The construction industry is changing at a rapid pace thanks to the advent of digital solutions. A data-driven construction process is now seen as a significant competitive advantage for all stakeholders in the sector.
In that sense, more and more construction companies try to leverage digital tools to improve their operational efficiency and keep their projects on time and on budget.
However, implementing a digital strategy in your organisation to increase profit margins is no child’s play. There are certain steps that you should follow in order to succeed. A common mistake made by stakeholders in construction is the perception that a digital strategy is a “side-project” for the company and an area of experimentation.
Such an approach can put your efforts at serious risk. As suggested by McKinsey, a digital culture is synonymous with a decision culture. In other words, digital tools are there to make your decision-making process more precise and effective. This will be the key to most of the challenges that the different stakeholders will have to face as a construction project develops.
Of course, a digital strategy isn’t a cure on its own. Brave initiatives, serious investment, and a proactive mindset are considered a must-have in order to avoid spreading confusion across the supply chain.
With that in mind, it’s time to deep dive into the main steps you need to take to embark on your digital journey with success and transform the way you design, build and collaborate:
1. Focus on the problem, not the solution
Before your organisation goes digital, it is of paramount importance to define the actual problem you try to solve. That should be the starting point of your effort. By aligning the collected data to your business objectives, you will gain a better understanding of both your short and long-term goals as well as the way you can achieve them.
An important detail you always need to take into consideration is that when it comes to analytics, it’s not all about quantity. The quality and relevance of your data are the two most decisive factors when you want to monitor and improve the delivery of your projects.
For that reason, problem-solving should be one of the main drivers for the design, development, and implementation of your digital strategy. It’s the first integral step towards an industry with fewer interruptions and improved margins.
2. Talk to the experts
Getting your company on board with new technology is no game. It requires a lot of work and a thorough plan which will eventually have a serious impact on how everyone in the company works.
In that sense, you need all the help you can get. Make an effort to connect with the digital champions of your industry and try to collect feedback which will offer you a significant head start compared to your competitors.
It goes without saying that finding and connecting with other digital thought leaders of the sector might be difficult but a good way to start is by identifying the stakeholders and businesses who have already been through this journey you are about to begin.
Like that, you can learn from their mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future. That will save you both money and time.
3. Start small, roll out fast
No matter how much you are looking forward to implementing your digital strategy at full scale, you have to be patient. Take into consideration that it’s a new unexplored path both for you and your team.
That’s why it’s a very good idea to kickstart this process with small but careful steps before you roll out to the entire company. Without a doubt, that’s the safest way to catch any problems early on the game and resolve them before they turn into a big threat for your projects and your organisation as a whole.
At this stage, it is highly recommended that you continuously ask for feedback from your “digital task force”. Only by communicating closely with those who get to work on a day-to-day basis with the new solutions, you can have a complete overview of how new technologies can help your business reach the set goals.
4. Invest in training and people
Once you have your digital strategy in place, it is time to find the people that are able to put these ideas and tools in good use. Knowledge workers are the future construction workers and this is where you should focus, too.
Simply put, you need people who can translate data into action and measurable results. Training is, of course, one of the cornerstones of success in this case. It is no secret that a proactive digital strategy will establish your presence in the market upgrading your business profile and making it easier for your company to recruit and retain a young tech-savvy workforce who is after an ambitious career in the field of construction technology.
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Nevertheless, aiming only at the digital natives isn’t the right way to go about it. You also need people with experience from the site who can connect the digital knowledge that your team has collected with the actual ground operations. Finding this golden link between theory and action can ultimately be the key to success.
5. Measure and improve
Last but certainly not least, you have to measure and analyse everything. Like that, you can discover what works best for your organisation. Only then you will be able to put together and replicate a framework of best practices that you can apply to different projects reducing risk and paving the way for success.
Once you see what works and what needs to be changed, you can optimise your processes and locate the areas of the business that require additional attention. Without a doubt, knowing your weaknesses can, in the long run, be one of your most powerful weapons against competition and negative margins.
Furthermore, the detailed analysis of the captured data will help you show your team that changing your common practices and habits wasn’t for nothing. That’s a significant turning point during your digital journey.
Organise regular catch-up meetings with your team, brainstorm on the results and adopt a collective approach to solve the issues that emerge. This can allow you to bridge the gap between the construction site and the office.
The importance of keeping all data in one platform
By now it is clear that getting your company on board with new technology takes time and a coordinated effort. Another essential element is the presence of a centralised hub where all collected information is safely stored.
The presence of one central platform is the first step towards a data ecosystem that allows all project agents to connect in real time and exchange vital project updates in a simple and quick manner.
At LetsBuild, for instance, all project drawings are available online in real time so that the project team doesn’t have to work on outdated versions of the plan wasting time and resources. The same applies to the visual documentation of a project, as all project photos can now be gathered, stored and managed in one secure digital platform.
These are just two examples of how you can replace pen and paper on the field, streamline communication between site and office, capture non-conformities, all whilst connecting the numerous project stakeholders and ensuring data-driven decisions.
For construction now is the time to stop building in cost and start building in value. In that meaningful process, data is the glue that keeps all systems and processes together.
Digital tools could lead to cost savings of up to 45%
In a recent report by McKinsey, it was suggested that the successful implementation of digital solutions could result in cost reductions of (up to) 45% for every project in construction.
Considering that we are referring to a sector with a productivity gap of $1.6 trillion, 80% budget overruns and an average 20-month delay per project, it is evident that data-driven decision making and a standardized construction process could be the key to a future of positive margins and boosted productivity.
“Data is the bedrock of learning and information and in that sense, it is of paramount importance that construction becomes data-driven,” says Ulrik Branner, executive and board member at LetsBuild.
Measuring the digital maturity of the construction industry can act as a catalyst for meaningful change allowing the different stakeholders to understand their current position to the digital world and compare their progress against their competition.