Today’s new technologies allow industry professionals to link up and share project knowledge across integrated teams, 24/7, across the globe.
When the Internet was introduced in the early 1990s, no one really knew that complete industries, cultures, governments and businesses would be transformed by this innovative platform for sharing information, learning and transacting. Nevertheless, what started out as a novelty of sorts has since grown into a 3 billion-strong web that’s accessible via the desktop computer to the 5-ounce mobile phone — and everything in between.
Technological advancements are also reshaping the engineering and construction (E&C) space, where the evolution of design and construction functions has taken a leap forward with the transition from electronic drafting to high-resolution digital modeling (also known as Building Information Modeling or “BIM”). Thanks to ubiquitous digital connectivity, cloud computing, and big data, the E&C industry is undergoing a historic melding of engineering, architecture, fabrication, construction, and other related disciplines, undoing 100 years of expansive industry fragmentation.
Building Your Digital DNA: Five Key Steps
There’s no question that technology can put business objectives within reach. By gaining proficiency in several key areas, construction firm leaders can more effectively position themselves for success in today’s ever-changing business environment. Here are five recommendations to keep in mind:
Lead from the top: Make clear to your employees that you value technology as a critical long-term investment that will shape the nature of your business in the future. Start by forming a “real” IT department, assign a realistic budget, hire professional staff and then include those staff members in key strategic conversations. If you can’t afford to hire full-time staff, find a technology outsourcing company that can provide advisory and application services that help your business (e.g., BIM).
Emphasize strategic goals over technological capabilities: Learn the language of business capabilities and focus your IT plan on strategic outcomes versus technological functionalities. Enterprise architects can be particularly good sources for helping executives learn about the intersection of technology and business capabilities.
Keep it safe: According to the JBKnowledge industry survey, 63% of the construction professionals surveyed admitted their companies do not have cloud security policies. “Companies are out of touch with cloud maintenance and threats,” the authors wrote. Be sure to have an IT/cyber policy in place that addresses the following topics:
• Awareness and education around cybersecurity.
• Language about how to protect the organization’s and individual users’ information.
• Identification of threats, vulnerabilities, consequences and associated action requirements.
• Disaster planning, which includes a protocol to protect the availability and recoverability of the organization’s information.
Time the trends: Think about your business platforms and how they relate to future trends and mega-trends that are developing around them. Keep an eye on service industries such as insurance, banking or accounting for parallel industry trends and drivers. As one industry executive of a large global engineering firm stated, “Engineering professionals will all be replaced in time and motion by automation. If they’re selling hours, they’re endangered and, therefore, they’ve got to sell solutions and not hours.”
Manage change and engage your people: Human behavior plays a critical role in technology implementations. In fact, the level of success that a firm can achieve in this area often depends on how the changes are planned, managed and evaluated. Knowing this, it is clear that new technology introductions require solid execution and planning practices that truly engage employees at all levels.
New technology introductions require solid execution and planning practices that truly engage employees at all levels. In the wake of the Great Recession, companies of all sizes have started to redefine themselves, looking at new and innovative ways to deliver projects and explore new “spheres” of the built environment. Today’s new technologies allow industry professionals to link up and share project knowledge across integrated teams, 24/7, across the globe. This type of “cross-company” or even “cross-industry” integration is a fundamental shift to converging disciplines and the creation of solutions to tomorrow’s challenges.