Digital transformation takes time, especially in the traditional world of construction. Siôn Geschwindt sat down with Ollie McGovern, chief commercial officer at Causeway, to talk about digital journeys and how the company helps its customers take their first steps
Headquartered in Buckinghamshire, Causeway Technologies was founded in 1999 by Phil Brown and provides software solutions for the design, build, operation, and maintenance of the built environment.
With 2,800 customers, over 400 employees, and upwards of 60,000 suppliers on its Tradex platform, it is one of the largest construction software companies in the country.
Causeway’s core purpose? to digitally enable the construction industry and ensure that data flows seamlessly across the construction process…
Is construction still lagging behind in its adoption of digital tech?
As we all know, construction has traditionally been slow to adopt digital technologies.
That said, I’ve seen more construction tech startups in the last two years that in the previous 15 combined, and I think that’s indicative of broader industry trends.
Within our customer base, there is a clear disparity between different companies. Some are in the advanced stages of their digital journey, while others haven’t even started. Often, these are highly successful companies with similar profiles – they are just doing things in completely different ways.
We’ve also got a number of customers, particularly at the enterprise level, that have digital tools to solve point solution problems, but struggle to consolidate all that information.
So from my experience it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
What’s holding contractors back?
Let’s use the example of mid-market contractors. These mainly family-owned businesses have a lot of smart people working for them and they make good money. But they also know the value of the pound, and don’t want to make risky investments.
Some are also very cautious about adopting technologies that could impact the behaviour of their workforce. Particularly with onsite operational tools, it’s not as simple as adopting new technology and calling it a day. It requires a cultural shift. You often hear people say, ‘I’ve done it this way for 20 years, so why would I change now?’
And in many ways I can understand their thinking. Given the backdrop of labour shortages and rising costs, as a project manager it’s hard enough getting people onsite, let alone keeping them there. Introducing new technology might just complicate things and force workers to go elsewhere – to another company that does things ‘the way they’ve always been done.’
That’s really one of the biggest obstacles to the adoption of digital technologies in the construction industry.
How do you help contractors take their first digital steps?
At Causeway we try and understand the unique requirements of each customer and where they are at on their digital journey.
You can’t be just sat in your office building out solutions that don’t have customer experience at their core – that’s how you’ll fail. If we offer a client with a low level of digitisation an advanced solution, they’re likely to get overwhelmed and just go back to the way they did it before. That’s why we try to lean in and listen as best we can.
Patience is key. You’re only going to make a real impact if you stick around and guide the customer along the journey and help them overcome challenges on the way. I think customers appreciate that level of loyalty.
How has the pandemic impacted these digital journeys?
Across the breadth of our solutions, the response has been mixed.
Our e-Invoicing software, Causeway Tradex, did very well. Before the lockdown, most invoices were sent to the office via post, but once our customers started working remotely they needed a way of digitising that process.
On the flip side, the Causeway Donseed biometric labour management solution didn’t do so well. It deals with onsite attendance, which obviously thinned out considerably during the lockdown, and once workers returned to site, there were hygiene concerns around the use of fingerprint technology.
We also work with such a broad range of customers – from suppliers to owners and contractors – so there was a lot of variation across that spectrum.
The way infrastructure is planned, built, and managed, and the legislation surrounding this process, has changed dramatically. From our perspective, COVID forced us to adapt to rapid industry shifts and be even more responsive to the needs of our customers.
Why did you acquire Yotta?
Unlike a lot of businesses, we haven’t diversified to other sectors. We’re a mile deep in construction – that is our focus.
But increasingly we found that we needed an end-to-end solution. And that’s where Yotta comes in. Yotta is a UK-based market leader in asset management for local authorities.
They have two key solutions for the strategic and operational management of a public asset like a highway: Alloy and Horizons. Horizons manages the strategic term of that asset – what it is going to do over the next 10 years. Then Alloy manages the operations of that asset.
Causeway at our core deal with work management, cost management, and value management, but not asset management. And that’s really what Yotta bring to the table. They allow us to deliver a complete solution for both contractors and local authorities, improving the management of critical public infrastructure.
What is your long-term vision?
Over the coming years, we look to expand our cloud platform, grow our customer base, and branch out into new markets. But more specifically we are planning to build out a new platform that allows our customers to benefit from our services all in one place.
As I touched on earlier, we’ve got a number of customers that have digital tools for specific problems, but nothing that consolidates all that information from across the construction lifecycle.
It is our hope that this platform will integrate all of our solutions – from design to asset management – with the overall goal of digitising site operations, connecting the supply chain, and increasing the productivity of the entire industry.
While I can’t say too much at this point, we are also working with some of our customers to deliver a net carbon solution.
Overall, we’re genuinely excited about the potential of digitisation to bring about more sustainable and efficient outcomes for the sector.
Image: Ollie McGovern, CCO at Causeway (credit: Causeway)
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