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Author: Lucas Marshall

Lucas Marshall is a professional writer whose work has appeared in Geo Week News, IoT For All, Robotics Tomorrow, and Construction Business Owner, among others. At Milwaukee Tool, he is Content Marketing and SEO Manager, responsible for raising awareness and engagement to the company’s digital product, ONE-KEY™, through a variety of content vehicles such as the team’s connectivity blog.

What Apple’s Vision Pro Tells Us about User Stories

The Verge released a story recently reporting how early buyers of Apple’s Vision Pro “spatial reality” headset were already returning their devices to take advantage of Apple’s 14-day return policy window.

But why?

In this article, I’ll recap the issues sprouting up around this nonetheless revolutionary product in order to make a couple of arguments: 1) How Apple’s approach to hardware development may (to a fault) prioritize perceived quality over functional requirements, and 2) What user stories for a hardware/software product may necessitate to make future generations more viable for widespread adoption.


Problems Abound in VR, but Did Apple Put Form before Function?

The key issues cited for returns of the Apple Vision Pro are usability issues coupled with a hefty price tag (i.e., $3,500 MSRP).

That’s not to say buyers aren’t blown away by the revolutionary UI and what the device is capable of. Rather, users’ concerns are that—relative to the high price tag and usability issues—they simply can’t justify the expense for a device that presents these usability concerns. The price isn’t worth the experience, in other words.

Consider some of the tweets on X (formerly Twitter) from users describing their experiences with the device and ultimately their reasons for returning their headsets to Apple:

“Can’t wait to return the Vision Pro, probably the most mind blowing piece of tech I’ve ever tried. Can’t deal with these headaches after 10 minutes of use though,” tweets one user.

“Two hours after unboxing my Apple Vision Pro and using it, I decided to box it back up again and return it. It’s quite cool, but there’s nothing in it for me that I’ll use frequently enough to warrant my keeping it,” tweets another.

Virtual reality headsets are a complicated product category and represent an exceedingly difficult problem to solve considering the technical and physical challenges. I’ve reported on how, for example, ergonomics are a known issue.

Consider the problems a VR headset must address:

  • Weight – Obviously, a perfect solution doesn’t yet exist, but as some reviewers have reported, Meta’s redistribution of weight and use of pancake lenses in place of Fresnel lenses in their Meta Quest Pro represent an attempt to resolve UX problems their earlier Quest 2 presented. Considering that VR headsets aren’t a new category, reviewers may have liked to see a better first showing from Apple regarding the ergonomics issues related to weight distribution.
  • Price – With the $3,500 price tag (compared to $999.99 for Meta’s Quest Pro), price is an issue. Certainly, higher grade materials which play important parts of Apple’s industrial design philosophy and sustainability goals contribute to the heavier form factor compared to other headsets that rely on plastics. That said, alternative materials such as recycled plastics represent another way to reduce costs (e.g., potentially by 25-50%) while simultaneously addressing the weight issue.


User Stories and Understanding Evolving Needs

If you’ve seen the 2023 film, Blackberry, about how the once-dominant smartphone predating the iPhone (and later competitive offerings from Samsung), you know that the one thing the titular product from Research in Motion (the company that invented the product category) is that getting there first doesn’t mean staying there indefinitely.

The case of Blockbuster versus Netflix tells a similar story, where a giant who’s become the dominant force in the marketplace is complacent, slow to innovate (due to their complacency), and is disrupted.

In the case of Apple, they weren’t there first in the VR category. They also weren’t the first to the smartphone category, but in the case of the smartphone, they completely redefined the category.

Have they innovated enough while addressing known user problems in the category?

Certainly, Apple has created a revolutionary product, but as Mark Zuckerberg points out, the device doesn’t provide an experience so leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors that it warrants the price and the persistent UX problems.

In short: The Apple Vision Pro isn’t to the AR/VR product category what the iPhone was to the smartphone category.





What User Stories May Have Detailed: Ergonomics at the Center of Industrial Design to Solve Known User Problems

Chief among the user problems with the Apple Vision Pro is the ergonomics problem.

Considering the Verge report of customers returning their Vision Pro headsets with complaints of discomfort relative to the weightiness of the device for extended periods, it’s safe to say Apple hasn’t cracked the ergonomics problem on their first try.

