Transformative Tech: Eliminating Construction Silos with Day 2+, Part 1
What is Day 2+? Join Executive Chairman of STOBG, Jim Donaghy, SVP of Technical Operations, Steve Neeson, and Structure Tone New York’s Director of Special Projects, Marc DeLuca as they explore how this cutting-edge platform will transform the construction process, the roles of project team members, and the way CMs collaborate with clients and partners. (Part 1 of 2)
Stephen NeesonSenior VP, Technical Operations, STO Building Group
James DonaghyExecutive Chairman, STO Building Group
Marc DeLucaDirector of Special Projects, Structure Tone New York
Welcome to Building Conversations, a construction podcast powered by the STO Building Group. On today’s episode, Senior Vice President of Technical Operations at STOBG, Steve Neeson, speaks with the organization’s Executive Chairman, Jim Donaghy, and Structure Tone New York’s Director of Special Projects Marc DeLuca, about the data and communication silos that plague productivity in construction, and how a new multi-tenant enterprise software known as Day 2+ is offering a solution. For more information about Day 2+, you can visit their website, daytwoplus.comGo to https://www.daytwoplus.com/, or contact STOBG’s own technical operations specialist, Steve Neeson.
Steve Neeson (01:00):
All right. Hey everybody. Welcome to Building Conversations. Steve Neeson here, Senior VP of Tech Ops with STO Building Group, and today I’m joined by STOBG, Executive Chairman Jim Donaghy and Structure Tone New York Director of Special Projects, Marc DeLuca. We’re going to talk about a topic that’s always been more than a little bit of a challenge in our industry. It’s about our approach to exploring and implementing not only disruptive technology, but business processes that really improve and enhance our industry. So, with that, thank you guys for joining me today. This is my first podcast, so I’m excited to be here. Would you mind giving us and the audience just a little bit about yourselves and a little bit about your background?
Marc DeLuca (01:47):
Sure. Yep. Thanks for having me today, Steve. I’m Marc DeLuca, Director of New York Special Projects for Structure Tone. Just a little career history, I’ve been with Structure Tone pretty much my whole career. I’m a proud intern and RPE. I started on the operational side and shifted into the special projects’ world some years back, so really excited to be here today.
Steve Neeson (02:08):
Jim Donaghy (02:09):
Jim Donaghy. I started in the ’80s. I was a laborer, estimator, plan clerk, superintendent. I worked my way up and became Executive Chairman in 1999. I was involved in our corporate office for a while and I actually was involved in building our first IT systems, hiring the staff over 20 years ago, building some software. Those were exciting times, but nothing compared to today. Also with these new technologies, it’s time for us to really take a look at how we’re taking care of our clients, and that kind of leads us to today.
Steve Neeson (02:40):
So, tech’s in your blood.
Jim Donaghy (02:42):
In a way it has been, yeah.
Steve Neeson (02:44):
All right. So, construction’s always had a reputation, and still does, of being a little slow to adopt new technology. Clearly the landscape has been changing very rapidly over the last number of years. So, Jim, you grew up on jobsites. You said you started in the ’80s. Is it a fair characterization of our industry?
Jim Donaghy (03:06):
I think it is. The industry has relied on long-term growth, and superintendent 30 years ago would be told, you might, if you work hard for 20 years, become a project manager. And it was a long ladder to the top. Today, I think of the industry as much more of a jungle gym. There’s a lot more roles out there, different types of supers. Companies like ours have become diverse. We work on a lot of different types of projects, but the industry still relies quite a bit on handing down knowledge and sharing knowledge in a mentoring kind of way. And worse, I think in terms of how we’ve been impacted in a negative matter, is the software organizations, big software companies have been solving for us in a way that’s really not an advantage any longer. We’re in disparate systems, causing data to be really displaced, disjointed, and we’ve given a lot of thought in the last decade to how to change that. We’re now a couple years in, developing a solution that really is kind of the most powerful of its kind, change in how software can be beneficial to a construction company, and then also changing the way data flows. So, we’re really excited about what’s at play here.
