Construction Folks Hate Jargon

May 24, 2018

The construction industry is notorious for being behind the curve when it comes to adopting new technology, and I’ve always wondered why. It doesn’t make sense. They’re the industry that will see the most benefit from automation and efficiency, yet they’re always years behind everyone else. It confuses me even more than it should because as a technology partner for the AEC industry, ZenTek Consultants works with a lot of contractors and construction firms and - without exception - they’re all anxious to get their firms up to the leading edge with tech. My own experience denies conventional wisdom here. How is it that my most pro-active technology customers in the industry are noted as lagging behind? 


Well, I was reading an article yesterday and I think I may have found the issue: jargon overload. Listen, I’m not suggesting that construction guys don’t understand tech, these are some of the brightest guys I know, but I spent twenty minutes reading through a trade article (I don’t read slowly, I had to re-read it three times!) trying to figure out what the hell they were talking about. I make my living helping construction firms develop, understand and implement advanced technology, and I was stunned at the sheer amount of double-speak they’re being slammed with in an article targeted at them. Don’t believe me? Here’s a quick example of five “industry terms” I had to Google: 

  • Telematics 

  • Machine Learning 

  • Gamification 

  • Non-Mobile Assets 

  • TIOT 


Ok, I’ll be fair and tell you I do know what most of those are, but should my clients? When did the technology industry forget how to speak English? Why do so many of us speak to the owner of a construction company like he’s CTO for a Silicon Valley tech giant? Can we really be surprised by lack of technology adoption when we won’t even deign to discuss what we’re recommending in understandable terms? Construction folks are experts at (you guessed it!) CONSTRUCTION! They’re not the kind of folks who are going to jump at fancy sounding terms because they’re impressed by a consultant’s vocabulary. Nor are they the type of people to pretend to understand what you mean because they don’t want to look ignorant. I’ve yet to meet anyone in this industry who won’t scowl at you and ask “What kinda made-up babble is that?” 


I make a point of being direct and down to earth with my clients about tech. I explain what it does and how to use it in simple terms. I don’t tell them about Big Data Analytics and Co-Authoring Distributive Opportunities . . . I tell them how to track their costs and share information between field and office. At the end of the day, construction folks aren’t simple people – they’re busy people with a focus on what works vs. what doesn’t, and they don’t have time to play around with pointless verbal games. In my role here at ZenTek, I spend a lot of time consulting and teaching these people how to make money using the right technology, and helping to simplify their workflows. This is an industry hungry for technology answers, they’re just being led to it the wrong way. Let’s face it, most construction folks are blue-collar, meat and potato types and our tech elite are peddling them quinoa and mung bean gazpacho . . . it might be good for ‘em but they have no clue what it is, and they ain’t eatin’ it! 


When I consult with folks in this industry I keep something my father told me as a kid firmly in mind. I was a bit of an arrogant nerd, who loved the sound of his own voice and I regularly frustrated everyone around me. My old man, who was a construction executive, shook his head at me and said: “Jimmy, stop using ten words where one will work. It doesn’t make you sound smart, it makes you annoying!” Wise words from a wise man . . . and I’ve learned to live by them. That’s why ZenTek has no problem moving our clients forward in the tech game. We just tell it like it is, in words anyone can understand. 


- Jim Coppinger

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