Getting rid of the old habits: How to succeed in the digital transformation of your company

Standardisation is one of the biggest bets for construction moving forward. Many think that construction projects vary both in terms of purpose and size so standardisation isn’t always an option. But the truth is way different.

digital transformation in construction

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Regardless of the type of your project, 80% of the process is always the same. So standardising the way you design, collaborate, and eventually build is a valid option.

FREE GUIDE: How to reduce construction delays by more than 20%

More importantly, it will take a lot of pressure off your shoulders and help you flag critical problems at an early stage and prevent mistakes before they appear. In the long run, this approach can save your project a lot of money and significantly increase the quality of your builds.

And that’s why it is of paramount importance that everyone follows a well-defined context instead of having their own way of doing things. Especially in large projects where a high number of subcontractors and different specialists are involved.

Of course, the adoption of a new system and a new process can initially be seen as a challenge. In some cases, people on site are very much against a new process or tool being added to their daily workflow. They think that it’s too much admin despite the fact that they are already working overtime and they are under extreme pressure.

As a result, many Project Managers and Project Directors think that getting people to adopt new systems and processes is nearly impossible. This is actually not true. All they need to do is to show to their teams the value that they can get by changing their habits and supporting a digital way of working and communicating.

If they understand that a standardised and data-driven workflow will allow them to work fewer hours without compromising on quality, it’s sure that they will gradually get on board with the new reality and try their best to deliver successful results on time and on budget.

As far as the opinion that people on site might not be tech-savvy enough to start using a new digital tool is concerned, the answer is again simple. That is not true. More than 90% of the workers have, in our days, a smartphone and daily use digital systems such as e-banking. That being said, there is absolutely no reason they can’t get used to a new tool that can make their daily lives easier and improve the development of their projects.

“Business as usual” is killing your projects

By now, it can easily become clear that the number one threat for most construction projects is the power of habit. “Business as usual” isn’t the path you want to follow moving forward. Especially after the COVID-19 outbreak, it is now a given that construction can’t afford to go back to normal as it is no longer a desired state for the industry.

As a matter of fact, those companies who are planning to go back to normal or even waiting for others to show them the new way are already in serious danger. The only viable option for construction is to come up with a new normal where sector-specific digital tools and standardised processes are the norm.

Market conditions won’t be in the same shape as before and in that sense, you should not expect that the way you connect with your teams will be either. So it’s time for action across the entire supply chain. Only then, the sector can reestablish trust in contractual relations, fight the culture of blame, and increase productivity.

The good news is that this paradigm shift doesn’t have to be as difficult as some may think. After all, construction processes aren’t that unique from project to project. In most cases, 80% of the core principles remain the same in all projects regardless of their type or size. In other words, by standardising your projects you have the opportunity to monitor their progress more consistently, mitigate risk, and collect data that can help you improve even more in the future.

But for pre-designed and standardised processes to work as expected and help your projects develop faster, you need to rely on three things: people, processes, and tools. Combine these three in the right way and soon enough seamless collaboration and on-time delivery might be the new habits for your teams both on the site and the office.

Of course, data is an integral part of this change. By establishing measurable KPIs, you can be sure that everything is going well and that the approach you have chosen actually works. Otherwise, you need to quickly make the required changes to bring your project and teams back on track. And all these can’t happen if you just continue to support a “business as usual” approach.

How to get people to follow your new processes

We already mentioned above that digitalisation will come whether you decide to jump on the train or not. But now it’s time to dig a little deeper and see how you will be able to get your teams to follow the new processes and collaborate in a seamless and data-driven manner.

In a nutshell, here are the main steps you need to take to succeed in your digital transformation journey:

1. Talk with your team

First things first, it is important to know what are the biggest challenges that your teams have to face on a day-to-day basis on the field. That being said, you should start the transformation process by relying on someone in your team who can translate your digital gaps into functional demands. Or, in a sentence, someone who can explain what are the most notable problems on site and what type of digital tools could help your teams resolve them.

Like that, you will have a good understanding of where you should look when the time to choose a new digital solution comes. A very common mistake that some Project Managers and Directors make is that they address directly to digital experts that have no idea of how their organisation works instead of having first a detailed discussion with their teams.

Once you do that, you are ready to sit on the same table with some digital champions and explore your transformation options moving forward. Furthermore, by involving your team to the decision you help them feel an active part of the change and that they are being heard. This can make a big difference during the implementation process.