Steve Neeson (04:19):
Thanks, Jim. So, we’re eventually going to get to where we are today, but you know, technology has come a long way since I joined the industry. I also started in the ’80s. You know, there are still things that we do in the industry that we’ve done for hundreds of years—chalk lines and tape measures and things like that, that we just can’t seem to get beyond and adopt as a broad spectrum. So, I remember being in the industry and we were adopting technologies that were available to everybody. So, the fax machine was revolutionary and changed the way we communicated on jobsites, sped up how information could be transferred. The Blackberry, you know, revolutionized the ability to communicate with lots of people in a quick fashion. And so, it wasn’t specifically built for us in construction. It was built for general use, and we capitalized on that in existence, and it seems today we have much better opportunity. So, can you guys just talk a little bit about what role technology has played in your evolution in the industry?
Marc DeLuca (05:27):
Yeah, so from my perspective, being in this for about 10 years, what I’ve seen really adapt is just a flood of project management software really with no rhyme or reason at the time. Many have came and gone at this point, but I think the question we have to really ask ourselves, and especially in the role that I have at Structure Tone New York, is are they really innovating? Are they really solving a problem? And are they really catering to our business in terms of servicing a smaller to medium sized clientele and really purpose and focused on executing that style of work.
Steve Neeson (06:02):
Jim, anything to add there?
Jim Donaghy (06:03):
Yeah, when you look at working in triplicate, my first management role was in the proceed order department, which was the change order group inside operations at the time, believe it or not, instead of being in estimating. And it was about expediting small work orders for our clients in the field, and everything was in triplicate. Forms would be sent out through interoffice. I mean, pretty comical if you think about how inefficient, how slow, how disparate the way we communicate is and how we sit and wait as an industry and then actually start searching for information when we feel like we’ve waited too long. It’s comical, and our systems could serve us so much better and different, but there’s been quite a few. Um, you know, the iPhone was a good example of, when we broke away from Blackberries and then the apps came out and the world changed its mindset about how we can have very unique solutions for very small things in life, like hailing a taxi. And then there’s also the Moneyball factor. A lot of folks have seen the movie Moneyball, see how data can really come into play and how you might change how you think about a whole game being played, baseball in this case. Our industry has got the same opportunity in it to change dramatically, transformationally, by selecting some better software, setting software up alongside a service organization like ours to deliver something that’s far more powerful than what our clients have been getting in the past.
Steve Neeson (07:27):
Outstanding. So that kind of segues into, and almost covers my next question that we talked about is we tend to focus on technology and gadgets and sometimes we suffer from the shiny new penny syndrome, but we’re really looking for solutions to business challenges and processes. So, Jim, can you explain to us what Day 2+ is?
Jim Donaghy (07:51):
Day 2+ is a company that was started by Alex Rothman and Mike Rothman, who are multi-exit entrepreneurs, headquartered out of Chicago. I met them through a mutual client who has been working with them for quite a few years on what we would call as a maintenance repair operations software platform that they, Mike and Alex, have rolled out a company called SMS Assist that they built working in many thousands of locations. So, they’ve really perfected the logistics and trade side of our industry. They figured out the multi-subcontractor, multi-discipline aspects to construction management and in partnering now with STO Building Group, have perfected the larger scale commercial aspects to on-call maintenance work in commercial properties.
Steve Neeson (08:43):
So, Marc, I’m actually going to throw this to you. How do you see the things that we’re discussing today as more transformative for the way we manage work for customers and that value-add proposition and how that changes with what we’re talking about today?
