizing those KPIs in real time earned value, how can that positively impact the confidence in the project, not just for the builder and the subcontractors, but the owner?

David Swider:

Well, that’s a real good one, right? And again, I don’t want to lean on keyword exposure too much, but I will say, because what it does is it brings both the visibility and the transparency, and truly provides what we hear as the buzzword, that real version of the truth. Having that knowledge of what it is, makes those meetings way less attainable. Right? And that’s one of the things, you’ve got to look at companies that do things really, really well. Right?

David Swider:

And the thing with being in the top tier, they know where their nickels and dimes are. Right? They know that. Their teams know what should be accomplished, shift over shift, and what their vendors and their contractors should see. Now, is that always easy to identify? No, it’s not. Right? Do all the jobs go off ahead of budget and ahead of schedule? No. I’m sure they wish more of them would. Right? But starting with an honest level of, “Where are we?” You can then truly attack the problems.

David Swider:

If you went out to our clients and yours, I mean, our collective clients, and you were to ask, “How many times did you ask where’d you get that number?” Or, “Hey, how many times did you, “Oh, we won money.” Until 90 days from now to your point before, about you’re blowing and going on three other jobs. And hopefully, you’re not paying Peter to pay Paul on a job you’re upside down on, right? By taking two more to pay off the one that you’re short on. How many of those stories do you and I hear Mike at the shows, where guys say, “Hey, yeah, we thought we were doing good until, well, all 90 days later, when all the invoicing process, when all the change orders got through, when everything came, all of a sudden, we’re upside down.”

David Swider:

So, that’s what good companies do well is they’re able to see that and have that transparency. And that’s how earned value, positively affects project confidence, because everybody is dancing from the same hymnal or reading from the same hymnal, right? We’re all looking at the same data. It’s not subjective. Right? It’s objective. This is the map, right? And that’s what I’m seeing. And that’s how we’re building clients that sometimes compete, “Hey, they joined venture just the same on the next job.” Right?

Mike Merrill:

Sure.

David Swider:

What they’re all still looking for, are those the same, visibility, transparency, data collaboration. It doesn’t matter whose tools. If they have that, then it’s a happier job or a better job, a more communicative job, makes it so there’s less angst and difficulty going through. And again, it’s a tough industry.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I’m sure you’ve seen the same thing that we have when those JVs happen, and they’re utilizing a tool that gives them that real timer earned value, that gives them that live field data. Immediately, they are telling the JV partner, “Hey, you got to get on this technology also because we’re not going to run our dollars through your old clunky system or your manual collection tools. We got to track all the money the same.” Right?

David Swider:

It really is. Right. I mean, again, I’m thankful for the growth of your tools. I mean, our tools, I think we’re doing it. I mean, if you do Baskin-Robbins, right? So, vanilla chocolate, but let’s just be in the store. Right? Let’s be in the ice cream store of helping that capital project use the tools that they need, the ones that fit the right fit, and then give them that visibility for that project success.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s great. So, are there some modern solutions or tools that take away from this real time earned value accuracy.

David Swider:

If I’m really looking at it, they’re not too hard to find, right? When you see them, right? Because you’ll know as a contractor, you’re going to know when you don’t know, right? You’re going to know, “Hey, I don’t know where the crew is.” Or, “Hey, I woke up this morning and got to change the schedule. Do I have crew to cover that?” Right? Or, “My tools that I have, I’m still waiting on.” Right? So, it becomes, who are you waiting on? We have a lot in just our document controls module within our own tool, where we’re tracking what RFPs, whose ball in court is it?

David Swider:

I saw with yours as well, right? You’ve got a whole list of what ball in court, where is it, what items are left? What are we ticking off? Right? Same thing here. Those without that kind of knowledge, unfortunately, if you’re a sub, it’s not, “Hey, I’m going to get on those tools.” Or, “I’m going to get left.” You’re already behind, right? If you are that non-tool. Or I guess, you are a tool. But you are that non-tool in that collaborative space, if you’re not able to get your information in and out.

David Swider:

I mean, even if it’s as bad as import export, at least being able to get the data where it needs to go, we call that the data bus, right? Connecting. It doesn’t matter what you need in your landscape. And I think that even tips it off a little bit more. And I don’t want to digress too far here, but that’s also what a collective…

David Swider:

We started out the call on what a collective platform does for you, right? Is it doesn’t seek to take out money that you’ve already invested good or bad in a tool that may be working for you. Right? What it does is it says, “How do I get the data, even if it is, my sub who might be great?” I mean, let’s face it, they’re subs because they know their trade. It came down from family. They should be proud, right? Because they don’t know your or my tool shouldn’t have an impact. However, we have to help them.

David Swider:

So, our tools have to help the ones that are not able to do it, so that we can get the data that we need to help them bring along. So, I’m finding a lot of ours are looking more toward that. And the ones who are definitely, “I’m not going to do it. I think they’re going to see a tough road to home, to be candid.

