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The top priorities for construction businesses should be to continue to invest in technologies which promote standardized, organization-wide processes—with the ultimate goal of process automation, along with improving data collection and data use.

While some organizations within the engineering and construction industry are still operating largely manually, others have worked to incorporate established and emerging technologies into their processes. Depending on where a business is in their digital transformation journey, many are still struggling to avoid pitfalls.

A common mistake is that individual departments within construction businesses adopt point solutions to address their department’s specific needs. While these solutions may be quick and easy to deploy, they ultimately hamper the entire business’s ability to digitally transform their operations by creating siloes that limit collaboration and prevent data from being fully shared and analyzed. There is little integration or communication between each department’s data, resulting in low visibility of the organizational view. While this may result in the achievement of some of the departmental goals, it often falls short of achieving the larger business goals. How can organizations avoid this limiting patchwork approach?

Eliminating Siloes

Construction businesses need to fully embrace modern project delivery technology that enables project teams and other stakeholders to leverage common tools to drive automation and process improvements across their project activities – and their project portfolio. The use of machine learning algorithms to automate aspects of the scheduling process, for example, can both improve speed and accuracy of planning and resource management as well as making it easier for teams to adjust to changes to the schedule.

The result is enhanced visibility, transparency and efficiency. Owner organizations, project delivery teams and supply chain management teams can easily work together to manage all of their data in a single platform. Excel spreadsheets can make way for a system that supports, automates and tracks project delivery processes through organization-specific workflows.

Another key component to reducing siloes is ensuring that departments communicate effectively as they work toward a common digital strategy. For example, if a department is looking to adopt a new technology to fill a need, it should communicate with other potentially impacted parts of the business to understand requirements and get their support. These considerations and communications should be documented as part of an integrated digital plan that considers requirements across the entire business, while also looking to the future to identify what the business is trying to achieve holistically.

Integration and insight

In addition to their ability to unite siloed departments, integrated project delivery systems can exchange enterprise resource planning systems related data in ways that can improve project visibility and outcomes. Most ERP systems alone are not capable of operating at the granularity necessary to enable complex programs and projects to be successfully delivered and managed on time and budget while meeting quality and safety standards. A project delivery platform enhances the ERP system with automation and increased visibility into critical financial areas, making processes such as fund and cash flow management more efficient.

This leads to another operational imperative: the need for construction businesses to realize true, real-time collaboration. Although some construction companies are collecting vast amounts of data from ERP systems and other technologies, the information is often disconnected and lags project activities in ways that limit their utility. This undermines the value of the data and forces organizations to react after the fact. However, cloud collaboration and maturing technologies such as sensors are enabling the real-time collection of data that feeds into project controls systems, creating opportunities to better analyze – such as with AI – and proactively manage projects.

How can integrated project delivery systems support broader digital transformation?

The following technology categories are either already paying important dividends for the early adopters or offer a promising path to innovation and business transformation:

  • Mobility versus scalability. While the industry has made some progress , achieving true collaboration across all stakeholders remains a major job-site challenge. By pursuing an integrated, cloud-based approach to data and processes, construction businesses can experience a truly positive impact on project outcomes. The key word here is “collaborative” or, better still, “connected.” Many technology solutions onsite involve disparate systems and tools such as email to communicate, which can hinder the efficiency of projects as insightful information and data are not necessarily shared with all user parties where appropriate and when required. The ideal scenario is for all project teams to work from the same system to ensure that all data is captured and there are no siloes of information.
  • A connected approach to data. IoT will continue to change how data and processes are approached by enabling real-time data collection, action and proactive data management through the cloud, connected devices and mobile applications. For example, 5G can provide high-bandwidth connectivity and low latency to significantly speed up data transfer. Taken together, these developments and applications – as well as the data they yield or analyze – offer significant opportunities to transform project delivery by enabling a truly connected worksite. 
  •  Visualize project success. As building information modeling (BIM) becomes increasingly prominent, many in the project space are looking to change how their organizations work. Already, there are innovative applications offering reality capture from an array of sources, including drone photos and laser scans, to supplement the models. Once integrated with scheduling and project delivery tools, one of BIM’s central promises can be realized by integrating it into collaborative processes. In turn, this can break down the siloes and inefficiencies created by disconnected systems that have traditionally held this benefit back.
Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination

Integrated project delivery systems are an important part of the approach to digital transformation for the construction industry. As the industry continues to experience digital transformation, project- and asset-intensive organizations must be prepared to navigate and benefit from the changing landscape. Still, business decision-makers should talk to early adopters and be ready to experiment with emerging technologies. By doing so, they can quickly move their businesses into a leadership position and be fully prepared to adopt new technologies for even greater integration and success.

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