Marc DeLuca (08:58):
Yeah, great question. So, the industry has just gotten faster in general. Clients’ needs being and there for them. The software that we’re talking about has the opportunity to really revolutionize, and take days off of timelines in terms of really getting something in place for a client that starts from the, the CM level all the way through, you know, down to the subcontractor and even client approvals and such. In today’s world, as we currently see it, it could take two, three, four days to turn around some sort of pricing. When we’re all in one platform working together, one team, transparency at all angles, and the historical data that comes with it, the speed that comes from that really becomes a differentiator, a game changer in changing a job that may have taken five days, that should be done over a weekend into collectively maybe one to two days to and has the real power to change that. And in turn, small service work really revolutionizes that, from how we’re doing it today.
Steve Neeson (09:58):
Excellent. Thanks for sharing that. Jim, anything you want to add there in terms of how this approach makes things more intuitive for our teams to really deliver? And to the point we’ve discussed, is more of a seamless universe where everybody’s engaging.
Jim Donaghy (10:16):
Yeah. If technology is rebuilt, which we’ve done here with the Day 2+ software, where every keystroke from a project, or a portfolio, or a particular building is captured in a way that has been thought through about how useful can this data be, not only for the current project and transactions, but for the ongoing running, ongoing maintenance of a property or a facility, then you really have something that’s different. So, the total cost of operations for our clients, typically general contractors and CMs, we go after a project, and quite often it’s the really glamorous projects that we pursue as an industry. But not as many contractors are chasing the less glamorous, which is the nighttime jobs, the weekend jobs, the on-call maintenance, taking care of all those assets that are installed in these headquarter spaces, the emergency work, you know, the break and fix, the small moves, adds and changes.
Jim Donaghy (11:09):
So, when we get a better idea into the lifecycle ownership from the client on what does it take, what does it cost historically to run their facilities or partner with them to create that plan. And we join forces for multi-year, say three years or five years at a time with them bringing this technology and data solution with us, you really see a reduction in the people required that are typically there, their role includes searching for data, researching background, and backup for pricing, participating in organizing information that’s passing up from the subcontractors upwards or from the design teams downwards. But now you’re not going up or down or looking for anything. You’re actually all virtually keystroking in the same virtual room. And not only that, but you’re capturing the data to reuse it again. So, for example, if a submittal came up in a building that, you know, it’s the same ceiling tile for the 20th time, why are we submitting? The word submitting bothers me because that’s inefficient.
Jim Donaghy (12:10):
Why are we submitting, why aren’t we just verifying from a live electronic library of submittals from the past? So, we can look at the submittal and see that, oh, this has been submitted 20 times, it’s been approved 19 – one time with notes. So, it’s always getting approved, and it always happens, always gets approved within three days that knowledge should be passed along. It should be easily accessible. So, teams are not standing around thinking about things that have already been solved in the past. So, the recreation of the wheel concept in construction goes away. The reliance on somebody, oh yeah, talk to Mary. She’s been here for 10 years; she knows how to get that or do that. That goes away. And the knowledge also is transferred from the Mary’s, or the Joe’s that have been on the account for 20 years, or 10 years or five years, gets transferred down by the data being captured. So, we’re not reliant on individuals and what people may know from an experience point of view, and the total cost of ownership for the client gets collapsed. You could see what might have been 20 people to run a facility, go down to 10. And that’s very realistic on our side, the contractor side. With all these technologies in play, we’re going to see a reduction in our head count or time required, therefore giving us the chance to expand to a larger workload with the same team. So, it’s kind of exciting on all fronts.
Steve Neeson (13:23):
Marc DeLuca (13:23):
Yeah, I think to just add to that as well, you look at some of our clients today who could be running a portfolio or a program of facilities-type projects, maintenance projects, you know, some of the clients that I work with today could have over 200 projects at any given time and the utilization of this type of technology, they can check into any project anywhere at any time and see exactly what the team is seeing from subcontractor to construction manager. And the strength of that is seeing that through an app, which is our world today. So, app-based, touch iPhone, right there for anyone to see at any time, which is really not something that we have today.
