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Global survey reveals digital transformation a priority for 80% of UK construction firms

7 July 2020

More than four out five UK construction companies say that digital transformation is a priority for their organisation, according to a survey of 835 construction professionals from across 12 countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific.  

According to the survey 72% of construction companies said digital transformation is a key priority to drive much-needed changes to their processes, business models and/or ecosystems. the UK is slightly above the global average, with 83% stating digital transformation is a priority for their organisations and 81% engaged in digital transformation.

The survey, an International Data Corporation (IDC) infobrief, Digital Transformation: The Future of Connected Construction, was sponsored by Autodesk.

The findings show the construction industry is ripe for digitisation. Companies believe digital construction solutions (such as BIM workflows, bid management, project management and insights) can help improve their construction projects. Overall project management and performance scored top worldwide, with one fifth selecting this benefit. In the UK, this was also the top benefit for respondents (20%), followed by improving health and safety (16%) and control of time and scheduling (14%).

Despite the benefits identified, more than 70% of organisations say they use digital construction solutions in less than 30% of their projects, while only 1% use digital construction solutions in more than 60% of their projects. Similarly, in the UK, more than three quarters (73%) stated that only up to 30% of their projects are using digital construction solutions.

Unlocking five ‘digital deadlocks’

Overall, the study identified five “digital deadlocks” companies face on their journeys to digital transformation maturity.

For many struggling to move digital transformation forward, the greatest hurdle is creating a single enterprise-wide technology roadmap that can help a company prioritise use cases and investments (46%). This is followed by building a technology architecture that allows for scale (42%), establishing digital KPIs to measure success (37%), tapping into technology expertise (36%) and embedding digital best practices across the company (29%).

UK construction professionals are also being held back by current working processes, with the top three identified as effectively managing risk (19%), data security (13%) and completing projects on time and on budget (12%).

Unlocking the five “digital deadlocks” can help organisations mature and progress along their digital journey, moving past the early and mid-level stages into the most mature stages, where digitisation is central to the way the company works and delivers a competitive advantage in the market.

UK construction yet to unlock digital investments

Despite the UK’s reputation as a leader in BIM adoption, less than half of those surveyed (40%) have invested in BIM workflows. While many UK firms (64%) have upskilled staff in BIM, India and Singapore lead the training, where three quarters (75%) of companies have fully trained BIM expertise in-house. Brazil also has 53% invested in workflows, which can be attributed to push for mandatory usage in the country by 2021.

Nevertheless, the outlook for BIM in the UK is promising. Almost a third (27%) of firms are planning to implement BIM in the next 18 months, meaning more than 90% of the industry could be actively using the technology by 2021.

UK firms eye up new technologies to overcome hurdles

The UK is in the top three of highest spenders for investment in construction technologies, relative to their turnover. Three quarters (75%) of UK construction companies surveyed spend at least 5% (or more) of annual turnover on IT, compared with the global average of 41%.

To help address these challenges and reap the rewards from digital transformation, UK firms have already implemented productivity-enhancing software, namely client relationship management (CRM) at 42% of companies and enterprise resource planning (ERP), project management and BIM tools at 40% each.

In Europe, the UK had the highest proportion of companies selecting big data and predictive analytics (21%) as a technology they are considering or planning to invest in over the next 18 months, compared with 17% in Germany and 11% in France. The following two priority investments in the UK are the Internet of Things (18%) and 3D printing (12%) to help improve construction projects.

“Whilst many organisations worldwide have embraced digital transformation and are bringing new innovations into their businesses, the construction industry has yet to fully reap the benefits of digitalisation due to the unique challenges it faces,” said Daniel-Zoe Jimenez, AVP and APAC head of digital transformation at IDC.

“However, our research indicates that digital construction solutions can help improve construction projects, and construction companies are looking into new, innovative technologies to accelerate their digital transformation.”

“Worldwide, the construction industry is facing the reality of having to do more with less,” added Mike Pettinella, EMEA director of Autodesk Construction Solutions. “The UK is showing positive signs of maturity in its digital transformation journey, with some firms leading the charge and embracing DX.

“It’s important that digital construction tools are viewed as an enabler to benefit current processes, while the structured roll out and training of staff for planned investments is essential to maximise the benefits of the tools.”