Clients Don't Want Architects, Engineers Or Consultants. They Want The Outcomes You Bring.
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We recently hosted the final event in our 2018 European ‘Digital Transformation:Becoming a Modern Business’ series, at the prestigious RIBA building in central London. Thank you to all who took part in the discussion over the last few months.
We were kindly joined by Professor Richard Susskind, OBE (Co-author of 'The Future of the Professions' and Technology Advisor to the Lord Chief Justice). And from leading global construction, manufacturing & technology consultancy HKA, we heard from BIM Advisory and Dispute Resolution expert David-John Gibbs and Director, Charlie Woodley. And from BDP, Alistair Kell, Principal and Head of IT and Process.
Digital transformation is the most important challenge of our time, impacting every industry. The built environment sector is of no exception. Deltek’s flagship event series set out to engage those responsible for leading their firm on the journey through this intimidating landscape. With the help of industry partners, our aim was to help attendees gain perspective, provoke a new way of thinking, and spark planning and action. We’ve summarised the key takeaways from the day below. If you’d like to continue the discussion, please do get in touch.
Professional Services Trends Report 2018
The Pace Of Change Is Accelerating
Whether we like it or not, technology is changing the way we work. Innovations such as AI are starting to be put into to practical use. And the pace of change is increasing at an exponential rate.
A few statistics brought to our attention at our recent event offer some insight:
- There will be 157,000 jobs in big data within the UK by 2020 (Engineering UK 2018 Report)
- Chinese firms have won 8 out of 10 of the FIDIC (International Federation of Consulting Engineers) design awards, because their companies are open to embracing technology
- Researchers at Hadoop estimate that the potential savings companies will experience with Robotic Process Automation by 2025 will be between $5 and $7 trillion
- 'Every two days now, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation up until 2003' - former Google chairman Eric Schmidt.
However, most firms are struggling to keep up - with Gartner recently stating that “Two-thirds of all business leaders believe that their company must pick up the pace of digitalisation to remain competitive.”
Creating The Right Mindset For Transformation
“Clients don’t want architects, engineers or consultants. They want the outcomes you bring.”
“By 2020, the average computer will be able to process at about 1017 calculations per second - about the same processing power as the human brain. Fast forward to 2050, and the average desktop will have more processing power than all of humanity.” said Richard Susskind.
It’s a hard estimation to absorb.
The stark truth, is that systems are starting to outperform us. And as Richard noted in his session, it is a mistake to think that machines can only carry out formal, pre-programmed activity, and that humans are still needed when intuition, instinct, imagination and creativity are required. Thinking in such a way has become known as the ‘AI Fallacy’ - the idea that the only way a machine can perform on a high level is by copying the way humans do things. In reality, machines are producing the same outcomes we can, but doing it in different ways to us. As Richard emphasised above, clients are only concerned with the outcome - they don't care how you get there. With creative and interpersonal skills regarded with such importance in the built environment sector, there is high risk of many firms underestimating the power of disruption.
“In a world where technology allows us to deliver services and products in entirely new ways, our focal point shouldn't be crafting technology onto old ways of working. It should be on thinking about the fundamental value we bring and how we might deliver that in new ways.” says Richard.
Every industry needs to start changing its perception of what professionals are. We are moving towards a state where professionals should be those building the systems to replace our whole way of working.
The challenge for the future workforce is redeployment not unemployment.
Richard concluded with a final question for those in attendance "What kind of future are you going to create?"
Understanding Data And Appreciating The Journey It Needs To Go On
'<1 % of data collected, is currently used”
The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype'
Historically, there has been an over-reliance on ‘gut instinct’ decision-making in the built environment sector. The adoption of technology - to assist in collecting data and transferring it to the right people, at the right time, for more accurate decision making - has been a slow process.
Data collection may now be improving, but this is just the start. Data alone doesn't offer value and most of it is going to waste as the stat above reveals. HKA's director, Charley Woodley emphasised the need for firms to collect both records and data, not one or the other, and to ensure all staff have a full appreciation of why you are collecting them, and how they will be used by all parties.
Woodley explained that only a few years ago, HKA stored just 100 terabytes of client data. Fast forward to today, for an upcoming commission, they have 28 terabytes of data for one party within a single dispute. They are seeing the landscape change faster than they ever expected and had prepared for.
One of the reasons behind the slow adoption of technology is the industry shortage of information and data related skill-sets. Woodley emphasised the need for firms to consider their HR strategy with urgency. Firms must plan now, or face the high costs of needing external providers in the future, losing value in the process. And ultimately, in a few years, such firms will be struggling to compete.
