Insights and best practices for construction management technology and project delivery

  • January 30, 2018

Five steps to becoming a tech-savvy E&C company

Last week we discussed how Aconex formed the Global Industry Council (GIC) to motivate industry laggards to boost their game. This week we’ll highlight how your organization can start to digitally transform. The global engineering and construction (E&C) industry is overflowing with revenue potential. In fact, E&C is charted to become a $17.5 trillion business by the year 2030.

Download: Five Keys to Unlocking Digital Transformation

E&C is still lagging behind despite this massive opportunity. Various reports claim E&C is among the least digitalized, ranking second to last out of the largest economic sectors in technology investment. As a result, labor productivity is dragging behind the rest of the world economy. Bottom line: If the construction industry wants to capitalize on a $17+ trillion opportunity, E&C must quickly join the digital revolution or risk missing the technology train altogether. That’s why Aconex created the Global Industry Council (GIC): a panel of top executives from some of the biggest players in the industry tasked with finding solutions to the largest challenges weighing down E&C. In association with the Boston Consulting Group, the GIC met multiple times over a period of several months, identifying organizations’ biggest technology hurdles – including siloed technology solutions and a lack of digital savvy – and distilled their findings into a comprehensive report.

Here are the key challenges and potential solutions the E&C industry faces:

1. Disjointed point solutions

Virtually every large E&C organization has achieved some level of digitalization, but too many rely on separate point solutions that don’t communicate with each other. Without an integrated digital platform, users share scattered files via email or cloud-based storage services, resulting in lost documents, rework, lack of accountability, and lagging productivity. The solution: Leverage open APIs for seamless connections to third-party software and services. Invest in a storage depository (i.e., “data lake”) that allows information to be shared and analyzed, potentially leading to new insights.

2. Lack of standardization

Global construction companies often use a wide gamut of processes and procedures to perform the same job. The lack of standardization on rapidly expanding global projects can become a major headache for partners and subcontractors, including: project inefficiencies, mistakes, downtime, and potential safety hazards. The solution: Simplify existing processes by getting rid of unnecessary or inefficient systems. Adopting a project collaboration platform that embraces uniformity will lead to greater efficiencies across partners and projects.

3. Lack of tech-savvy talent

There’s an unfortunate lack of technological expertise in global E&C. But not every employee needs to be a tech whiz. A few digitally savvy individuals are certainly needed, but the majority of the workforce only needs basic working knowledge of key platforms. Just as a long-haul trucker doesn’t need to know how to tear down and rebuild an engine to drive an 18-wheeler, most employees don’t need to know how to write code to use software. The solution: Hands-on training and certification programs can help bring employees up to speed in a relatively short time period. Noting employees’ level of tech expertise can also simplify recruiting and hiring.

4. Resistance to software adoption

Introducing new technologies to an existing workforce can cause apprehension, particularly among more senior employees. If the solution has too steep of a learning curve or doesn’t immediately deliver its promised goals, employees will either ignore or abandon the technology altogether. The solution: Organizations need to be aware that resistance to change is human nature. Leaders must create communications, training, and change management programs to encourage software adoption.

5. What’s the ROI?

Dramatic changes in technology and processes are often daunting and challenging – particularly if the return on investment is unclear. For example, how can one measure qualitative improvements in processes and methodologies? Flimsy metrics and/or no appointed executive “technologist champion” can result in top management eschewing the new technological investment altogether. The solution: Organization leaders must establish a baseline for current operations to accurately monitor improvements over time and promote their successes throughout their digital transformation.

Key Takeaways

Achieving full digital transformation is about more than just standardized processes and improved productivity. Government mandates, such as the UK’s requirement to implement building information management (BIM) systems for public infrastructure projects, are forcing large E&Cs to either adopt digital technology or risk losing out on multi-billion-dollar projects. By following the GIC report guidelines and adopting the necessary changes, organizations can reap the rewards of digitalization. Deploying a collaboration software platform ultimately gives organizations insights across a range of projects, enabling them to make more strategic decisions and address small  problems before they turn into big ones. Joining the digital revolution will ensure the E&C industry doesn’t get left behind. To explore how the GIC members are digitizing their organizations and value chain -- and how your organization can join them -- download the report, Five Keys to Unlocking Digital Transformation in Engineering & Construction today! Click here for your download!

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