Technology is the key not only to survival, but also growth

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Nick Nieder, director of project management at Deltek, reviews the project management software supplier’s recent survey of construction professionals.

Buildings constructed today are a far cry from the recent past. Businesses entering the field today must consider far more complex designs and building strategies. The industry now needs to reason beyond just the build itself to broader factors such as the social, environmental and economic impact, in addition to the time, cost and supply chain. Technology is enhancing this project lifecycle by operating as a catalyst for superior project intelligence, management and collaboration.

Within organisations, technology also underpins how they manage business challenges. There is a clear need to maintain business continuity in the face of fierce competition, rising costs and dwindling talent while navigating an unpredictable, post-pandemic environment.

According to our recent industry study of architecture and engineering leaders, more than half (55%) say they are losing market share or will lose market share if they don’t implement the right technologies.

“It’s clear that firms recognise the potential for digital transformation to strengthen their businesses. In fact, an incredible 85% of UK firms equate investing in technology with increased business wins.”

Nick Nieder

It’s clear that firms recognise the potential for digital transformation to strengthen their businesses. In fact, an incredible 85% of UK firms equate investing in technology with increased business wins. Nonetheless, we are witnessing a shift in digital ambitions. Despite the positive sentiment, only 24% are acting on these IT goals and initiating momentum, which suggests a disconnect between sentiment and application.

But what are some of the trends that will help support digital innovation within A&E and close the deployment gap?

Emerging technologies

Emerging technologies have increased in importance. New cloud-based technologies are considered essential to improving efficiency and collaboration. Technologies like data science, which 82% consider the most critical emerging technology, AI (79%) and the Internet of Things (79%) will be imperative to embedding and monitoring digital connectivity in urban spaces and improving the user experience.

They will also become vital for providing predictive operational insights that analyse project risk, issues with design, tracking production, equipment and assets – ultimately bypassing many of the pitfalls we face in city planning today.

Switching to strategy

As a result of the unpredictability of the last two years, we are seeing a shift from firefighting to preparation and prevention. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of business leaders identified that covid-19 highlighted weaknesses in their operations model, resulting in a more measured and strategic approach to technology deployment to circumvent industry uncertainties.

Reskilling and upskilling

Emerging technology trends and a growing skills gap are impacting how firms approach talent acquisition. In the UK, 46% said the development of the right knowledge and skills is a challenge. However, they are keen to invest in the right talent, with 39% of UK firms hiring more qualified staff.

Nearly half of firms plan to focus on educating staff on the emerging technology trends, putting a greater emphasis on developing subject matter experts; creating technology advocates and building skills within teams will enable firms to empower existing talent.

Opportunities for growth

Growth is a challenge for senior leaders, but the recent past has shed light on some insights that we cannot ignore. While some might consider it a modernisation versus growth discussion, in fact it appears that modernisation is the answer to growth. This year, many construction businesses plan to invest more in IT infrastructure (40%) and technology innovation (35%), both of which will optimise operations within those businesses and their clients.

Nonetheless, great people are essential to growth and tech is no alternative. So, while there is opportunity to provide training and new skills, wellbeing must remain at the forefront of businesses’ planning if they are to retain happy and motivated staff.

As we strive for ubiquitous connectivity within our communities and cities, we must also recognise the need for firms within the industry to develop at pace. Identifying the opportunities and strategically mapping the journey will be necessary for those in the built environment to truly align themselves with the potential growth trajectory required for survival.

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