HKA's BIM advisory and dispute resolutions expert David-John Gibbs advised that although your firm may feel they can't manage data properly right now, this shouldn't be accepted as a reason for not collecting it. If data has potential to deliver value, even if that isn't right now, and you aren’t taking advantage - then you are exposing yourself to risk and ignoring opportunity. Gibbs encourages - "The more data we capture, the more we use, and the more certainty we have." On top of this, firms shouldn't be ruling out supposedly unreadable records - there are tools out there now that allow data to be extracted from records in all formats and value still obtained.
Gibbs believes the future of data collection should be focused around standardisation. With BIM technology (see: 'What is BIM') offering a strong example of the benefits of working in this way. The way forward is not to become trapped by bespoke solutions, instead there should be a focus on capturing data that everyone can use, for all purposes.
Gibbs and Woodley left attendees to consider the following:
- What are the key bits of data in your organisation that you need to share?
- How do you plan to get more understanding from your data?
- How does your project data impact wider business decisions?
- How is your information captured, shared and stored - and what system will you use to manage that information?
- Be careful what you ask for, and consider why you are asking for it, empathise with the person who you share and exchange data with
- Are the key decision makers in your projects connected to your data, do they understand the journey it goes on?
Choosing The Right Partner To Improve Your Chance At Success
"Deltek sits at the heart of our firm, as the single source of truth"
BDP implemented Deltek Vision as part of their ongoing digital transformation journey. Alistair Kell, Principal and Head of IT at the international Architecture and Engineering firm, stated that "Deltek sits at the heart of our firm, as the single source of truth". But raises the initial and ongoing challenge many firms will identify with - that of trying to get everyone in the firm, across all departments, to speak the same language and understand the same requirements. However, without this, the journey towards data discovery does not work.
BDP take advantage of all the 'out of the box ' tools that Deltek software offers (Explore Deltek Vision here). But Kell references the graphical interface as one of the main highlights for their firm. Simply because it presents the information in a format Architects will absorb - helping them appreciate the bigger picture.
Kell makes the point that it's often the simple things that make a huge difference and references timesheets and expenses entry and approvals, as a prime example. Deltek's mobile functionality has been game-changing for BDP - enabling staff to enter project time and expense on the move at any time, and approvals can take place in the same way. A simple change has sped up a previously prolonged process, meaning any project finance and resourcing issues can be spotted faster, and profitability can be assessed sooner, feeding back into overall business decision making.
And, with business risk topping the concerns of most business leaders in the professional services industry today, Kell explains that BDP have been able to build their risk management process into their Deltek system, so that all decisions made at the start of the job are captured - helping them better understand opportunities, risk and probability of winning a project. On top of that, the system enables them to track project health from start to finish.
How To Manage Change
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first question from an audience member following the sessions, was on how you can ensure information is correctly inputted into systems in the first place and crucially, how to ensure what staff input is of high quality. Drawing on HKA's experience, Gibbs mentions that providing clarity of processes is hugely important, and helping staff understand just how failure of their actions may affect the process later on. Gibbs goes onto reference the importance of recognition and that different reward mechanisms will drive different behaviours - with financial remuneration tending to do the trick!
For more on handling change, have a read of our blog on implementing change in the workplace.
Focus On The Basics
"Should we be investing in Blockchain?" an attendee asked.
Working with many clients in the sector, at Deltek, we often see companies adopting technology for fear of missing out. Whilst we do suggest breaking out of the ‘wait and see’ pattern, we strongly believe organisations should start small.
There seemed to be general consensus among our experts that the industry isn't yet certain of Blockchain's uses within the built environment sector and that we're potentially still 5-10 years off seeing it put to use. But both Susskind and Gibbs reference its prospective use for smart contracts and tracking document and design change and audit trails. Understanding Blockchain technology and other trending innovations, and making sure you are aware of the potential value for your industry, is a good place to start - but whether or not you are one of the first to help develop a technology's use for the sector, will very much depend on where your firm stands in its transformation journey.
Our recent study into the professional services industry perhaps puts it best in advising leaders to “Focus on the basics – but there’s no hiding place from the transformative effects of AI, big data and Cloud computing.”
Hopefully the insight shared at our flagship event has offered some guidance or inspiration on approaching your firm's own digital transformation journey. We left all attendees with a copy of our recent study into the current and future challenges facing the professional services, with guidance on approaching each one - please download your own complementary copy below. And if you'd like to discuss any of the challenges raised in the study or in this article, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.
2018 Industry Report
Professional Services Trends Report
- Agency Workflow
- Architecture & Engineering Firms
- Business Intelligence
- Change Management
- Cloud ERP
- Consulting Firms
- Deltek Customers
- Financial Management
- Job Costing
- Legal Sector
- Marketing & PR Agencies
- People and Culture
- Professional Services Automation
- Professional Services Industry
- Project Information Management
- Project Management
- Resource Planning
- Scheduling And Planning
- Talent Management
- Time and Expenses
- Traffic Management
- Transformational Trends