Digital work is becoming the norm for a growing number of construction and engineering firms. The ability to save time, money and resources by going digital is too good an opportunity to miss for more and more firms.
Yet the construction and engineering sectors still lag behind others when it comes to matters digital – only agriculture is less digitised – so accelerating the pace of digital transformation needs to be a top priority for these industries if they are to meet the dual goals of boosting productivity and reducing their carbon impact.
To this end, effective collection and analysis of data and the use of digital tools to deliver positive outcomes are essential.
So, how can infrastructure organisations that have yet to commence on the digital path kick-start their journey?
While there is no definitive roadmap, a recent Institution of Civil Engineers/Bluebeam roundtable discussion canvassed the views of a range of experts. From these conversations, we have put together a digital transformation guide based around the four cornerstones of digital transformation: information, people, technology and process.
The following tips should put you in a good position to progress your digital transformation strategy.
- Establishing and tracking consistent data to enable target outcomes
- Precedents should be set from the outset of projects, with the ‘data conversation’ happening with clients at the earliest planning stages and being built into contracts; such discussions need to include baselines for the project definition and scope, as well as consistent file formats and common data standards
- Clarity: All parties need a clear understanding of the information requirements at each stage of the project lifecycle, as well as how the data will be used and the desired outcomes
- Data scientists could be employed to improve analytics; to ensure that lessons are learned across the industry, data should be democratised and shared where possible while adhering to security regulations
- Change management and gaining buy-in: The best technology solutions will be doomed to failure without sufficient buy-in from both employees and end users
- Recognising the goals: Take steps to ensure that staff understand the desired outcomes and the efficiency gains that can be made from a digital-driven approach.; link this to any wider cultural transformation taking place in the organisation
- Digital proficiency: Be mindful of the digital proficiency of staff at different career stages – experienced engineers who have gaps in their knowledge may benefit from spending time with tech-savvy recent graduates
- Communication: Explain how this work toward a digital future will benefit the public
- Creating an efficient common data environment: Before choosing a common data environment, project teams should identify the information requirements and desired outcomes of stakeholders
- Interoperability: To ensure efficiency, any digital solutions chosen should allow for a degree of interoperability – regardless of what platform or software is being used, common access to data is critical, with systems being flexible enough to share data with anyone who might need it
- Seamless integration will considerably reduce the barriers to adoption and maintenance
- Using the technology: Technology is not by itself a silver bullet – how it can be used to improve the quality of information, the streamlining of processes and the experiences of people is the most important attribute
- Standardising digital practices for project efficiency gains and visibility: Successful common data environments remove barriers to adding data; automation is crucial to this, rather than relying on manual processes such as uploading PDFs
- Break down and define the standard processes that can be automated at each stage of the project lifecycle: Remember that automation doesn’t have to be limited to robotics and modular construction; it can also be used for elements of computational and generative design
- Learn from others: Take note of how major public-sector projects have standardised digital practices and created common data environments to boost efficiency – there may be things you can replicate on a smaller scale
Using these guiding principles as a digital transformation checklist should enable companies to take the first steps toward creating the structures and processes necessary to ensure digital working becomes part and parcel of their everyday activities.