The pandemic was a wake-up call for all organizations. Across industries, companies sought to increase their resilience and identify pathways to close opportunities, fuel growth, and deliver elevated customer experiences.
The construction industry also had to jump on the digital transformation bandwagon.
Construction projects are getting more complicated and compliance and regulatory demands arencreasing. There is also a growing demand to make construction environmentally sensitive. There is increased pressure to implement proactive safety, and finish projects faster and cheaper and improve productivity. All these factors demand a shift from traditional processes. They call for systems that provide deeper and more granular visibility, improve workflows, streamline scheduling, build greater accuracy, automate tasks, maintain speed and efficiency while eliminating bottlenecks, and collect error-free information.
Reports show that investment in construction technology and digital solutions have doubled in the past decade. There is increasing implementation of technologies such as building information modeling (BIM), augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), laser scanning, robotics, 3D printing, digital twins, etc. Other reports also show the top players in this industry believe digital technologies to be critical for sustenance.
But digital transformation is often looked at as an ‘all or nothing’ deal. Unless one goes through a complete overhaul, it is assumed, one cannot reap the rewards that transformation brings. This mindset presents a formidable entry barrier and is possibly why the construction industry remains the world’s most under-digitized sector.
The digital challenge in construction
Organizations often struggle to develop tools and methods that can be applied repeatedly. The slow pace of digital transformation in construction is owing to several factors. Rolling out cutting-edge technology solutions across geographically disparate sites in multiple sectors isn’t easy – compare constructing a building to laying an oil pipeline or constructing an airport. Construction companies and construction workers also have varying technology sophistication levels. The shortage of skilled staff and supervisory labor contribute to the challenges.
Given the variables at play, the scale at which operations occur, and the dexterity of the workforce, implementing complete digital transformation and ensuring a complete revamping of all processes and structures starts to look daunting, and complex.
So, what should construction companies do to leverage digital technologies and digitally transform the organization?
Identify digital maturity levels
Digital transformation journeys become complex when businesses try to encompass all aspects of their business and redefine how they work all at once. The starting point of digital transformation must be the current assessment of digital capabilities and where the organization stands on the digital maturity model.
A digital maturity model is a framework that helps organizations understand how digitally adept they are and helps them build a roadmap for digital transformation. Early or nascent level digital maturity, for example, is when organizations are not data-driven and are hesitant to use data. The organization mostly operates in silos. The Emerging level is one where the organization is more connected and places emphasis on implementing tech-driven processes to improve experiences and outcomes. A Connected or Mature organization is one with data-driven business process and technology implementations directly translate to higher productivity and improved business outcomes. Multi-moment is the last stage in the digital maturity model. In this stage, the organization has a connected digital infrastructure that allows them to deliver personalized experiences at scale and is focused on incremental efficiencies on both the technology and organizational efforts.
Only when we identify where we stand, we can chalk out a plan to move ahead with clarity and certainty.
Digital transformation is NOT about installing IT solutions
With a plethora of technology solutions, all promising to deliver gold out there, which one is the right one for you? Most often, organizations find digital transformation an ambitious affair primarily because they focus on using the latest, shiniest, ‘It’ technology and hope it delivers them to the land of opportunities and better business outcomes.
Digital transformation is not about installing IT solutions. It is about generating ‘value’. Organizations thus have to use the digital maturity model to identify where they need to generate value first and build a business case for the digital transformation of that area.
Setting clear targets that align with business objectives and goals becomes a critical contributor to digital transformation success. Identifying the low-hanging fruit and setting targets also prevent backsliding if things get tough and can be used to identify the new capabilities required.
Thus, organizations first need to identify the source of value creation – whether it is improving productivity, costs saving, automating processes to optimize operations, improving customer experience, reducing time-to-market, etc. Then they need to prioritize these and then proceed to identify solutions to enable these capabilities.
Focus on getting early support
No one likes change. Everyone is resistant to change. These are indelible facts that place every industry, construction included.
Given the complexities at work, technology implementations can see resistance as well in this sector. To change perspective and build acceptance and advocacy, construction companies should focus on those technology implementations first that offer significant and tangible rewards and minimal risk.
For example, redesigning project management processes and optimizing them with digital project management tools can significantly improve outcomes. Improving reporting and forecasting capabilities can provide real-time visibility and transparency and thereby improve control over finances and resource management.
Using technology solutions to enable change and deal with dynamic needs by automating processes to optimize approval processes can make it easier to get new estimates. You could also realign resource allocation, and raw material provisioning faster. These eliminate delays and build greater agility in the construction management process.
Improving asset management significantly improves productivity. On-site and back-end process automation, such as automated daily logs and payroll, project tracking, time management, etc. bring about significant productivity improvement.
Starting with such lighthouse projects brings in greater confidence in digital technologies. It helps win early support that makes it easier to implement technology solutions at scale.
Organizations today face a bewildering array of digital opportunities waiting to be leveraged. However, it is imperative to combine digital intensity, the need to invest in digital technologies, with transformation management to enable digital transformation. Focusing first on identifying where the organization stands on the digital maturity model and then identifying opportunities of growth and the low-hanging fruit make sure digital transformation doesn’t become an unruly beast or too ambitious an initiative.
It is when we start looking at digital transformation as a destination and not a journey, does it become an over-ambitious goal.