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Skender CTO on How Disruptive Technologies Are Influencing Construction

In our most recent "Trailblazers" interview, we speak with Stacy Scopano, chief technology officer of Skender. Scopano discusses how his career has gone full circle, the explosion of innovation in the industry, and the challenge for leadership to embrace and prioritize technological investments and developments.

Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director, innovation officer at Oracle Construction and Engineering, speaks with Scopano.

BK: Can you tell us about your current role and how your career has evolved since you started in the industry?  

SS: My current role is chief technology officer at Skender, which is basically four jobs. We have three different business units, a full fledge architectural design studio, a 64-year old construction company, and a roughly year-old manufacturing start-up.

My responsibilities are making sure these operations are as modern and sophisticated as we need them to be. The fourth opportunity in my role is to look for the strategic advantages of vertically integrating those operations.

Trades, design and construction

My career is an oddly looping full circle. My first job in this industry was working as a detailer at a steel fabricator while I was going to school to be a civil engineer. It was pencil, paper, drafting.

I was fortunate enough to work in one of the early building information modeling enabled companies in the ‘90s. In the subsequent decade, design and construction adoption of models for drawing production and coordination exploded.

The acceleration of disruptive technologies

Then the iPhone and iPad started hitting and mobility and cloud computing came on board. This latest wave of industry 4.0 technologies continued that explosion or acceleration of disruptive technologies that every industry, not just ours, are grappling with.  

This conversation is a wonderful reflection from a timing perspective because it allows me to appreciate all the disruptions that are happening today in context of the evolutions that came before it. I say that I've come full circle now because I started in a trade, moved into design and construction, and now with our manufacturing effort, it’s like being back in the trades.

We have a general contractor, a manufacturing facility that almost feels like a trade, and a design company that we’re vertically integrating all these disciplines into at Skender. It feels like we’re eradicating the dysfunction I've seen throughout my career.  

BK: Like you said, your career is going full circle and all the experiences you've had in different places contributes to that now. What is your view on the state of innovation in the industry overall?  

SS: We’ve kicked up a lot of opportunity, especially in relation to technology. There’s a broad swath of investments that are targeting the advancement of our industry. That's the supply side of the conversation.

On the demand side, I've seen the maturity of organizations rapidly evolve as well. Now you see people like me that are taking more of a strategic role in organizations with leadership teams being very deliberate about how technology and innovation can impact a company's strategic direction.  

You've got this explosion on the supply side powered by a lot of venture capitalists going into 2020. There are many organizational models that are trying their best to process, digest, and ultimately, operationalize these opportunities to either create value for our customers or improve the process.  

There’s also a lot of complexity. If you asked me to look out across the next decade, I see an attempt to consolidate by those big providers and organizations looking to simplify. It’s the same thing with structure: the shape of our industry will start weaving technology and innovation into the remit of your traditional project management teams.

BK: What are the biggest challenge you see with innovation when you talk about pulling this together?  

SS: It’s hard to understand the pace and breadth of technological investments and developments occurring that can be rationalized with companies’ strategic challenges and opportunities. There’s an opportunity for leadership at the various organizations in our industry to absorb or build up that capacity. That’s a challenge.  

A lot of the people who are extremely innovative in their company feel limited by their leadership teams because they’re either not prioritizing, or they’re ignoring, or in some cases, intentionally throttling innovation in certain organizations for whatever reason.  

An explosion of start-ups

On the flip side, from a bottom up perspective, the challenges with so many opportunities, developments, and investments are the explosion of start-ups. For example, an update to an app with new features and capabilities that imply new workflows and new process.  

The sensitivity from a technology enthusiast to the rest of the organizational capacity for change is also a disconnect. “Chasing shiny objects” is the pejorative way to describe it.  

There seems to be brewing tensions between this very agile and nimble portion of our workforce versus the experienced spectrum of our profession that is also thinking holistically about the health of organizations.  

The clients’ needs and demands shape other drivers and place pressures on the business. Reconciling these two spectrums are some of the biggest challenges to innovation.

See innovation in action at the Oracle Industries Innovation Lab.

Explore how you can deliver project success with Oracle Construction and Engineering.

Read more Trailblazers posts here.

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