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By Buildsoft Team on Aug 21, 2019 9:00:00 AM

Digital First: From the Office to the Field

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Technology has become a critical component of many engineering and construction companies. Builders, surveyors, estimators, and contractors are leveraging the digital transformation to cut costs while improving efficiency.

 

However, embracing a digital-first approach sounds much easier than it actually is. While small-scale builders struggle with upfront costs, larger construction companies find it challenging to roll out technologies across the entire business. Field workers may resist change and view various innovations as counterproductive. Similarly, management may not be sure of which solutions are the most applicable for their operations.

 

So how can your construction company implement a digital framework without crippling its daily operations? The secret lies in organisational management. By aligning the core structure, goals, and objectives of your business, you can begin to implement a digital approach- from the office to the field.

 

However, many builders and engineers introduce new technologies without an accompanying change to their current organisational framework. This means that employees remain untrained, leaders remain unmotivated, and costs continue to rise.

 

The good news is that you can embrace the digital transformation by focusing on organisational structure, employees and culture.

 

 

Start with a robust organisational structure 

 

As Australia’s population continues to rise (by 1.6% every year), the demand for construction work will follow a similar trend. Cities around the country require more residential structures, hotel accommodations, and commercial assets.

 

For builders and engineers to keep up, leveraging digital solutions will be critical. Gone are the days when manual spreadsheets, calculators, and tape measures would be acceptable for preparing building plans. These manual techniques are being replaced by AI solutions, estimating software, analytics, robots, and BIM. But for your organisation to enjoy these cost-saving and efficiency-boosting solutions, you’ll need first to create a robust organisational structure. And not just any structure, but one that embraces a digital transformation.

 

You may be wondering how to get started with realigning the goals of your business so that they fall in line with digitisation. An effective strategy you can follow is to set up digital support teams. These teams should interact with your IT personnel to develop roles that align with new technologies. More specifically, the teams should determine value-creation opportunities during any specific project. Following a targeted approach is the best way of ensuring a smooth transition and involving all stakeholders in your construction company. 

    

Digital teams and their specific roles 

Highly focused digital teams are the most effective way of aligning your organisational structure to embrace new technologies. Most successful organisations will require their digital teams to complete the following tasks:

 

 
Using analytics to assess current performance

Your digital teams will be among the first to prove that technology produces meaningful results. You will find that many organisational leaders remain sceptical regarding the effects and benefits of digital solutions. Therefore, they may not consult their IT departments when looking for innovative opportunities that can boost productivity.

 

Digital teams can use analytics to assess the current performance of your organisation. Data from previous projects, invoices, suppliers, and industry trends can be used to determine the feasibility of your digital agenda. The team may also recommend steps you can take to ensure that a technology transformation will result in the forecasted benefits. 

 

Testing and deploying digital systems

To find out if your digital strategy will bear fruit, the digital team will also test and rapidly deploy various platforms within the current organisational framework. Such targeted deployment will allow you to determine if the solution can be scaled up for use across the entire organisation.

 

For example, if you’re looking to implement a material estimating software, such as Cubit, start by trialling the software with your digital team and your estimators or Quantity Surveyors. It may be a good idea to have your digital team deploy the software during a small-scale test project. Data regarding performance, costs, and scaling can then be collected and analysed for overall feasibility. 

 

Implementing a digital transformation for both front and backend processes

The final role of your digital team should be to plan for a company-wide deployment of the new technology. A successful launch should include field and office operations, integrating workflows in a manner that generates value for your business. Most technologies make workflow management much easier to accomplish. If the deployment is done in collaboration with all stakeholders, you'll be able to coordinate projects in real-time, automate mundane tasks, and significantly cut costs. 

 

Some vendors and suppliers of digital solutions, like Buildsoft, will offer IT support during the installation and deployment phase of your rollout. You should also consider the benefits of partnering with a company that can offer ongoing software support throughout your journey with them. 

 

Continuous testing is also critical to ensuring the longevity of your company's new digital plan. Digital teams should include data professionals, engineers, IT experts, and developers who can continue to monitor and improve your digital transformation.

 

Whether you're a small or large scale construction company, changing your organisational culture to align with a new digital strategy will be critical. Digital teams are the workhorses that allow you to take significant steps towards this goal. Your company will need to select the right personnel to lead and manage your objectives from the early onset. 

 

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Your workforce influences digitisation

 

For your digital evolution to take place smoothly, you'll need a talented workforce that understands how to implement and manage these technologies. From data analysis experts to estimators, construction companies will need to consider hiring top talent to support their ambitious plans. However, attracting highly talented workers to an analogue company can be challenging. Resistance (or lack of understanding) from traditional workers may further complicate the situation. This is why developing a strategy for recruiting the right personnel will define your digital plans moving forward. 

 

The good news is that you can create a plan for recruiting, training, and developing the right workers for your construction business. It starts with evaluating the needs of your organisation, evaluating current technologies, and attracting talent that can move your business forward. 

 

Recruiting the right personnel

The primary challenge that your construction business will face is attracting top talent that's in high demand. Companies, retailers, and manufacturers are also recruiting many professionals who possess the skills you need. Some of these industries appear more lucrative to jobseekers than the capital-intensive construction sector.

 

Therefore, your goal should be to identify and sell the unique value propositions that your company can provide. For example, you could emphasise how technologies such as AI present valuable opportunities for construction workers. From developing advanced 3D models to managing risk on various sites, workers within this field can explore opportunities that they wouldn't otherwise enjoy in other industries. 

 

Another useful strategy is to emphasise the impact that workers could have on you construction company. For example, you can sell that they will help save lives by enhancing workplace safety. You could also show potential recruits a portfolio of projects that they'll become a part of- to serve as inspiration for their future careers. 

 

Secrets to building a digital culture 

The final component of your digital transformation is building a digital culture. You'd be surprised to find out just how many employees, clients, and managers still prefer manual processes over automated techniques. For example, how do you tell the 20-year veteran in project planning using spreadsheets is no longer feasible? Or how do you transition an HR manager from using manual time cards to digital record keeping? The answer lies in implanting a cultural shift. 

 

Because the results of technology may not be immediately visible, you'll need to challenge the status quo and provide a vision for your construction business. Some exciting technologies, such as augmented reality and estimating software, may support your case for a digital transformation. These solutions provide tangible results that your team can refer to for inspiration.

 

But in addition to showing examples, you should enhance collaboration across the entire company. Paint your digital goals as a journey that every employee should work towards. This begins with clearly assigning duties and responsibilities, after which you can reward performance, compare your business to competitors, and address concerns along the way. 

 

Finally, there should be interest and excitement from management. When key decision-makers buy into the overall digitisation plan, you'll be on the path towards a digital-first construction business from the office to the field. 

 

Utilising this innovative technology you can transform the way your company estimates construction projects, and have detailed and accurate quantity estimates produced up to 10 times faster than traditional methods. It’s an effective first step to bringing your company into the digital age, and taking advantage of the huge benefits available, cutting costs and improving efficiency. 

 

Start your journey to digital with a 14-day free trial of Cubit, a specialised estimating software that delivers a unique and natural solution for your construction projects. 

 

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