David Swider:

I mean, there’s not any real sizzle there. Right? It doesn’t mean that anybody has to get rid of it. But the companies that should earn a company’s business, a client’s business, are the ones who just go back to listening. I can’t tell you how many times Mike, I hear vendors say, “Oh, well, what keeps you up at night?” As a client advisor for my clients, if I’m asking that company on, what’s keeping them up at night, because I should already know what’s keeping them up at night. I already should already have an idea or an understanding of where they’re going to find those blind spots.

David Swider:

And at the very least what I am going to do, as opposed to just delivering a platform with connected end points and say, “Look, we connected one more.” I’m going to do a little bit more of a listening. Right? I’m going to take that listening approach and say to your point, you called it the whys, right? Why is it keeping you up? I know what’s keeping you up, but why is it? Is it because you don’t have the tools here? Is it because you’re getting stuck here? Right.

David Swider:

And that goes back to your, again, great questions you’re asking Mike, because that goes back up to your KPIs thing, right? EVP, your earned value. What are you measuring? I can tell you, what’s keeping you up at night. Let me look at a handful of what we’re measured. And I’ll tell you right then and there, I can help you identify where you’re having blind spots. And I don’t say, take out the technology. I’m just going to show you where it is and let’s figure out why we can’t get to that number.

David Swider:

And let’s just start there. For me, it’s incremental changes. It’s not a rip and replace. And I got to throw a whole big platform and a collaboration at it. No. It’s let’s start with, where are you getting bit? Right? Why are you getting that? And then once you have those answers, as a good vendor, or as a good partner, in my case, as an advisor, what I do is I look at my clients and I listen to what they’re saying and say, “Hey, this is what I see. And now, let’s look at what’s in your landscape. Let’s figure out who the people are that are involved with the why. And let’s figure out the products that are involved with the why, and then solve.”

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I’m sitting here thinking, as you’re speaking, sometimes they have some of the right tools. Maybe they just need one other bolt, or maybe they need to swap one for four. Maybe they got four things that are underutilized, that don’t integrate, that aren’t working and collaborating. And they could replace that with one that does, and it may bring everything together. So, like you said, it’s not necessarily rip and replace in a lot of cases, it’s more, let’s assess what we already have in the toolbox and see how we can more effectively utilize those, and then get even, so that we can get them.

David Swider:

That’s where rubber really does meet the road in my opinion, when we see it, right? It’s not about more technology. It’s just about the right technology, connecting the technology that is working for you. And again, being able to leverage that for your project outcomes.

Mike Merrill:

Love it. Well, so let’s shift gears just a little bit, and I just wanted to ask you more of a personal question, if that’s okay.

David Swider:

Sure. Wait a minute. I didn’t get that on the front one. Go ahead.

Mike Merrill:

I’m not going to ask you about your-

David Swider:

Yeah. We’ve been to a lot of Vegas shows that you know lets be careful. Go ahead.

Mike Merrill:

No, Greasewood Flats stories.

David Swider:

Yeah. Exactly.

Mike Merrill:

So, what’s something that you’re grateful for in your professional life? Is there one thing that you really just are so thankful for?

David Swider:

Well, that’s a good one. Yeah. I started to say from how far back I’ve come, right? If I look at my career over the years, it’s always been an orange tree, number one. So, I don’t know a lot of folks who’ve had it, but from 1989 to here, I’ve been on the construction technology side, some family involved, but on the construction technology side for all of these years. And I’ve eaten a fair amount of rubber chicken and shoe leather stakes at industry events. Right? But the value of that is what I’ve been able to learn at those meetings from those industry best practices along the way over 20 years.

David Swider:

And again, fortunate to be aligned with our parent, Kiewit, who brings a tremendous amount of visibility and breadth of knowledge and experience. What’s that helped me with is it’s almost like an ongoing doctoral education for me. Right? From always being accelerated to the next level because if I’m grateful, I’m surrounded in my entire professional life to have been around people who were smarter than I am, who know the industry better than I do, who’ve allowed me to come and experience their bid days and their job sites, and walk on and see the problems. I couldn’t ask for it. I couldn’t speak the way I do or have the knowledge I have if I didn’t have those people around me throughout my career.

David Swider:

So, if I’m thinking about the grateful, I’d say it’s for having the level of really, really bright people, experienced people in our industry, taking me along the way for the journey.

Mike Merrill:

I love that. Yeah. That’s great. I can relate to that as well. So, what’s David Swider superpower?.

David Swider:

Oh, geez. Super power, I wasn’t going for that. Maybe the dovetailing off of the last one is maybe I’d say I’m a dynamite. If you have to be super, you have to put it in reflexive in there, a diagnostician. I don’t even know if that’s a word. That’s a Jersey word maybe.

Mike Merrill:

Works to me.

David Swider:

But what it is, is over those 30 years, what it has done Mike is, and for you as well, right? And I’m not saying that many years, but is it lets us see what the good companies do really well and what the poor companies do, maybe not as well. Right? And now, because I’ve had the experience, and that enables me to go ahead and reach out to those prospective clients, where I can really just simply sit down and drive the questions. Right? It’s still old school for me.

