- The Global Industry Council (GIC), spearheaded by technology company Aconex, released a report that highlights five challenges to adopting and implementing digital technologies, as well as offering real-world case studies and proposed solutions. The "Five Keys to Unlocking Digital Transformation in Engineering & Construction" report was authored by Aconex and the Boston Consulting Group.
- The challenges are: integration across the ecosystem; rationalization and standardization; building digital talent; securing digital adoption; and establishing value and return on investment.
- With the global construction industry projected to reach $17.5 billion by 2030, the report states that now is the time for the engineering and construction (E&C) sector to embrace technology, an area in which it historically has lagged, creating a significant productivity gap.
As with so many industries, the engineering and construction sector is not exempt from the challenges around adopting new digital technologies. "E&C is one of the last industries to adopt digital technology," said Gabriele Famous, chief marketing officer with Aconex.
To that point, GIC members collectively shared the challenges they face day to day and came up with real-world solutions and case studies to help other companies adopt digital technology, which Famous said, ultimately can "lead to better outcomes for everybody across the industry."
Key challenges and solutions
When the GIC, which comprises such companies as AECOM, Bechtel, Chiyoda, Fluor, Lendlease and TAV Construction, released its report earlier this month, it boiled down the E&C industry's technology adoption challenges to five key points:
1. With more digital ecosystems entering the market, organizations have more information to try to integrate while maintaining efficiencies. "As new technologies are being formed and new digital avenues, leveraging APIs and open APIs has become really important part of software strategy going forward so that you can integrate across the different systems in any business," said Famous.
2. Complex and non-standard processes must be rationalized across projects. Rationalization is what helps drive efficiency, Famous said. Companies reported that having multiple systems or ubiquitous technology consumes time and resources. "The ability to reduce old or redundant systems and focus on high-value systems that will ensure efficiency, reduce cost and streamline business are important in the E&C world," she said.
To truly streamline an industry’s processes, however, requires collaboration among industry players. "I think we’re in the early phases [of the industry coming together to do so]," Famous said.
3. As more technology infiltrates the industry, organizations must have sufficient IT experts on their teams, as well as access to a broader digitally savvy workforce. The report suggests one solution could be to understand where existing staff members excel and then determine who needs to gain an in-depth understanding versus more rudimentary skills.
4. Cultural and technical challenges can breed workforce apprehension when it comes to securing digital adoption. The report recommends that companies invest time and resources, secure executive support, offer robust training, create autonomy and flexibility, and track and measure key metrics.
5. Companies find it difficult to communicate the benefits and return on investment from large digital investments. Famous touts the GIC report as a tool for helping to communicate ROI and provide ideas and tools so companies can be successful in their adoptions. "Specific examples might not work for every organization," she said, "but hopefully what it does is spur the conversation and ideas to further share, test and iterate what does work for their businesses."
One of Famous' most significant takeaways from the report was the importance of metrics to gauge success. "It's common practice in business to clearly define your goals and set metrics before you start a new project," she said, citing construction and engineering company Fluor’s 1 through 10 innovation model outlined in the report. "It's a great reminder for us as business leaders to take the time to set aside key metrics before we embark on any new project."