In the December issue of Roofing Contractor, RC Editor Art Aisner asked several questions of members of the Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3). Roofing contractors aren’t the only members of the forward-thinking group, and we also asked the same questions of some of them, including Tom Whitaker, president of Harness Software. Here are his responses:

RC: If you had 30 seconds to describe RT3, what would you say?

TW: RT3 is a group of roofing industry thought leaders with the desire to help all contractors solve urgent business problems with technology.

RC: How is it funded, and how do you maintain organizational independence?

TW: RT3 is funded by membership dues. The dues allow us to pay for certain expenses related to our infrastructure and meetups. We’ve agreed as a group to keep the membership small and comprised of people and companies that are seriously committed to bettering the roofing industry.  We currently have members that are contractors, suppliers, manufacturers, and advisors so all viewpoints are heard in our discussions and no single agenda is being pushed.  Other than to help as many contractors as possible.

RC: What were a few of the big highlights from RT3’s first year?

TW: Year one was really about establishing our group and defining our mission. We had a couple of great live meetups in Atlanta and Washington D.C. where we set some goals and created a plan to effectively communicate our messages. We created the Solutions Directory -- a resource for contractors looking for business solutions. It’s an unbiased database of some applications and technology implemented by other roofers and it allows feedback on their experiences. This online resource is only going to get better and I’m excited about the year ahead.

RC: Where is technology most needed in the roofing industry?

TW: A lot of people might say “the roof,” but I’m honestly amazed at the sheer number of contractors’ offices that I walk into that are wall-to-wall paper. There’s definitely a better way to estimate, plan, and manage a roofing job. 

RC: How could roofing contractors be better using technology?

TW: I think contractors should take a hard look at their operations and ask themselves, “How can we do this better?” They should do this BEFORE looking for a solution. It’s important to take the time to understand a business process before trying to fix it. No technology can make up for bad workflow.  Where they need help is in regard to selecting the right solution and implementing it successfully. Again, at RT3 we’re going to spend a significant amount of time providing contractors resources to help with the planning and adoption process. 

RC: Where is the roofing industry driving innovation, and vice versa — Where is innovation driving the industry?

TW: I think there’s been some forward-thinking companies that have broken through the wall on tech like drones, CRM & estimating software, virtual reality, and more.  It’s really transformed their businesses and made them leaders. I think it all stems from the fact that fewer and fewer people are going into the trades as a career. If companies want to stay alive they need to simultaneously provide the kind of tools that young people expect and also be able to maintain or even increase productivity over historical levels. Technology is the solution to both.