David Swider:

There’s many tools that are out there in the LinkedIns and all of that. For me, it’s still the same good old listening, right? Why is that thing keeping you up? Why are you not seeing what you need for that KPI? Why are your jobs not landing ahead of schedule or on schedule, and on budget? And I can ask it without intent. Right?

David Swider:

A lot of times you get now, especially because everybody has got a solution that everybody can sell, everyone wants to ask that question knowing, “Oh, but here’s how I can solve it. But here’s what I can do to help you.”

Mike Merrill:

It’s a loaded question.

David Swider:

Yeah. I get to come back as a diagnostic guy and be able to do a little bit more of that, “Well, here’s what I’m hearing you tell me. Here’s what I’m seeing in your workflow. I know these are the real workflows because I’ve been doing it for 30 years.” So, I don’t have to worry about whose logo, right? “Oh, well, we’re using your competitor.” “Hey, great. Good for you. Right. Let’s go ahead and see. Now, is your competitor able to get the data into this part of your business that’s suffering right now? If it’s not, let’s figure that out. Right? What can we do to fix that?” To your point, modular solution, someone who can listen and advocate for the client solution, not just for, I’m looking to rip and replace and throw a whole new platform and ask you for a percent of revenue, right? That’s not, I think what’s led to my sustainability over 30 years in this industry. And I’m sure to be the last one with anybody who’s listening, they’ll never want to see me again at the show, but that’s just the passion, that has and you get that.

David Swider:

So, I guess a superpower would be the dynamite diagnostician. And I have to write that down. Maybe John can check and see if that’s really even an English word.

Mike Merrill:

Put that on the business card, right?

David Swider:

Yeah. It’s a swaggerism. To see if I get that trending.

Mike Merrill:

I love that.

David Swider:

So, what do you think? Mike, wait, tell me what yours. Now wait, I gave you mine, but other than being able to do a Jean-Claude Van Damme, completely vertical split from a vertical stance up three feet off the ground, what’s your super power?

Mike Merrill:

I can do that, but that’s probably, I hope that’s not the best thing I’ve got to offer planet earth or the industry. I would say I just care. I really do want to help and make an impact, help others to find improvement and progress. And you I think that served me well for, like you almost, 30 years now of construction experience. And I think that’s how contractors are, we’re builders. We want to build something. We want to do something that’s impactful and that’s long standing, and that’s firm, that’s going to withstand the weather and the storm, so to speak. So, I think for me, I just care about what I’m putting my time and effort, and my passion into, very much like you, I think.

David Swider:

Yeah. I think it is. Right. So, hopefully, we both can enjoy continued success down the pathway.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. So, very last thing. If there’s one takeaway from our conversation today, what would you have the listeners part with?

David Swider:

Well, Mike, let me again, thank you for having me on. I know I’m a little windy. I appreciate it. I talk fast, but everybody else just listens slow. But is simply having a collaborative platform, doesn’t get you there, right? The companies that should earn our listeners’ trust are the ones who really do listen, right? Who do really see to your point, help somebody else succeed, help the industry get there. It’s not sizzle. It’s not flashy. But it truly is the purest form of serving the client, so that shouldn’t have to worry about what keeps them up at night, right? They shouldn’t have to need to worry about that, because they know they’ve got the tools in place that will help them tomorrow, no matter what obstacle. Let’s face, it’s going to come. Tomorrow, it’s not going to be what it was when I went to bed at night.

David Swider:

So, being able to know that they can handle it because they have the right environment, that’s the takeaway. Right? Partner with somebody who can bring that level of education or that level of servitude, I think would be more of what I would tell guys to do and ladies, not just, “Oh, let’s pick out a platform for the sake of everybody else who’s on that platform.” Or, “Let’s pick out tools because we need the tool.” Seek to understand that workflow and where those areas for increased efficiency are, and then plug the hole with that. You may find, like you said, you’re taking away four tools that you don’t need, or you may just be adding one that maybe boosts everybody. Right? So, all the tools in your landscape. So, that would be what I’d say. It’s old school, 50 years ago, goes back to just the, build a relationship by listening and not listening with intent, just listening to understand what they’re saying, not with the intention to sell something.

Mike Merrill:

Well said. Well, thank you. I very much enjoyed the conversation today, David. I loved having you on.

David Swider:

Hey, Mike, thank you. I look forward to doing it again sometime.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Sounds great. And thank you to listeners for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce Podcast. We had a great conversation today, David and I, and I had a lot of fun. I hope you gained some insightful knowledge and some nuggets that you can take and apply into your business life as well.

Mike Merrill:

If you enjoyed the conversation, please give us a five-star rating and review. We’d love to hear your comments and feedback on the podcast. And most importantly, please share this with your friends and colleagues in the industry. Like you heard David and I both say, we very much care about and have a lot of passion for helping others and other companies, our customers, prospects, and friends in the industry. And so, please again, share this with your colleagues, so that we can not only help you all improve your business, but your life.