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By John Biggs
August 20, 2018
The 21st century, so far, has felt like one prolonged technology revolution. Every week it seems a new “game-changing” product or idea comes along that promises to change the world forever, and sometimes actually does. That’s how technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing, autonomous machinery, advanced data analytics, drones and many others have found a permanent home with construction and engineering firms around the globe.
But alas, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and introducing disruptive new technology to a business isn’t something that should be rushed. Especially something that fundamentally changes long-established processes or how people do their jobs. Companies increase their chances of successful digital integrations by approaching them as a sort of company culture shift.
First and foremost, don't go in without a plan. Have a specific and articulable goal for the technology you plan to implement. This ensures the team knows the changes aren’t being made arbitrarily and hedges against “shiny object syndrome” where technology is acquired because it’s available rather than because it’s something that will add value to a business. If it’s a process improvement, know why the old process needs to be changed and how inserting the solution will fix the inefficiency. If it’s new software or machinery, know the specific problems the technology will address and how it addresses them.
The key to a successful company-wide technology rollout is getting employees at all levels on board. Construction has a reputation as a laggard in tech adoption among peer industries, so efforts could be met with resistance from field employees, executives, or both. This is best countered by rallying as many people to the cause as possible, demonstrating to workers how the technology will make their lives easier, while also getting their feedback and involving them in the process.
Technology initiatives can live or die on executive sponsorship, and getting it could be easier said than done. Most executives (52%) don’t have any sort of technology road map, according to a 2017 global survey of construction and engineering executives by KPMG. Many executives are still bearish on technology’s effect on their business in the near future.
Vistage’s Q2 2018 CEO Confidence Index Survey showed that while more than half of construction executives surveyed saw incremental innovation as the key to success, just 11% expected technological breakthroughs to be the source of that innovation, as reported by ConstructionDive. This could explain why so many construction companies’ IT departments are woefully undersized and underfunded, among those that even have dedicated IT departments, that is.
To get leadership on board, it’s important to show how the new technology will improve the business’ bottom line, especially if the implementation requires a large capital outlay. That said, you’ll need to know how to measure and demonstrate ROI, and set expectations realistically that the return on that investment might not come in overnight.
A lot of technologies are flashes in the pan with no lasting industry application, but some stand the test of time. Keep an eye on what competitors are using, even talk to them to see if they’re finding success after undergoing an internal digital transformation effort. Consider it a free beta test in real world situations that helps better inform your decisions about how to spend the company’s tech budget.
Once a technology project has been rolled out (after garnering enthusiastic support from the entire firm, of course,) monitor its progress on an ongoing basis and measure that against your initial goals. In areas where an implementation is falling short of expectations, tweak it as necessary, and fine-tune things until it either works, or ever getting it to work has been exhausted as a possibility. Communicate openly with the team about both successes and failures, and solicit feedback on how it’s helping and how it can be improved.
Suddenly announcing big sweeping changes to an organization is a ham-fisted approach to any major business initiative. By following some best practices, introducing new technology can be less of a shock to the company’s system, and be given the best chance at succeeding.
If you liked this article, here are a few eBooks that you may enjoy:
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