A seven-point plan for smart construction digitalisation
Jack gives his seven-point plan on how the industry can more swiftly adopt digital.
Compared to many other industries, we haven’t yet broken the linear process model in construction. And because we continue to follow this linear process, we haven’t seen the industry progress at the rate it should have done in the last 25 years. There is so much potential in our sector and so much more the industry could be doing. When it comes to innovation within the industry, I believe we’re still in the foothills, but we can accelerate our journey with a number of approaches.
The question for me, is how do we do that - how can we accelerate that journey? I’ve identified seven ways I believe that we can truly embed digital transformation in our business and industry.
1. Why transform?
Firstly, why do you want to make the transition to digital? It has to be for a reason that will improve your business, your efficiencies and quality of your outputs. What is the business value? Make sure to identify what value you expect from digitising – that way you correctly manage expectations.
The ‘why’ needs to rally the people and the business to change, as transformation takes time and effort, and great value-driven purpose keeps positive momentum, and eyes on the prize. You’re much more likely to see digital transformation realised when you’re working with a shared purpose and shared value objective, and increasing productivity should get you a favourable audience. .
Within construction, improving effective learning from one project to the next could be a great starting point. When I reference our analogue behaviours, much learning is lost between projects because many still use paper-based systems or rely on knowledge held in the heads of key individuals – both of which can be easily lost to any business. Digitising learnings and insights can have exponential benefits across an organisation.
2. Is everyone ready?
Humans are the heart of any business, right? If not properly and effectively communicated and managed, digitisation can appear a risk to roles and culture if we don’t articulate the benefits in a way that resonates. .
So now you’ve got the wire frame structure for why you want to change, you have to prepare the business for that transition. You need to get your people on board and explain why this transition is not only going to improve the business but also offers something for them and their careers. People are at the centre of delivery within construction – this isn’t about replacing that, it is about enhancing it.
Providing training on new systems, enhancing roles to include a new innovative method, or giving individuals a chance to lead on exciting changes for the business can all assist this transition.
Be clear why this is a step forward and how it is only a positive move.
3. Pinpoint the starting line.
Identifying an area for digitisation that aligns to your strategic ‘why’, but is sized appropriately to make an impact and be measurable, will give you a quick win or a rethink. Potentially look for a siloed example, one where you can digitise without significantly impacting your business operations too quickly. You want to find the sweet spot where an area, process or method can be digitised, delivering a high impact result without the potential to negatively affect your organisation’s operational output.
Identify one project to capture lessons in this new digital method then share those to the next project and measure the impact/ success before wider deployment.
4. Map out your business estate
Odd question - but do you really have a full understanding of your business? What does your business look like today and where do you want it to go in the future? Where are you already utilising digital, where are you mostly analogue, what needs improvement, and what processes will be affected? This effectively gives you a whole picture of your business.
I'm saying don't just map out your technology and systems, but actually map out how your business operates in its entirety.
If you just focus on the systems piece, and not the human aspects of your business, you end up losing the all-encompassing benefit. If someone leaves, your knowledge and learnings don’t go out of the door too – the system is bigger than the individual if it’s part of your culture – so processes remain consistent, and performance is unaffected.
5. Embrace the cheat code!
To jump ahead in your transformation, identify others who are already at your destination and partner with them.
Expert consultants, companies and technology providers can advise, support and demonstrate what the end will look like, backed by their real-world experience of overcoming the challenges you have yet to discover.
The ability to procure the right people will enable your transformation to expedite the unknown obstacles that your business has not yet come across. Learn from others, so your transformation is fast and smooth.
6. Fail fast, it’s better in the long-term.
You want to fail fast, if you are going to fail at all. The quicker you can assess and gather feedback, the faster and smarter you become around ensuring your successful transformation without impacting on your business function and delivery.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI) management is vital here as you assess your success. Ensure you accurately track KPIs and if something isn’t on trend to succeed then have those early conversations – what changes can be made, or do we need to re-evaluate and try something else? Your initial ‘why’ roadmap is your essential guide here – stick to the plan!
From experience – digital initiatives can get stopped due to unrealistic expectations or timescales for success.. Think very carefully before ditching a digital transformation programme – you could only be 10% away from your success. Remember your small strategic wins that keep momentum. Keep to it and see it out until the end.
7. Time to go large!
It’s time to take your six-steps above and scale this across your business. Here you have to look at your business estate and decide where to scale first. Make quick changes if they are needed and continue to scale across the business. Realising your transformation is a rewarding process and will see you through to your ultimate continuous improvement destination. Keep repeating the six-steps then review, review, review.
For a bonus point – understand that patience is a virtue.
Implementing change often comes with a desire to show immediate impact – but going all in at great pace is seldom the path towards a long-term and sustainable digital transformation future. Remember your strategic ‘why’, the driving reason for your change is really worth the effort and the output, be patient and kind to yourself, your team, and your business as it transforms digitally and reaps all the rewards digital has to offer.