“Some of the greatest advances happen when people are bold enough to speak their truth and listen to others speak theirs.” ~Kenneth Blanchard,Collaboration Begins With You
Aconex and Turner & Townsend initiated the very first construction technology “Project Innovation Forum” recently in San Francisco.
With executives from Google, MWH, PG&E, Swinerton, Turner & Townsend and other project professionals present, the goal was simple: collaboration – industry leaders sharing their challenges and successes with the use of processes and innovative technology solutions for construction and engineering project management.
So what revelations surfaced when these construction technology innovators came together? Read below to discover the five main points discussed and join in the conversation by commenting below!
The Right Technology
The group first discussed the reasons for deploying technology on projects. In other words, why are we all here?
Obviously, technology has tremendous capacity to address many of today’s challenges. However, this quickly escalated into a more important discussion: the right technology.
As one participant pointed out, “I’ve seen Excel spreadsheets used on far too many technology projects. Sure, that’s technology, but it’s obviously not the right technology.”
The entire group echoed a similar sentiment, still seeing the pervasive use of antiquated technology on large projects.
These older technologies did not address the major concerns of the attendees: simplification of tasks, performance and productivity improvements, reduced fragmentation, risk management, cost savings, reduced delivery time, project handover, improved project communications, and document delivery.
The ROI of Construction Technology
Innovative technologies cost both money and time, initially. However, the goal of all innovation is to make processes and products more efficient with long-term costs savings.
With this in mind, the concept of demonstrated value was discussed. How do we quickly identify and take advantage of the value provided by these new technologies?
In other words, what is the return on investment (ROI)?
ROI can really only be accurately calculated once a project is complete. Before that point, ROI must be calculated based on assumptions, assumptions which are often made by making comparisons to similarly-sized endeavors.
However, given the lack of visibility (see below) of innovative solutions, project leaders often find themselves isolated and therefore struggling to clearly articulate the value of these innovative technologies.
The Question of Accountability
Attendees at the Project Innovation Forum collectively brought dozens of years of experience to the room, and all had an opinion about where the responsibility of finding project value should lie.
Who is accountable for leading the discussion about the value of implementing innovative technologies for a project? Who does the research and shares findings with the entire organization? Is the owner organization on a project responsible or should the technology vendors and consultants lead the path?
Or, as one attendee mentioned, “Brilliant minds and focused individuals will make the difference,” meaning the best minds for the job should be assigned within every organization, rather than encumbering one entity with the entire burden.
Proactive vs Reactive Innovation
The originator of the phrase “timing is everything” is unknown, but the concept was certainly not unknown to this audience of construction and technology innovators.
How to choose the right time – or actually find the time – to innovate was a topic of great interest.
Although it’s common to respond to outright project failure by innovating for a preventative solution, we all know this approach is not ideal. It’s reactive.
So do we implement technology ahead of the curve and before it seems to be needed? Or do we wait for a problem to “hatch”? Do other industries, like Nuclear, have the best idea – by innovating for a “no exceptions” preventative maintenance plan?
BIM came up as a classic example of the timing of technology innovation. Our group of participants has seen BIM implemented both reactively and proactively. In the first case, many have seen BIM implemented haphazardly as a quick-fix solution. In the second, more forward-thinking scenario, our attendees have seen organizations require the use of BIM technology to capture all facility data in the design and construction phases, and use the data captured all the way through facility operations – for decades to come.
The Challenges of Innovation
Interestingly, as the group discussed the challenges of technology innovation in construction and management, they were addressing one of the biggest challenges as they spoke: visibility.
What is visibility in this context? It is seeing and hearing about how others in the industry address the demands of managing large projects with innovative, technology-based solutions.
This is exactly the aim of “Project Innovation Forum” – to discuss and provide visibility to the great need for innovation and project technology across its attendees.