But it’s also safe to say it’s a problem no manufacturer has truly solved, but Apple’s form factor doesn’t help. Consider, for example, how weight has been a known problem in VR applications studied by scholars.

Future iterations of these devices should seek to address the known ergonomics problems users are experiencing.


Example of Ergonomics-First Industrial Design

To stray away from VR headsets for a moment to talk just to ergonomics and how to approach solving real-world ergonomics problems, let me offer an example.

Heavy-duty power tools provide one real-world application where ergonomics are of heightened concern—we’re dealing with workers’ livelihoods and safety in situations that are inherently dangerous, after all. Characteristics of ergonomic power tools typically look to address a combination of weight, shape, and grip to provide a form factor that is as-comfortable-as-possible relative to the application.

Consider some of the common causes of musculoskeletal disorders like trigger finger (e.g., overexertion and repetitive motion) from a person’s finger becoming locked in a bent position as the result of repeatedly gripping and pulling the trigger of a crimper, for example.

Equipped with this known issue, the M18™ FORCE LOGIC™ 12 Ton Utility Crimper introduced a high-capacity muscle testing system to design the tool to require less than eight pounds of trigger release, which is 75% less than other crimpers, while also delivering an improved center of gravity and a significant weight reduction to the tool. What’s more, it requires 47% less muscle effort to use.

The example from Meta’s Quest Pro of redistributing the batteries to address the balance issue in earlier iterations is one that shows promise and Apple may take notice when addressing their own device’s weight problems.


Bottom Line

We may not have cracked the ergonomics problem associated with VR applications, but Apple may look at existing heavy hitters in the category, like Meta, as they tweak their own device’s shortfalls.

Outside of consumer applications, AR and VR offer exciting prospects for productivity enhancements in industries that could stand to gain in productivity like AEC: Studies have looked at the use of VR in safety training (e.g., articles have been published in Applied Sciences, additional research has been produced by California Polytechnic State University, and conference talks have been given on the subject).

If Apple can address the ergonomics and cost issues by prioritizing user needs, their Vision Pro headset may be the construction wearable of choice companies use to onboard new employees, train apprentices, and conduct safety demonstrations in the application to provide greater educational outcomes for the next generation of construction professionals.

Five Ways BAs and Inventory Managers Can Make Jobsites More Profitable, Together

Business analysis is a critical skillset and operational imperative companies need to prioritize as they look to be profitable and understand how they can make measurable improvements as they scale. This fact is not lost on corporations, either—for example, 72% of manufacturing executives said that they considered advanced analytics to be important, according to a report by BCG.

The construction sector, meanwhile, consistently finds itself in a precarious state in terms of profitability no thanks to employment challenges, influx materials pricing, and the disjointed nature of the construction ecosystem. For example, experts estimate job growth in the construction industry is projected to be at a stagnant 1.1% for ten years (Data USA via Finances Online). Underperformance, Autodesk concludes, is an industry-wide norm with 72% of firms saying projects have taken longer than anticipated—and 44% of firms putting longer completion times into their bids, according to data from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). In fact, merely 25% of projects came within 10% of their original deadlines, a KPMG report found.


The World Economic Forum (via Autodesk) estimated that a 1% reduction in construction costs could save society $100 billion globally. As the construction sector ecosystem looks to execute projects in a quickly changing environment, these existential challenges warrant organizational changes to better negotiate the trials and tribulations at hand.

We also have to consider the average construction company’s costs to better contextualize these challenges and opportunities. If we assume that the average cost of a construction project is comprised of overhead, materials, tools and equipment, and labor, then focusing on what you can control will help move the needle toward greater profitability. For example, while you might not be able to affect the cost of materials, you can negotiate work to accommodate the resourcing you currently have, and you can make plans for improving internal processes to drive greater efficiency.


I’ve previously written about how project managers in the construction industry should embrace change management, as well as how the industry might adopt big tech’s displaced software engineers to address industry digitization problems, and how the construction industry looking to adopt lean management principles may borrow some of the similar practices from agile software project management.

Studies show that business analysts are more prone to support collaboration in agile projects.

With this in mind, in this article, I look to unpack two roles—the Business Analyst and the Inventory Manager—and discuss how a collaboration matrix between these roles can help construction companies work leaner, more efficiently, and drive greater profitability over time.


