Getting Ready For The Next Wave Of Digital Transformation? Don't Run Before You Can Walk.

Posted by Rob Shropshire on November 8, 2019

Digital construction week

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A few weeks ago I attended Digital Construction Week at the London ExCel. It was a fantastic event, packed full of valuable content, with innovative solutions on display. I'm always impressed with how fast technologies are developing! It is also refreshing to see how many firms in the built environment sector were already trying to adopt and use some of the latest tech.

I found it particularly inspiring to explore the ‘art of the possible’ - a lot of the technology on display focused on VR, Digital Twins, Blockchain and AI. I can certainly see this technology becoming more prevalent over time - with some trailblazing businesses already getting started with it. I had several interesting discussions with various professionals in the industry, all of whom could evidently see the massive opportunity in using technology to improve their business, both in terms of streamlining their internal processes to improve profitability and as a vehicle for delivering greater value to their clients.

However the common theme seemed to be that it's good to dream big, but we must start somewhere! And many firms were clearly still looking to address questions such as:

1. How do I go from having no/limited integration of data, to having all systems, processes and data connected in order to deliver insights and value to the end user?

2. I see the value of technology - but how do I get the rest of my team on-board? 


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Don't Run Before You Can Walk

As we implement new technologies we need to do it in bite-size chunks, this is to allow management teams to actually see value from investments in technology in the short term, in addition to allowing staff to adapt to new working processes, so that a business gets good levels of user adoption.

As I thought about what I had seen, and previous events I had attended, it became apparent that all of these technologies require a consistent and integrated approach to managing data, and many of the people I spoke to just weren’t there yet. The task is made even harder for smaller organisations who perhaps do not have the same resources as the larger firms.

Talking to clients at Digital Construction week

So what was my advice? 

Don’t run before you can walk! 

Start small and aim big. 

Most of the businesses I spoke to did not even have a central database to manage their client relationships, or a repository to manage all of their deliverables, emails, drawing numbering schemes and financial data. How can they expect to leverage technology if half of their data is in folder structures, inboxes, laptops, spreadsheets and in several software applications that in no way integrate?

Whilst technologies such as AI offer great opportunity, you have to have information in a system that is structured, and enough of it, so that you can gain valuable insights. 

On that note, here are a couple of ideas that might help you get started on your digital transformation journey:

  1. Start with an integrated database that will help you manage all of your business information. You want to be able to manage everything - from the clients you work with, the prospects you are targeting, the opportunities you are managing and the projects you are working on. By integrating this data you will be able to get immediate benefit by being able to better manage pipeline, relationships with customers and understand your areas of success, or failure as the case might be! It will at least give you a basic foundation to then build on.
  2. Implement a platform that allows you to get control over your data. To get value from these new technologies, you will need people actually inputting data into a system in a unified way. Through implementing workflows and easy ways of adding data, users are much more likely to use the system.
  3. Choose a platform that will adapt to the way you work and support growth. New technology is being introduced at such a fast pace, what you need today is probably not going to be what you need tomorrow. You need to be able to quickly change how your solutions work without having the burden of increased cost or painful upgrade experiences.
  4. Do not under-invest in IT. At every industry event I've attended in recent years, the lack of investment in IT has been a talking point. Many companies want the benefits of new technology but don’t want to pay for it. Just as your clients will pay more for your services because you add more value than your competition, the same can be said for technology.
  5. Understand the 'why'. Linked to my point above, part of the reason there is under-investment is probably because the management team can’t understand the value, and why it is important to make the change. Have a clear plan of what the business objectives are and what challenges you are trying to solve through the implementation of a new solution.

"Whilst technologies such as AI offer great opportunity, you have to have information in a system that is structured, and enough of it, so that you can gain valuable insights."


Start With The Basic Foundations

In order to start taking advantage of some of the latest technology, in my opinion you need the glue! What I mean by that is starting with a central access point for information. Once you have the foundations in place, you can then look to connect extra modules or best of breed solutions to further enhance the solution. Without the glue, you will never be able to move away from separate data silo's and will struggle to get benefit from the latest technologies.

Download a copy of our recent report below and hear how Baxall, ITC and Morris & Spottiswood got started on their digital transformation journey.

[Report] Digitalising Construction

Get insights from industry leading contractors.

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