In Part I of our interview with Stacy Scopano, chief technology officer of Skender, Scopano discusses his career background and the challenges and opportunities facing innovation in E&C. In Part II, Scopano shares how cultivating innovation in an organization is both a bottom up, top down approach. He also explores the sense of urgency to "innovate or die" in the workforce, as well as the future of AI and machine learning in the industry.
Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director, innovation officer at Oracle Construction and Engineering, leads the discussion.
SS: You must be deliberate and meet organizations where they are. Step one is being very specific about identifying in its current state what culture is, including understanding the base case of where each organization is at and how they're all relatively different.
If it isn't a specific set of investments already in play by 2020, you've got a bunch of other prerequisites before you get to innovation as a culture. I draw a hard line there because our industry has an amazing distribution of innovative companies, early adopters, pragmatic firms, and even the Luddites or laggards. You must hold up a mirror and understand where you're at.
Moving forward, this dovetails well to the bottom up, top down approach. Culture needs to be invested in, managed, and driven from a leadership perspective.
But culture also needs to be fostered and enabled from the bottom up in the workforce. People need to feel that if they have an idea, they know where they can take that idea. Employees must feel enabled to drive that idea. The notion of ownership must be very well established.
Who's going to answer and rise to the occasion with a solution, and programmatically, are there processes and programs in place to foster a hidden talent in a remote office somewhere?
SS: If we take out the analytics or the whole landscape of AI and machine learning, there's a hedged answer to this around reality capture that continues to be very interesting.
We've spent the better part of last 20 years digitizing the plan. Whether or not that's project management information, building information models, or digital scheduling, the next decade will involve mobility, giving way to the affordability of 360 videos.
I’m excited about the new intersection of comparing plan versus performance, which in construction is the essence of managing risk. Now that we have the capabilities to create, capture, and process side-by-side plans and performance, this will change the shape of risk management, and ultimately, the implications of our industry. We’re still in the early stages of that. It’s an exciting space to watch.
SS: There isn't a lot of conversation that's contextualizing the maturity of some of these solutions to help our industry effectively leapfrog its level of sophistication on data and analytics.
The way AI is described really paints this futuristic, self-learning, organizational set of capabilities. We're on a pathway to get there, but today’s technologies can start helping do a lot of the heavy lifting.
As an industry, we’ve ignored the absorption of our historical data, structuring it and making sense of it, putting it in a container, and making it a useful platform to understand the health of our businesses. Recently, the generation of “robotic process automation” is incredibly exciting, giving us the ability to go back and help create (in a relatively agile way) a solid data warehouse or data lake.
This gives us this notion of managing plan versus performance risk, which in turn provides a historic understanding of what I’ve done versus what's happening. Applying AI to our industry really reshapes risk management, the essence of what most of our investments are.
I've heard the overt threats of “innovate or die” moving forward. The persistence of behaving as a laggard makes you sticky in certain ways.
There’s a sense of urgency for the workforce, our skilled labor shortage, and our general industry. We’re being forced to meet the demands for buildings and infrastructure with a new lens on modernizing workforce development.
That's where I anchor on the “innovate or die.” For the health of our organizations and our industry, we’re constantly demanded to do more with less to deliver these projects. Innovation is playing a central role at making this trend an opportunity.
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