Digital Transformation and the Evolution of Information Management
As margins shrink and client expectations grow within the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, there’s never been a more vital time to understand digital transformation and discover what it means for your organization. How can digital transformation positively impact the way companies approach information management?
Digital Transformation: 5 Steps to Success for A&E Firms
What is Digital Transformation?
The 1980s and 1990s introduced ways to digitize the amount of data associated with every project, which is simply turning those documents into electronic information. Beginning with the availability of personal computers in the business to being able to share that information on CD-ROMs, AEC firms were now able to create, store and share information digitally.
But now that companies have decades of data at their fingertips, what should they do with it? That’s where digital transformation comes in. We can get a clearer definition of what digital transformation means for the AEC industry by focusing on transformation processes and goals, and dividing them into two broad pillars:
- Replacing manual processes and finding new efficiencies through digital platforms and technologies
- Using technology to unlock new business models and ways of working so teams can be more proactive and make more informed decisions
Together, these two pillars illustrate what digital transformation can mean for AEC.
What is Information Management?
According to Techopedia, information management is the process of collecting, storing, managing and maintaining information in all its forms. It incorporates policies and procedures for centrally managing and sharing information.
As it relates to the architectural and engineering (AEC) industry, the number of documents involved in any given project has increased significantly in the last few decades. From drawings and reports to contracts and schedules, or simply emails and internal project management files, documentation is always being generated, consumed and updated.
Why is this the case in the AEC industry? Project team structures have become more complicated, higher due diligence and quality is required for every design, and more stakeholders are involved with the single focus of delivering a great project. It’s more crucial now than ever before to have a proper information management system in place so that all of the data is stored in a central location for all team members to find the information they need quickly and be confident it’s the latest version.
A&E Digital Transformation and the Evolution of Project Information Management
Merging Together Information Management and Digital Transformation
We have established that each project requires an enormous amount of paperwork from conceptual design through as-builts. Managing that information is crucial to the success of the project. Now let’s explore how digital transformation can help automate and streamline the previously manual and disconnected processes surrounding the creation, storing and sharing of project information.
By embracing digital transformation in the world of information management, AEC firms can achieve the efficiency they need to deliver projects faster, with less budget. And with modern software, they can improve business models to meet evolving client needs and stand out against competitors. It all leads to better margins, greater profitability, and future growth.
That is why Deltek focuses on ‘purposeful innovation’ by asking ourselves “What if?” or “How could it be better?” We look at the challenges that architects and engineers are facing and think about how applying digital transformation to information management could help.
For example, project teams continue to be bombarded by an onslaught of emails. How can we minimize the time it takes for email management? By introducing the concept of machine learning, we can begin developing algorithms that rely on a form of artificial intelligence to begin recognizing an employee’s individual publishing/saving habits. As the system learns, it can make suggestions of where to store emails (i.e., which project record, data pool, or subfolder). This minimizes the time and effort involved in manually selecting the information.
When it comes to document management, McKinsey reports that 19% of an employee’s time is spent looking for information. How can we make it easier for all employees to find what they are looking for in a matter of seconds? One way is to transform how employees interact with a Document Management System (DMS). For example, the Deltek Project Information Management (Deltek PIM) product already indexes metadata (AKA data about the data) to return search results more quickly than traditional network and file storing systems. But how could it be better? By improving the user interface, we could make the DMS more intuitive to navigate, helping employees search for information in a way that makes sense to them without any technical training.
Digital Transformation: What Used to Take Days, Now Takes Seconds
During construction, punch list items and observations are created and recorded. That data is traditionally stored in individual reports (i.e., Microsoft Word documents) or specific information rekeyed into a spreadsheet. But how can we evaluate the trends and any problem areas taking place on each project? The first step is to capture the data through electronic forms via mobile devices, so all of that information is stored alongside the project record. Now that we have digitally captured that data, we can create powerful charts summarizing the results to help teams identify a project’s weakness, improve defect resolution processes, and identify patterns taking place on the project site. For example, how many of those defects are because of faulty materials or poor workmanship? In the end, this can help your company close out projects more quickly while increasing the quality of output.
By leveraging technology, forward-thinking AEC firms can transform the way they manage and deliver projects to pave the way to better margins and a more profitable, sustainable future. Deltek continues to evaluate the use of machine learning, natural language, artificial intelligence robotic process automation (RPA), and more as we look towards the future of what information management could be. Our ultimate goal is to serve as a partner alongside our customers, helping them be more productive, create better projects, and provide increased value to their clients.
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About the Author
With over 20 years in the industry, Nick Nieder brings a wealth of knowledge and 15 years of experience working within the AEC sector, specifically managing a wide range of major system implementation and transformation projects. Now as Director of Product Management, Nick leads the Deltek Product Information Management (PIM) product development group. He is passionate about working collaboratively, unlocking the potential of organizations' unstructured data management and utilizing mobile solutions that can support cross-disciplinary teams working on site to deliver outstanding projects.
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