THE PROCORE 2024 GROUNDBREAK CONFERENCE in Chicago’s McCormick Place conference center, September 19-20, brought about 4,000 construction industry professionals to Chicago to discuss construction management technology.
Tooey Courtemanche, Founder and CEO of Procore, kicked off the conference with a keynote focused on Procore’s construction management advancements in their technologies and strongly focused on the theme of transformation. Being a company focused on advancing construction management technology, from pre-construction to closeout, the idea of a digital technology transformation may not sound surprising. However, the complement to a digital technology transformation, emphasized equally by Tooey Courtemanche in his keynote and several additional conference presentations was one of cultural transformation.
A Cultural Crisis in Construction
Courtemanche’s keynote started with an acknowledgment to the host city of Chicago and noting the advanced position the city leads around the built environment led by luminaries such as Jeanne Gang, lead and namesake of Studio Gang in Chicago responsible for the Aqua Tower, which at the time, was the tallest women-designed building in the world, in addition to the more recent and taller St. Regis Chicago tower, among many additional well recognized and awarded projects by the women-lead design firm.
This recognition was quickly followed by forecasting a daunting challenge facing the construction industry around a need for 300 million housing units and USD 57 trillion identified in infrastructure work, and with an aging workforce, 41% of whom will retire from the construction industry by 2031. This, on top of the construction sector, being among the worst for mental health and suicide rates across industries.
This critical introduction underlined the message from Procore about industry transformation, and they intend to lead on both fronts—digital and cultural change. Procore stressed this cultural aspect at several points around their direct support of the “Get Talking” initiative, diversity, and women in construction.
300 million housing units and USD 57 trillion identified in infrastructure work, and with an aging workforce, 41% of whom will retire from the construction industry by 2031.
A “Culture drives business and business drives culture” motto was directly and literally the center focus for the conference, with a Culture Lounge anchoring the exhibit hall. “Thinking differently” and “transforming building into the future” both align with the cultural transformation Procore sees necessary to “meet the next century of building.”
New Products Announced at Groundbreak
During Courtemanche’s keynote, which included several ‘product line” leaders, product announcements highlighted a shared digital and cultural transformation.
The first was a notable technical change that allows all Procore customers to share and collaborate on critical construction documents directly from their own Procore account, greatly reducing double data entry for customers working across multiple projects.
Alongside this shift was the announcement of Procore Copilot, AI-powered for guidance through the platform and paired with partner support from MS Azure. Both account orientation and Copilot became supporting announcements to Procore Connect, opening a new level of collaboration and communication across the platform.
Dave McCool, Director of Product, introduced an advanced 3D takeoff tool and AI-driven 2D takeoff, walking through the bid board, bid leveling, and reconciling from estimate to actuals through the newly AI-enabled Procore Connect platform. This round trip construction management example was essential around the transformative power of a technology-supported iterative process far different and with great potential versus the traditional linear (and often adversarial) process.
The keynote presentation continued with the acquisition announcement of Unearth, a GIS map-based project management tool being integrated into Procore. “Construction happens in time and space,” said Wyatt Jenkins, Chief Product Officer. Demonstrations of GIS-based markups, RFIs, and project reports illustrated the powerful and intentional advances into a spatial/digital twin of the physical project being built and accessible by all stakeholders and evolving to a product called AI Locations, presented by Julian Clayton, Vice President of Product for General Contractors with the Procore product-line to continue to build construction intelligence supported by AI.
Rajitha Chaparala, Vice President of Product, Data and AI, discussed the AI implementation in Procore, further discussing how it might “nudge” the team across project/company policies, benchmarks, and insights that would involve natural language questions and even team conversations suggesting contacts, situations, and/or related locations for resolving project protocols.
She also announced the availability of Procore Conversations for direct messaging through the platform and, in the near future, how Copilot and Conversations will be integrated, teeing up project options and accelerating team solutions for potentially huge savings in time and money.
Wyatt Jenkins added that through a very open API, integrations would be capable of many optimizations for rapid change order bid packages (recall integrated bid board and balancing) for a major transformation. Even paying subcontractors as part of the process was being integrated and optimized, with Eliza Marsh, Group Product Manager, Pay, presenting Procore Pay as the digital pay mechanism for payouts and lien waiver management. These digital transactions were supported by partner Goldman Sachs, Apple’s financial partner with Apple Card partner.
The end of Day One was a keynote by Michael Steep around disruptive technologies and opportunities. Steep’s extensive 35-year background around technology invention included operations, consulting and executive experience at Apple, Microsoft, HP, Xerox PARC, and Stanford University.
His informed and prescient disruptive technologies and opportunities included the forces driving change impacting construction, some real-world case studies, and strategies to embrace the ongoing disruption to leverage into opportunities today. Highlighting the presentation were approaches to artificial intelligence, a latency for a hired professional, such as an engineer, whose expert knowledge would be out-of-date within three years, and a recognition toward external engagement (outside the office and business).
Day One and Day Two of the Procore Groundbreak conference included awards interspersed through the keynote presentations. These were competitive, with 27 finalists among 200 entrants, which included three finalists per award. The awards spanned diverse areas of project performance, including innovation, sustainability, owner, community, workforce development, general contractor, specialty contractor, safety, and finally, the Groundbreaker of the Year! These meaningful awards were recognitions of the high level of work and the caliber of customers and collaborators that Procore celebrated as transformational industry partners.
Laita Ali and Michael Phelps
Laila Ali started Day Two with a motivational keynote around her many powerful transformations from the daughter of a world boxing champion to a world boxing champion herself. Ali talked about the importance of preparation and focus around a mindset, knowing limits are set by training, and even noting how 21 of her 24 undefeated career wins were by knockouts. Ali reflected that this aspect was about controlling what you can control and not leaving it up to the judges.
Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps and Fred Mills of B1M, led a conversational keynote to end the conference around a powerful discussion on mental health. They challenged the conference and industry to face the mental health crisis together and recognize it as a real problem, noting construction having the highest suicide rates in occupational groups in the US and UK.
Phelps and Mills highlighted the “Get Construction Talking” campaign B1M and Procore partnered on as one of the evident cultural transformations central to this year’s Groundbreak conference. Better mental health and better well-being lead to better productivity, emphasized Mills. Phelps and Mills repeatedly challenged the group that this effort must be done together.
The conference theme of transformation was around digital technology and cultural transformation, as integral at this moment in history.
In separate 1:1 interviews with senior leaders, it was clear that these ideas of transformation, digital technology, and cultural transformation were very much together. From both interviews, one more oriented around Procore’s cultural transformation initiatives led to areas that were deeply entwined and dependant around today’s advancing digital technology, and similarly, the more digital technology interview recognized the intentional cultural diversity involved in today’s digital technology construction and project management work going as far as saying how their federated approach in BIM has to be open—so open as to host the 2023 Spring buildingSMART Assembly at their Procore campus in California.
Procore is shifting hard to lead a compelling best-in-class offering of tools for cloud-based construction project management and execution. This has been a transformation from a more traditional set of desktop application technologies to cloud and mobile, which require a very open and accessible space for all project collaborations to advance.
For Procore, it means leveraging AI technology smartly throughout their cloud platform, enabling the new Copilot and Connect tools to aid in streamlining processes and generating acceleration in work processes to improve the construction environment for all. Doing so will improve work-life balance and health for all industry professionals, enabling construction professionals to meet the daunting needs of the future.