Steve Neeson (14:05):
Thanks guys. So, if we could just pivot a second and maybe go back to big picture. So one of the things we’re learning with some of our industry engagements is that the amount of venture capital that is really driving investments in development of new platforms, technologies and, and cutting-edge research that never existed back in the ’80s and ’90s, and it just seems to be the wave today. So, Jim, could you just share some of your thoughts and the vision of how that sort of feeds into how we got here today and in context to Day 2+ and how that connects?
Jim Donaghy (14:48):
Yeah, good question. Billions are now pouring into the construct tech market to solve lots and lots and lots of micro solutions. And there’s also some revolutionary cool stuff out there, the IoT type of stuff, and predictive analytics. There’s quite a bit of discussion today, a very current, new trend as the AI side of data, which I’m excited about the potential of that. But it starts with the amount of money flowing. And so really, really smart money has gone to other industries for the last 10 to 20 years on the back of the internet growth. And then there was the iPhone and the apps. The remote computing growth has caused a revolution across a lot of other industries. Industries such as manufacturing, and in the airline industry, the automotive industry are several steps more advanced than where we are.
Jim Donaghy (15:35):
But when you think about our industry trying to figure out modular construction, offsite construction, you can see that our industry really wants to solve in a similar way. Well technology today, what all these power BI type of user interface and visualization tools and tech firms and internal IT groups wanting to get away from disparate systems, relying on middleware type of systems where you have an end-to-end multi-tenant type of solution. There’s a possibility of that, which is what Day 2+ is. You start to see how streamlining from the end to end. So, from the design down to the supplier, the supplier back, all the way up through the contractor, up to the client, speeding up decisions, you’re really talking about a revolutionary type of advancement. The construct-tech industry is being accelerated by these venture capitalists. They’re very smart. They’ve had quite a few successes, quite a few failures, but that’s the venture capital private equity world.
Jim Donaghy (16:30):
And they’re now targeting our industry like I’ve never seen before. And we are able to talk to the Autodesks and the Microsofts and the Oracles and others differently today that, Hey, we have other solutions out there. There’s other opportunities for us to go elsewhere for our solutions. We’re asking them to speed up expanding their solutions that we’ve been traditionally working in to incorporate a more end-to-end approach. We’re not seeing that successfully yet. I’m a little frustrated by the fact that when you do sign up for one of these major software companies, you’re signing up to be in a silo, and then you’re going to have to worry about the, APIs and to other software and engineers working together to keep data flowing behind the scenes. That to me, isn’t not ideal. I love the idea of a single end-to-end entity, and that’s what Day 2+ is.
Steve Neeson (17:17):
So, in the industry today, it seems that everybody is looking for those insights, the things we never could put our fingers on before. And the drive to consistent and data one source of truth, it seems that Day 2+ is going to lead us in that direction. And it’s really about information on demand for the entire team, so everybody’s seeing the same information. So, it starts to erode sort of different biases towards what information we’re looking at. So, how else do you see, Marc, that Day 2+ solves some of these consistent day-to-day issues? I know we’re going to talk about a little bit of your case study, but before we jump into that, maybe just bigger picture.
Marc DeLuca (18:00):
Yeah. I think one thing I’ve seen, just being a part of the, the team here for a decent amount of time, over a year, you know, in our kind of current project structure, one thing that is always challenging is just communication, transparency, managing expectations, making sure that the client is understanding in real time what’s going on. This platform gives us that. You still need to have those conversations and talk it through in a personalized manner. But as I mentioned, if there’s a client somewhere, anywhere, really, you know, at any time maybe they can’t get ahold of me, they can definitely take a look at what’s going on, so communication, especially in a world with we’re living in now, it’s gotten a little bit better on supply chain, you know, tracking where certain things are, as we mentioned, submittal workflow, but ball in court, really one team under one roof and really all charging to the same goal, which is a successful project at the end. And this really just helps push that initiative forward even more.
Steve Neeson (18:58):
And how do you see the scalability of a solution like this from continuing services, facilities, projects to maybe small projects similar to what your special projects group handles?