2. Use construction-specific tools

No matter how good the feedback from your team is, at the end of the day, everything comes down to the tools you choose. Many people in construction resort to pen and paper or non-sector specific tools like WhatsApp and Excel to manage their projects. This is where things start to go wrong.

Learn more: Lookahead planning: Do you have the right tools to stay on track?

These tools might be very good but they are not a perfect fit for the construction industry due to the fact that they are not designed for site teams. As a result, there is a big misalignment between the office and the people on the field leading to costly mistakes, unnecessary reworks, and a strong culture of blame. To make matters worse, the data that is shared through these platforms is in most cases static. It lacks the project context and it has no connection to the master schedule making the decision-making process very difficult and error-prone.

Choosing the right tool can change this ugly reality and help on-site people to make informed decisions faster while staying on top of their tasks. And more importantly, Project Managers and Project Directors will no longer be drowned in outdated information that turns them into bottlenecks for their own projects.

With the right tool, they will be able to share crucial updates on time, flag critical problems the moment they appear, and stay connected with their teams with the click of a button instead of chasing updates on multiple platforms and documents.

3. Cut down admin workload

Excessive admin workload is one of the biggest sources of pain for everybody in construction. It has been shown that Project Managers may spend up to 40% of their time writing progress reports, looking for updates, and participating in meetings.

That problematic reality has a direct impact on how on-site teams work, as well. Decisions are taken based on outdated information, reports never arrive at the right people or they arrive too late and field teams have to work overtime to get their projects delivered instead of being home on time.

Read more: How to reduce admin work and endless meetings in construction

All these issues will sooner or later lead to costly disputes and make your teams frustrated and overwhelmed. It’s not a matter of whether but of when it will happen.

And that’s why standardising and digitalising your systems and processes matters so much. With the right tool implemented in your project, you have the opportunity to regain control of your projects and enable your teams to make informed decisions on time without feeling tired and stressed out because they are being micromanaged and double-checked all the time.

4. Introduce a single source of truth

An essential part of your effort to reduce the admin workload is also the introduction of a single source of truth. A collaborative digital ecosystem where all the stakeholders of a project can submit their updates and get instantly informed about other tasks that might affect their workflow.

In that way, the sense of accountability across the supply chain is boosted as Project Managers and Directors can have an accurate view of everything that takes place on the site without having to spend all their day chasing people for updates and switching from one platform to another.

Grab your free ebook: Why you can’t run complex construction projects with Whatsapp and Excel

In that way, site teams will end up taking more ownership of their tasks and will start becoming a part of the decision-making process allowing you to focus more on where you can make a true difference.

It goes without saying that the implementation of a digital tool that understands well the demands of a construction project is necessary. Otherwise, the real-time link between updates from the site and the single source of truth will not succeed.

5. Fight the old habits

As we approach the end, it can easily become evident that getting people to collaborate seamlessly and follow new processes is possible as long as you are ready to fight the old bad habits of the industry.

It’s not always an easy mission but turning delivering successful projects on time into a keystone habit is necessary if you want to ensure the digital transformation of your company. This approach is also that will drive team engagement and give project teams a sense of purpose and motivation to show up on the site every day in order to do their best.

But for that to happen you need the right tools and processes in place. People, processes, and tools are inextricably linked to each other as none of them can bring change on their own.

However, if they are all combined as one then everything is possible. As a Project Manager, you have the responsibility to find the right, and always, construction-specific tools that will support your new standardised processes and enable your people to improve their decision making and deliver their tasks on budget and time without compromising quality.

Deliver on time by keeping your teams connected

Very often people in construction think that the tools they use are fit for purpose and made to collaborate with different stakeholders on their construction projects.

But the truth is different. The tools they use might be good but not construction-specific.

And the reason is simple:

  • They are not real-time and slow down decision making.
  • They can’t support seamless collaboration between internal and external stakeholders.
  • They are not designed for people on site.

All these result in people feeling stressed out and overwhelmed because they are not in control of their projects and have no overview of what’s happening and how they can help to solve issues faster.

What they need is to keep their teams connected and on top of the master schedule in real time. Otherwise, the project performance and margins will never improve!

With that in mind, we have launched a free guide on how you can run complex construction projects with WhatsApp and Excel.

In the guide, you will find useful information on the ways you can massively improve team communication and reduce downtime to ensure on-time delivery:

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Topics: Digital construction

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