Microsoft is still one of the most widely used technology suites in the construction industry. Your company likely uses at least one of the following: Microsoft Project, Microsoft Excel, or Microsoft SharePoint for scheduling, estimating, collaboration, among construction-management processes.

One of Microsoft’s newest announcements could have a great impact on construction. Specifically, Microsoft recently rolled out its new Office 365 offering—which will bring Microsoft to the cloud and make it easier for companies to use Microsoft Office on virtually any device including mobile tablets such as the iPad from Apple.

For construction, Microsoft products are some of the most commonly used applications in the industry. According to a recent survey of Constructech readers, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Project are the second most commonly used platforms in the construction industry for estimating and scheduling, respectively. In addition, products from Microsoft are also commonly used for project management and CRM (customer-relationship management).

In the fall of last year, Microsoft announced Microsoft Office 365, the company’s next generation in cloud productivity that brings together Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online in a cloud service. At the end of June, the company officially released Office 365.

According to Microsoft, Office 365 will make it easier for companies to use Microsoft’s solutions on virtually any device, increasing collaboration within organizations as well as externally.

For construction, this could be a big changing factor in how the industry uses the technology from Microsoft. Being able to access Excel and SharePoint in the cloud will allow contractors to work from virtually anywhere and on almost any device—which is a significant need in the industry today.

As one example, D7 Consulting, www.d7consulting.com, Newport Beach, Calif., a provider of building envelop, roofing, and waterproofing services to the construction industry began using the beta version of Microsoft Office 365 to store documents in the cloud, access documents from anywhere, and communicate through instant messaging and videoconferencing.

Terrell Woods, design and CAD (computer-aided design) specialist, D7 Consulting, says, “Handing documents from person to person was slowing us down. Plus we were plagued with version-control problems.”

With Office 365, all the information is stored in the cloud. Field workers can post notes and photos to team sites in Microsoft SharePoint Online and administrative staff can access and co-author documents simultaneously. In addition, the company uses Microsoft Lync Online in Office 365 to send instant messages between the office and the field, which speeds communication. According to D7 Consulting, the technology has increased productivity and improved customer service.

While there are a number of technology packages designed specifically for construction, Microsoft continues to maintain a strong footing for the construction marketplace. This could be due to tighter economic conditions, as more companies look to products like SharePoint as a low-cost option. Microsoft Office 365 opens up more possibilities for construction companies that are cash strapped but looking for a way to develop a core technology strategy for improving communication and collaboration between the office and the field.

With the heightened movement toward the cloud as well as increased mobility in construction recently, it will be interesting to watch in the next couple months and see how the industry responds to the release of Office 365.