Marc DeLuca (19:10):
Yeah, absolutely. Look, I don’t think they’re all that different at the end of the day, right? You still have a client, you still have a budget, you still have a goal that you need to get to at the end of the project. So, there’s absolutely a ton of potential there to be able to get to that next step. and honestly, at the end of the day, I would even argue to some that some of the smaller projects could be even more challenging than some of the larger projects. You really need to get people’s attention. You need people to focus, and we’re really leveraging technology here to be able to do that. Really relying on that ball in court, that triggering of next steps of, you know, who’s holding this now, that should make us up more efficient than picking up the phone right now, picking up an iPhone and calling somebody 10 times and leaving an email. We’re all in one platform. All communication should be running through that platform. And really, that should be your world on these small projects. It should be popping up on the screen and hitting you right in the face as to who has the next step? Or how are we driving the ball forward?
Steve Neeson (20:05):
Outstanding. And, and one of the things we’ve talked about before is just the whole engagement with the owner, client, user so that their dashboarding is available to them in real time 24/7, no matter where geographically they’re located. So, I think it changes the game where we still, we don’t feel the need to be someplace in order to really understand what’s happening with my projects. So, this gives the clients a leverage tool. It says, Hey, everywhere in my portfolio, I can see what’s happening at any point in time. Is that a fair statement?
Jim Donaghy (20:39):
Steve, that’s a great statement. And it’s a hot button in the market. The reason why is because of remote work. We all know during the pandemic what happened. Quite a few of the consultants did not want to come back to the jobsites for safety reasons. And those in the field looking for answers were challenged to get the information they needed to build and maintain speed and maintain momentum on-site. Today, we’re long past the pandemic, but there’s still those who now work in a remote work-type of structure, and there are different organizations. Timing couldn’t be better to have a tool that allows companies to have their employees be much more effective remotely. Now, I just had a consultant recently this week tell me about how he demanded everybody to be back to the site.
Jim Donaghy (21:26):
Couldn’t believe the amount of unanswered questions that are ongoing on their project. And I smiled and laughed. I said, you know, that’s pretty much a common problem my whole career in the industry, trying to get information in a timely manner. His frustration boiled over. He demanded everybody be back physically once a week, back into the old-fashioned weekly meeting. He wanted everybody present. And I said, you know, I wish I had you on 100% of our jobs, because then a lot of the disparate information, slow answering, would be solved for. But is that realistic in today’s world? You know, probably not. I do hope that he continues to win work, and we get to be on his projects where people are more physically next to each other on a steady diet. But even that’s only two hours a week.
Jim Donaghy (22:08):
It’s not 24/7. So, I’m not sure what will ever be better than having a tool where everybody’s virtually in the same room. And the system is working where you’re end-to-end elbow to elbow virtually with the data flowing in a very transparent manner where everybody has the view they need to complete their tasks on a daily diet. So, it’s a task-driven, decision-driven tool, yet the most data you’ll ever have access to in your whole career will be in this system. As it gets used more and more and more on a facility, a portfolio, etc., the more and more data’s being collected and provided as a reference point for why you’re deciding, you know, is that schedule appropriate? Is that price the right price? Is there enough backup? Who has performed well here? Or what’s the historical performance of all the different providers on the project?
Jim Donaghy (22:50):
It’s all in there. The score carding side of this is tremendous. It’s an Uber-type of score carding system on steroids, because it’s got an algorithm that reflects not only the performance in terms of starting and finishing tasks on time, but also how often is the provider the low price or the right price, and safety records and all kinds of other score carding. So, when you’re picking the suppliers for a project, the subcontractors for a project, you’re also picking using their past historical performance on the scorecard that’s provided in the system. So, lots of cool new things that are going to change how the team comes together more effectively, even with the remote situation that we’re all finding today.
For more on Day 2+, listen to part two of this conversation in the next episode on the Building Conversations podcast feed.