The Role of the Business Analyst & Why BAs May Be a Critical Construction Industry Hire

Considering construction’s profitability concerns, the role of a business analyst (BA) from the corporate environment is one that construction companies may look to fast-track.

Responsible for “bridging the gap between IT and the business using data analytics to assess processes, determine requirements, and deliver data-driven recommendations and reports to executives and stakeholders,” a BA in a construction company setting can “offer valuable insights to enhance financial planning and resource allocation,” reads the job description for a Senior Construction Business Intelligence Data Analyst role at CBRE Group, a global commercial real estate company, which was available at the time of writing this article.

Consider CBRE’s job posting for some of the job-specific functions a Business Analyst in the construction industry may entail:

  • Applying advanced analytical techniques to conduct prescriptive, diagnostic, descriptive, and predictive data analysis on diverse construction-related data, incorporating data from Quickbase, eBuilder, SAP, and Google Sheets.
  • Developing dashboards, meticulously maintained [… that] provide real-time insights into construction project data while ensuring these dashboards are user-friendly, intuitive, and deliver vital information to project collaborators (e.g., stakeholders).
  • Generating regular and ad-hoc reports for the leadership team, highlighting essential performance indicators, project status, and emerging trends, while translating sophisticated data into practical, actionable insights, incorporating earned value measurement concepts to evaluate project performance.
  • Providing meaningful support for annual capital planning by conducting comprehensive analysis of historical data, project costs, and resource allocation, offering valuable insights to enhance financial planning and resource allocation.
  • Developing and maintaining strategic forecasts for construction projects, demonstrating data analytics to identify trends and make informed predictions about future outcomes, incorporating earned value measurement techniques to assess project performance and forecast project completion accurately.
  • Providing data-driven insights that support critical business decisions, helping to improve operational efficiency and profitability.


Construction forecasting is one critical business process a business analyst may help owners more accurately predict through advanced analytics, historical trends, and advanced technology management (e.g., artificial intelligence).

When they collaborate with other critical business functions (e.g., inventory management, discussed next), greater outcomes may become more easily within reach.


The Role of the Inventory Manager in Construction Projects

An inventory manager in the construction industry (aka: tool crib manager, tool room manager, asset manager, equipment manager, etc.) is responsible for the strategic direction, allocation, storage, and flow of all the physical assets needed to perform construction work—e.g., building materials, tools, vehicles, and equipment.

An inventory manager assures jobsite materials, tools, and equipment arrive on jobsites as they’re needed, are in working order (e.g., tools are properly serviced, materials are not damaged, etc.), and are returned or rerouted across projects as needed to prevent slippage and excess asset turnover.

With an inventory manager at the helm of the construction supply chain, companies might realistically see a 10-12% reduction in labor cost originating from avoiding non-productive idle time or downtime—that is to say, when materials are where they’re needed, manpower doesn’t need to search for them or idly wait for their arrival.




How BAs and IMs Can Work Collaboratively to Drive Better Profitability Outcomes

Now that we’ve discussed what a Business Analyst role may look like in the construction sector, as well as the role of an inventory manager in the same sector, how might these cross-functional teammates work together to drive better profitability outcomes?

Here are five ways:


1. Procurement Strategies

A business analyst, tied into company forecasting, can work closely with inventory managers to establish objectives for procurement strategies and capital investment as well as determine needs based on ongoing inflight projects and company annual goals.

Together, they might reasonably achieve strategic themes when approaching inventory-related financial commitments and implement cost-saving measures, including:

  • Appropriate Safety Stock Purchasing – Together, a business analyst and inventory manager can cross-pollinate company-specific analytics related to equipment purchasing, historical trends of project needs, and existing commitments in order to reasonably define policies for shelving inventory and planning for needs (i.e., how much to buy, when). Such a collaboration can help prevent excessive inventory procurement that would otherwise lead to unnecessarily rising overhead, while it can also help facilitate proper procurement to prevent inventory stockouts. What’s more, using advanced analytics via artificial intelligence can help predict future needs.
  • Proactive Inventory Audits to prevent needless spending over project lifecycles as well as to provide better long-term inventory management outcomes.
  • Deploying cost-centric, advanced inventory management strategies like just-in-time inventory. This method prioritizes strategic, lean operations in order to deploy only what’s needed when it’s needed, preventing excessive inventory procurement (and like above, preventing unnecessarily rising overhead). The method also requires inventory managers to proactively intervene to prevent jobsite hording, hence why inventory tracking (e.g., Bluetooth tags, GPS trackers, etc.) is critical.
  • Performing XYZ analysis to calculate: fixed demand (X), fluctuating demand (Y), uncertain demand (Z). Determining these inputs can help inventory managers more effectively achieve more positive outcomes by ranking the frequency and predictability of demand for items over time.


