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Digital technologies play an increasingly important role in the construction industry. Once considered simply the cost of doing business, contractors and designers now seek competitive advantage, practice differentiation, streamlined partnerships, innovative service engagements and insights, operational efficiencies and even new market opportunities from technology investment. 

As mechanical innovations can extend physical capabilities, digital technologies can provide new ways of thinking to solve problems with business-practical speed and accuracy. Technology can serve as connective tissue that supports the need to work together in a distributed well-coordinated fashion during complex challenges and unforeseen events. 

But how can contractors determine which technology is the best fit or how do they best position themselves for success? Here are six steps to get started with an analysis of new construction technology.

Step 1: Create a Proof of Concept 

A proof of concept approach is an effective way to quickly test new ideas and introduce new technologies and solutions in context. POC’s also offer an opportunity to partner with key business stakeholders to build consensus and promote joint ownership during critical early design decision-making phases of any evaluation. Important business decisions for new technology should be made early on when the effort is least costly and still highly changeable.

Step 2: Communicate the Value 

Develop a clear understanding of what a new technology will accomplish for the business, how it will fit in the workplace and who it will benefit. Craft a communications strategy that will keep interested parties well informed, intimately involved and fully engaged throughout the project life cycle. Be upfront about short-term gaps and longer-term opportunities for a design for early wins, develop onboarding programs and build-out a sustainable influence model.

Step 3: Gather the Stakeholders

As technology and digital innovations are catalysts that can enable modern business and workplace strategy, operational excellence and optimal design and delivery outcomes, it is important that cross-functional stakeholders along with a broad representation of the consumer base are at the table as they directly inform the technology investment and evaluation process.

Step 4: Identify Metrics for ROI

Metrics can vary depending on the problem or solution under consideration, and could be based on financial performance, time to market, customer experience, or employee satisfaction to name a few factors. As contractors strive to deliver the most optimal outcomes within guidelines, resources and constraints, try to understand where the recipient finds the greatest value. It is within that context that the appropriate metrics can be developed.

Step 5: Determine if Third-Party Support is Needed

External assistance can be very useful. Gathering insight from other parties (within and without the industry) allows contractors to step outside their own assumptions and preconceptions to consider alternative and/or complementary perspectives on topics of common interest.

Step 6: Deploy Based on Ideal Timing

In the new competitive marketplace, technology and digitization offer new and ever-expanding opportunities for companies to lead. Determining the timing and best application of new services and capabilities should be directly informed by business objectives, client needs, aversion to risk and overall innovation posture. 

The construction industry is experiencing rapid innovation and technology investment in an effort to find new ways of extending construction work efforts in increasingly more sustainable ways. Contractors might consider the advantages of Building Information Modeling (BIM) as way to expand services and streamline workflows from design and fabrication. Or perhaps they are looking at innovative machine learning technologies that analyze construction video streams to better inform and strengthen construction site security programs. They may be considering the role of "internet of things" technologies and other autonomous methods that can capture process and procedural rulesets and amplify them throughout the enterprise. 

Regardless of the subject matter or technology under consideration, is important to identify the appropriate solutions that best fit company needs both today and in the future. It is equally important to include cross-functional leadership, stakeholders and experts throughout the analysis process to help ensure the appropriate solution, level of governance and ownership response. Some technologies will fit better than others; some may not seem appropriate at all. Just keep in mind that technology that does not work today may prove a perfect fit down the road. As they say, timing is everything and continuous learning and evaluation are key aspects of the new digital landscape.

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