Construction firms are putting an increased focus on technology in all areas of operations, according the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Sage Construction and Real Estate’s 2017 Construction Industry Hiring and Business Outlook. AGC and Sage released survey results and information from its report last week during a media conference call.

“With competition heating up for both projects and qualified staff, construction companies are relooking at how technology can help them meet these challenges head on,” said Sage vice president and general manager Jon Witty, who participated in the call. “Contractors are not only increasing their investment in information technology (IT), they are becoming more strategic about securely applying IT to all aspects of their business.”

According to the Outlook, 40 percent of contractors say their IT investments will increase in 2017, and 77 percent report they currently have an overall IT plan in place to prevent against hacking. Forty-seven percent of contractors indicate that they currently have a formal IT plan that supports business objectives. This is up from last year, when 42 percent said they had a formal plan in place. An additional 7 percent of contractors say they plan to create a formal IT plan this year.

Witty said 44 percent of contractors “use or plan to use cloud-based software because it provides access to information anytime and anywhere, especially important for improving communication on the jobsite.” Meanwhile, a combined 24 percent of contractors use or plan to use cloud-based software to address IT concerns such as redundancy and disaster recovery, built-in security, reduced IT costs and faster implementation. Only 15 percent do not use or plan to use cloud-based software, down from 23 percent last year.

Email, used by 91 percent of respondents, and file-sharing sites such as Dropbox, used by 76 percent, are still contractors’ predominant methods for collaborating with project partners. However, more sophisticated online collaboration software has been adopted by 49 of respondents, up from 40 percent a year ago.

“Increased competition for jobs appears to be driving more adoption of software tools aimed at obtaining work,” added Witty, noting that 69 percent of firms report they use estimating/bidding software to help obtain work. Additionally, 43 percent of firms use social media to support their marketing efforts, an 11-percent increase from the 2016 Outlook. One-quarter use client relationship management software, while 23 percent use marketing/business development software. Eleven percent use sales software to obtain work.