More than ever, technology plays a vital role in today’s design and construction firms. Emerging solutions are greatly influencing the way a project operates as well as how project stakeholders perform their tasks. However, there are so many options to consider, each having their own pros and cons. Some solutions really suit a specific project role, while others seem to cover a wide range of activities.
Change is not easy. When an emerging technology makes it’s presence on a project, and it proves to be valuable, it is not easily adopted. You may ask yourself, “Why?” Unfortunately, this question cannot be easily answered. If a solution is disruptive, there could be any number of reasons why. Often times there is certain level of discomfort that comes with disruption or change even though we know these events will eventually happen. Discomfort can be minimized with an effective plan for implementing and managing new innovation.
Rudolph and Sletten Technology Forum, June 26, 2015
The following describes our approach to creating a culture that embraces innovation:
- A Top-Down Approach to Innovation: Leadership should be familiar with innovative thinking and understand how to lead innovative project teams. Managers need to also lead innovative teams. Individuals need to think innovatively. Anyone can innovate, it simply takes a culture that promotes this thinking from the top down.
- Determine the Level of Disruption: A disruptive technology has real value. It begins with a business model that addresses how to realize technology’s value. Asking hard-hitting questions can make or break true transformation. Questions may cover the company’s existing technologies, markets, shifting client demands, new industry trends, and competition. Well-thought answers to these questions will ultimately determine at what level your company will disrupted.
- Beta Test and Collaboratively Discuss Performance: In our case, a construction firm has many things to consider. For example, does the technology disrupt the office and/or field operations? Is it a hardware, software, or mobile app solution? Who are the key users? How do they use the technology? What are the pros and cons? Do metrics exist? All this information can be captured in a technology matrix to evaluate the right business direction. A collaborative discussion on the benefits and barriers will help to develop the business model to ultimately support the transformation.
- Consider Project Requirements and Stakeholders. Every project brings together a number of stakeholders including the engineer, architect, general contractor, and project consultants. Let’s assume your company successfully adopted a transformational technology. It is important to also make other considerations. Will the innovation support projects of varying size and scope? Will clients buy into adopting this technology on the project? What are the project advantages, disadvantages? Will it be an added cost to the client? What is the overall value? Will other project stakeholders adopt the technology for the project? Are there technologies your stakeholders prefer? What hardware or bandwidth will be required to run technology on an active jobsite? How will files be shared, managed throughout the project’s lifetime? Will there be security levels for files sharing? Needless to say, there are many external areas to consider.
- Understanding of and Ability to Implement: Transformation requires providing an understanding of the technology and a pathway for implementation. In order to realize the true value of technology, best practices need to be memorialized to ensure work is done efficiently and uniformly. Best practices can be initially sketched in notebook. Training can then be developed from a set of team-approved processes. Reaffirm with supportive materials. Post these materials in a common place, or an Intranet. Create forums for internal social exchange. Capture these exchanges for continued training, dialog and development.
Technology adoption starts with a business comparison of the pros and cons, benefits by role, and cost. Unfortunately, the process of evaluation may provide some hurdles. It is really up to the leadership and management to bridge the gap between visionaries and pragmatists, between those who see how ideal things could be and those you just want to make it work. It is about creating a culture that embraces innovation.