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Engineering and construction companies increasingly find themselves navigating an era of disruptive and transformative change driven by technology. And with the industry going strong and construction employment recently reaching a 10-year high, more companies recognize that it is time to embrace the efficiencies digital transformation brings, in large part to protect or enhance their competitive position. 

A report from the Global Industry Council notes that modern technology is moving to the strategic center of E&C business models as part of an evolutionary process. 

Not surprisingly, the benefits of digitization across the E&C industry appear significant. In the next 10 years, Boston Consulting Group estimates annual global cost savings will reach up to $1.2 trillion for nonresidential projects alone.

To build the worksites of the future, E&C companies must overcome a few hurdles. Here are five of the most pressing challenges, and some guidance on how they can be surmounted.

1. Integrating Digital Ecosystems

Implications of the digital transformation on the industry are profound. 

Centralized company data can be seen and controlled from anywhere, eliminating project management headaches that lead to delays, budget overruns and customer dissatisfaction. By integrating key processes and asset management into centralized, cloud-based systems, companies can capture incremental productivity and profitability gains vital for success today, as well as drive continuous improvement.

Software as a Service or cloud-based tools can enable collaboration across a project regardless of where the project team is—be it the office, field or in transit.

The creation of a common data environment with BIM solutions provides the capability for all teams on a project to interact, as well as capture and store information in a single place while being accessible from any internet-connected device.

This, in turn, provides a single version of the truth to aid transparency and manage conflict resolution.

Overall, whatever technology is adopted by construction businesses, it must be collaborative, easy to implement, secure, flexible, connected and able to provide value.

2. Embracing Standards

With so much legacy technology infrastructure in place, it’s often easier said than done to advise companies to implement standards across the enterprise. But that’s what needs to happen.

As the Global Industry Council report notes, the construction industry has much to gain from implementing standards, whether in processes, data management or methodology. 

Companies going digital should consider system and software standardization to help minimize costs, reduce the need for specialized expertise for supporting diverse tools, consolidate vendor management, reduce incompatibility and streamline enterprise infrastructure.

3. Building Digital Talent

Technology has moved beyond simply changing processes and how things are managed. 

Digital transformation has spearheaded roles that never existed before in engineering and construction, including the BIM manager, chief innovation officer and digital delivery officer. 

Technology will continue to be critical in the next wave of growth in the industry. 

Employees in the industry will need to be upskilled to help manage and implement digital transformation, and organizations must attract talent eager to harness the power of technology. 

Organizations rely on a competitive edge in an industry driven by productivity gains. Technology helps empower productivity gains by creating a better flow of information across the supply chain, improved efficiency through standardization, reduced costs and efficient project delivery. 

Organizations must invest and nurture the existing workforce’s skill set and eagerness to innovate, while recruiters need to evaluate tech savviness in their hiring criterion.

Digital transformation is a culture shift that will impact the entire organization, changing the traditional ways of working and requiring everyone’s support and commitment, from executive staff to new hires.

4. Securing Adoption

The introduction of new technology—and related changes to processes and business models—isn’t always met with open arms by all parts of the enterprise. Frustration can quickly arise if new systems can’t talk to each other. 

Additionally, employees and industry partners can have apprehension or revert to old systems if they are unclear about the benefits of new technology or believe it may increase their workload rather than reduce it. 

Organizations can accelerate adoption by simplifying the process and helping all stakeholders understand the long-term value of new systems. This can be achieved by investing time and resources in an adaptable readiness and change management plan that addresses all business functions and units, as well as builds in robust training for all internal and external parties. 

Senior-level support and communication is crucial to help define the digital strategy, explain why it’s a priority and how it fits the company’s core objectives, and demonstrate a measurable return on investment.

5. Establishing Value and ROI

 Executive sponsorship is essential for developing agreement on metrics before projects launch. Established baselines will ensure faster communication of results when available, with clear proof points that reinforce the strategic purpose and help employees and partners understand the business impact.

A strategic plan that incorporates the five areas outlined above will help companies navigate the challenges of rapid digital change. By harnessing technology, they can make important strides toward digitally transforming their operations through increased efficiency, lower costs and unlocked hidden value. 

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