The Secret To Successful AEC Digital Transformation? Start Small And Scale

March 19, 2020

Between ever-growing customer expectations and increasingly thin margins, many architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms are finding that ‘business as usual’ is no longer profitable.

That’s why large firms and small start-ups alike are looking to digital transformation to create new business models and bring new efficiencies to existing processes. But while digital transformation is a clear solution to challenges in the AEC industries, finding the time and budget for it can be an uphill battle. With the right approach though, it doesn’t have to be.

The daunting task of digital transformation

Anything that moves a business from the status quo—regardless of how necessary or beneficial—will be met with some resistance.

In the case of digital transformation, change resistance will come from all sides. Transforming and replacing manual processes with digital equivalents is costly and time-consuming, it requires buy in from across the business, and it brings the risk that new systems won’t operate as expected.

For AEC, these challenges are multiplied by the sheer amount of manual processes that are still a crucial part of day-to-day operations. The reliance on manual processes can be seen in the underinvestment in automated IT systems across AEC. According to Deloitte, the average construction firm spends just 1.51% of its revenue on IT, compared to an average of 3.28% in other industries.

There’s also a heightened resistance to risk in many AEC firms. After all, when deadlines are already tight and budgets ever-shrinking, how can you risk investing limited time and money into transformation?

Both challenges can be solved by tackling digital transformation in stages. While it’s tempting to try and transform the whole business in one go, starting with individual processes proves the value of digital transformation, builds a roadmap for future success across other parts of the business, and reduces the impacts of any potential teething issues.


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How to find the low-hanging fruit

Because the average AEC firm uses so many manual, paper-based processes, there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit, in theory. However, if there are no obvious candidates for digital transformation pilots, there are a few different ways to find a good starting point.

Modernise a single, smaller process

When you’re keen to prove the value of digital transformation, you may be tempted to rip and replace a larger, more strategic system. But this is exactly the kind of transformation that can take time, demand extensive resources, and expose your business to a high level of risk.

Instead, automating a single process may yield a faster, safer win. An individual paper-based process, when automated well, could still add up to significant time-savings across the enterprise. It may not be a fully modernised, integrated back-office system, but it’s still an important step to prove the value of transformation—and secure buy-in for later projects.

Integrate two systems or applications

Similarly, if there are two systems that can’t currently talk to each other, integrating them could be another way to kickstart your transformation journey.

Siloed data and systems are a common source of inefficiency and risky manual data entry. By integrating systems, you can automate and accelerate these processes, saving both time and error-prone manual effort.

Your guide to building a successful AEC digital transformation programme

Starting with a small modernisation project can deliver the quick wins you need to prove the value of a full digital transformation programme. But there’s far more to consider when transforming your entire business.

In our guide, Digital Transformation in Architecture, Engineering and Construction: 5 Steps to Success, you can find more practical steps that will help you start strong and then scale up your digital transformation.

You’ll learn:

  • The importance of carefully evaluating your business today to deliver a successful transformation tomorrow
  • Strategies to help you deliver the technical and cultural change that leads to successful digital transformation
  • How to master the flow of data across your business to deliver maximum results

Download your copy today.