2. Job Costing

In addition to financial forecasts and reporting, business analysts can work with inventory managers to adopt a job costing solution. Job costing in construction refers to the proactive process and steps taken to track the associated costs and revenue of a given project throughout its lifecycle.

The process can be used in inventory management, where inventory managers can apply rental rates (daily, weekly) to equipment that is deployed to the field (either individual or bulk inventory that’s been kitted/bundled and sent at once). Job costing software then calculates the cost accrued for each day (or week) those items are in the field.


This process can help:

  • Inventory managers better account and monetize on the equipment they send to their network of jobsites.
  • Financially incentivize borrowers to return equipment in a timely manner, reducing the “time on site” of a particular piece of inventory as well as the need for additional safety stock, unnecessary rerouting of equipment from other jobsites, etc.
  • Provide additional revenue streams to construction businesses.


3. Reporting

In addition to the business analytics dashboards that a construction business analyst might build for a business owner as discussed in the above-mentioned job description, inventory managers can work hand-in-hand with business analysts to provide additional reporting opportunities, including:

  • Tool Management Reports – reports about ongoing usage of inventory (e.g., average “days on site,” as we discussed above, to help make improvements on how inventory is used in the future; service-related alerts, to help proactively take charge of equipment maintenance, improve longevity, and decrease overhead; inventory assigned by jobsite or person, to increase accountability; etc.)
  • Asset-specific reports, such as utilization on some smart power tools, which can help diagnose problems before a jobsite-halting breakdown occurs as well as provide quality assurance to customers and inspectors that installations were performed to specification.


4. Interoperability

Construction interoperability is the practice whereby construction systems (e.g., software platforms, apps, processes) interact with each other and the extent to which they possess the ability to operate seamlessly and share information between each other.

A KPMG report revealed that only 16% of executives surveyed say their organizations have fully integrated systems and tools—a serious problem when we consider how fragmented the construction ecosystem is. Consider, too, that only 36% of firms have implemented a process for identifying bad data and repairing it (Autodesk/FMI report).


Together, inventory managers and business analysts can start to build system interoperability that can both provide a single source of truth and prevent cost driving incidents like rework (e.g., from the same Autodesk/FMI report, 14% of all construction rework may have been caused by bad data, creating $88.69 billion in avoidable rework globally).

Possible interoperable systems include:

  • Connecting data flow between a project management system (e.g., Procore, Autodesk Construction Cloud, Contractor Foreman, Houzz Pro) and architecture, design, and civil engineering (e.g., Revit, AutoCAD, SketchUp, Bluebeam, Autodesk BIM 360, Civil 3D, ArcGIS, Bentley STAAD, etc.)
  • Connecting data flow between inventory management systems and mission-critical systems (e.g., project management, design, etc.)
  • Building digital twins (e.g., asset twins, component twins, system twins, process twins) to provide holistic views of cross-network activities, predictive analytics, and real-time data and simulations to aid in decision-making.


5. Planning for Addressing Technical Debt

Technical debt is a phenomenon whereby dependencies one introduces when deploying new software and hardware solutions lead to operational slowdown.

A colleague and I have outlined five ways construction companies can prevent technical debt. A business analyst and/or construction technologist may work hand in hand with an inventory manager to prevent technical debt relative to construction operations from piling up – e.g.,

  • They may work with IT to deploy cloud-based systems (i.e., real-time collaboration).
  • They’ll deploy inventory tracking hardware to ensure real-time inventory activity is recorded.
  • They’ll ensure mobile apps integrate with construction ERPs.
  • They may work with the cybersecurity team to ensure proper MDM deployment and data security best practices relative to inventory.


Bottom Line

The construction industry faces some dire operational challenges.

While construction companies might not be able to affect the cost of materials, they can focus on factors they can control—e.g., improving internal processes, empowering the team to work more seamlessly together.

When working collaboratively, business analysts and inventory managers can help companies operate more agilely, more strategically focused, and they can help achieve greater profitability over time.