How Online Social Networks, Like SmartInsight for Construction, Are Transforming Professional Collaboration
Think about the most popular online networking platforms; LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, just to name a few. The story usually goes that you start with one account to keep in touch with your friends and post the occasional photo on the weekends. Then eventually you sign up for another account for work to build business relationships. Tack on one more just to stay up to date with daily jokes, news and maybe even try to sell the old lawnmower that’s been sitting in the garage. Before you know it, your life has become completely intertwined with everyone and everything going on throughout the internet. Cat memes become your new normal.
Now, a new type of social networking is emerging to enhance business management and profitability, while also providing that must-have instant gratification of “personal” connections to consumers and other businesses. Companies like The Business Network by Hubwoo and ChannelPlace help to connect businesses to other businesses through enhanced profiles and match-making algorithms to ensure valuable relationships are built. The Business Network “connects companies, providing comprehensive spend management and business process collaboration for both goods and services.” ChannelPlace helps companies find new partners within their individual industries and integrates them into the existing network of partners that the company already has. This saves them a tremendous amount of time by virtually shaking hands with those who can benefit their efforts the most.
The SmartInsight, a Product of JBKnowledge, Inc., online construction network for searching selecting and verifying contractors, is these emerging online networks that help individuals connect professionally as seamlessly as they can socially. Think of it as a LinkedIn meets Pinterest for the construction industry. SmartInsight is a free to join, versatile technology solution that allows users to keep their construction qualification data organized, all while exploring and building their industry relationships.
The entire philosophy behind SmartInsight is to show potential users the importance of utilizing modern technology to centralize data in order to cultivate relationships. This is achieved by connecting with other professionals in their job sector in order to share information and connect the dots without requiring a fax or email attachment. The more connections that are made with other people who are working towards the same goal will ultimately produce better results than in the past.
While the examples above focus on business to business connections, it’s important to note all of the solutions take cues from the first-mover business to consumer platforms that use some form of the “Uber model.” In short, Uber, is a transportation networking company that allows customers to download their app, create a profile and easily request, pay for and rate drivers to take them to their desired destination. Now imagine taking this same concept and using it to instantly request a plumber to fix a busted pipe or have someone grocery shop for you while you’re sick. Both of those things are currently possible and many more services like Pro, for quick home repairs, and Instacart grocery delivery app, will continue to become available. Tech will continue to create online networks that connect people and goods for collaboration and consumption.
With companies like Uber making everyday tasks easier to accomplish and on-demand, it is important for professionals in all industries to analyze this model of service delivery and not get left behind as their industry begins to evolve as well. Close ties and relationships through platforms like SmartInsight and The Business Network will be vital in order to sell their value and not be replaced by the likes of Amazon or on-demand services. Losses in the construction industry are already being shown from employers and employees not taking the initiative to connect online for project opportunities. According to the Associated General Contractor’s recent study, “83% of construction firms reported trouble filling craft-worker positions such as carpenter, laborer and equipment operator.”
Matt Bergstrom, President of Thornton & Grooms also makes a good point on how the construction industry is starting to change during this age of technological advancement in a recent quote in ArchNews. “Look at what Uber has done in a short period of time to taxi and metro car businesses. Having the Internet in the palm of our hands all the time changes the way we look at things. With the younger generations — especially Generation Z (those born after the millennials) — this is all they’ve known. It’s definitely something we, as contractors, need to pay close attention to and figure out how to harness the benefits.” Once general contractors, estimators and other construction professionals start to understand the benefits of networking services like SmartInsight, the fear of this industry being left behind will soon fade.
Next generation technology is also becoming increasingly vital to engage the emerging workforce of millennials. Wes Simmons, of EQUE2 recently discussed how to attract Generation Z into the construction industry, noting, “Construction companies should be using social media to raise their profile, because if you’re looking to reach young people you must be in the channels they rely on for their view of the world. Online platforms that particularly appeal to Generation Z include Twitter, which is particularly sociable, and LinkedIn which is used by young professionals.” Over the next decade it is estimated that a third of the current construction industry positions will be set to retire, which leaves a big gap to fill for the high tech generations.
So whether you’re busy perfecting your LinkedIn profile for that new job, communicating with hundreds of employees to collaborate on a project, Facebook stalking your more than interesting neighbors or just Instagramming the latest picture of your dog taking a nap, start thinking about the relationships and business connections you’re building with these networks and systems every day. What we access now is only the beginning for social networking and online services, so take every opportunity to try what’s available now so you’re ready for what’s next. Who knows, maybe your SmartInsight profile will go so viral the projects will just build themselves?