Technology, People, and Process: 3 Pillars of Construction Digital Transformation

Construction digital transformation

The construction industry is rapidly transforming. According to a survey by AGC and FMI, 58% of respondents expect to see more change in the built environment within the next five years than there has been in the last 50 years. To stay ahead, companies must quickly adapt to the industry’s digital future.

However, many construction companies are still struggling to understand the full benefit of digital. In one McKinsey survey, just 16% of respondents said their organizations’ digital transformations had delivered sustainable performance improvements. Common challenges include unclear definitions of what digital means, an indistinct idea about what the transformation should accomplish, and poor integration of digital tools with business processes.

Facing these challenges, what does it take to achieve successful construction digital transformation? In short, there’s no quick fix or easy solution. The good news is, it is possible to create full-scale change in the construction industry. By focusing on three core pillars — technology, people, and process—companies can not only prepare for and embrace digital transformation, but they’ll also build stronger and more resilient businesses.

Pillar 1: Technology

Today, the construction industry remains one of the least digitized in the world. While embracing technology is vitally important, companies need to step back and look at the bigger picture – the “why.”

With the countless technologies and software solutions available for today’s construction professionals, companies must approach digital transformation thoughtfully, moving beyond isolated pilots and band-aid solutions. The problem is that companies often deploy cutting-edge technology before they’ve figured out how those tools can improve their operations or how they fit into their larger technology stack.

Full-scale digital transformation requires integrated, cohesive systems, not siloed data and technology. To successfully achieve this, companies must focus on fixing pain points rather than simply installing the hottest IT solution of the week.

According to McKinsey, “A tech-first approach can lead to digital ‘organ rejection,’ whereby a solution fails to deliver visible benefits, and the workforce, noticing this, does not adopt it.” Thus, identifying pain points helps center each use case on a real business need while suppressing the impulse to chase technology trends.

Pillar 2: People

Construction is a human industry. People – and how they work together productively – are always going to be critical to the success of projects. When thinking about the “people” portion of the construction digital transformation, companies must focus attention on who they involve in both the purchase and the implementation process.

Think about it: How often do site and office workers grumble about having to adopt yet another new technology, before abandoning it and returning to their old ways of working? According to a recent FMI study, there’s a disconnect between the technology being implemented and people using it. While 52% consider the needs of field staff a top consideration for investing in technology, only 28% actually receive feedback from field staff before investing in technology. In turn, it’s no surprise that when technology fails, 36% report it’s due to a poor fit with current processes and procedures.

Clearly, it’s crucial to solicit feedback from all affected parties—leadership, end-users, and users of integrated systems—during the buying process and pilot phase. Active involvement in the process promotes investment in change.

Even when tools succeed in the pilot phase, companies often still struggle to apply those solutions at scale. While companies spend hundreds of thousands on new platforms, they often don’t spend the time and resources needed to train users and promote adoption. There’s a proven need for a trial phase and a defined implementation period for successful construction digital transformation.

Neal Morton, VP of Risk at Barton Malow, experienced this firsthand: “After switching to BuildingConnected, we set a three-month implementation period where we trained teams and got them used to new workflows. Investing in training really helped our users become more confident with the software and promoted successful adoption.”

Pillar 3: Process

Over the past 20 years, construction productivity has only grown 1% a year, lagging far behind manufacturing (3.6%) and the economic average (2.8%). If construction-sector productivity were to catch up with that of the total economy, it would boost the sector’s value added by an estimated $1.6 trillion, adding about 2% to the global economy.

Thankfully, operationalizing digital processes provides a solution to construction’s productivity problem. In fact, there’s strong evidence that digital transformation can result in productivity gains of 14-15% and cost reductions of 4-6%.

Construction companies can increase the likelihood that digital technologies will make a positive difference by first identifying operational changes that will improve performance, then defining digital use cases that will enable those operational changes. Essentially, companies should aim to create a set of digital standards that define processes and workflows, and even specific technology. Well established standards should include the process change, the required enablers (data and technology tools, capabilities, changes in mandates and responsibilities, legal and contractual requirements, etc.), in addition to the expected benefit.

Tying it all together: Autodesk Construction Cloud

Technology has reimagined every industry in the world, and construction is no exception. If your company wants to both survive and thrive in the next five or 50 years, the time to act is now.

Autodesk Construction Cloud™ provides end-to-end technology that promotes full-scale digital transformation. As a customer-first company that supports you from implementation to full scale adoption, we’re here to ensure your success both today and in the years to come.

Are you interested in learning more about our connected construction products? Get in touch!

Stephanie Ho

Global Customer Success Leader, Autodesk Construction Solutions