An app is no longer just a fun tool to do quick calculations at the jobsite or check the schedule. Apps are becoming more integral to the daily operations of a construction business and are more commonly integrating with backend systems to improve day-to-day operations on a job. However, as this happens, increased risk and security concerns become present.

Apps for construction can range from everything including general productivity apps for file sharing and collaboration, to specific apps for RFIs (requests for information), punchlists, photos, and more, to connected apps that take advantage of location-based technologies and embedded connectivity.

The end goal of app deployment for many construction companies is typically to get at the data and ultimately improve job costing, project management, asset management, forecasting, and other processes on a construction project.

This could be why one of the trends is moving toward mobile application development that leverages the cloud to integrate with backend systems. However, there are some risks inherent with this trend, according to Gartner, www.gartner.com, Stamford, Conn.

With the increased demand for mobile applications, non-IT developers are increasingly seeking out ways to develop apps for business, says Gartner. The challenge for IT becomes managing the security and use of corporate data between mobile applications, enterprise systems, and the cloud.

Gordon Van Huizen, research director, Gartner, says the advent of custom app development combined with cloud services and access to enterprise systems will enable non-developers to build apps that take advantage of corporate data with cloud-based services and storage. He cautions the industry, though, that this move toward non-IT professionals developing apps presents a risk to security.

Due to this, it becomes vital for construction businesses to develop policies related to cloud services. These policy considerations and requirements are going to differ from one construction company to the next.

For example, Project Manager Chad Kunkel says Haskell, www.haskell.com, Jacksonville, Fla., allows employees to explore what is available in the marketplace and share experiences via an internal form. With this form, team members can indicate what they like, what they don’t like, and thoughts. When a particular app works well, it is shared and gradually makes its way throughout the company.

Kunkel says the company does not, however, require managers to use a particular app. As he says, there are different applications for different personality types. This gives the company the ability to find what makes each individual a stronger manager.

In general, apps are making data more accessible at the jobsite. In the end, good app usage revolves around policies established by each construction company.

Interested in learning more about the role apps play in the construction industry and trends to keep an eye on for the future? Check out the cover story in the May/June  issue of Constructech, which focuses on the role of mobile apps in construction.