Construction projects always come with significant mental and administrative burden as a result of the different tasks, specifications and parameters that should be taken into account.
It goes without saying that on-time communication and collaboration is one of the most important components for the success of a project.
The problem is that, due to the complexity of the numerous tasks, there are many cases where stakeholders in construction are battling against low productivity, high rework rates and costly delays. The good news is that the rise of digital technologies has started to change things for the better.
But there is still a lot of room for improvement. Digital adoption both on the field and the boardroom is still quite low and is seen as a burning platform for the industry at the moment. The fragmentation of the supply chain, the lack of trust on contractual relations and the strong power of habit appear to be some of the factors that keep construction trapped in the pen and paper era.
That being said, it becomes apparent that the digitalisation of the construction process is a very demanding journey which requires a well-defined plan of action.
More analytically, here are five steps to a data-driven construction project:
1. Standardise first, digitise later
Before you embark on your digital journey, it is of paramount importance that you have streamlined all your processes and systems.
In that way, you can feel confident that you are aware of the main sources of pain in your project and that all stakeholders are on the same page. This standardised approach will simplify the implementation process of your new software and will make it easier for your field teams to adjust and change their day to day working routine.
Simply put, standardisation will lock confusion out of your project and will eventually add more clarity with regard to the expectations you have from your colleagues and the different project phases.
2. Roll out slow, scale fast
In many cases, the faster you can do something the better. Nevertheless, when it comes to software implementation you need to start small and scale fast. Rolling out to the entire organisation at once is most probably a suicidal move.
To the contrary, you should start safe by implementing the new digital solution in a few very specific parts of your project. Once you see that the people on site and the office use it as they should and benefit from it then you are ready for the next step.
On top of that, you can use the first people who came in touch with the tool as your digital champions within the organisation.
By working with the new software every day, they will be the best people to explain its value to the rest of the members of the team. Like that, you can start a digital revolution from the inside.
3. See digital training as a priority
We referred already to the importance of starting your digital journey small but that’s not enough if you don’t invest in training and on-boarding.
That’s a parameter that many organisations seem to overlook. In general, it is highly recommended that you ask your software provider about their support and on-boarding strategy before you seal the deal. This will show you a lot concerning how serious they are with their customers.
As soon as you sign the agreement and the implementation process begins, you should make sure that you organise in-depth training sessions with your field teams in order to become familiar with the tool and understand its numerous possibilities.
If you don’t do that, it’s practically like throwing money out of the window. These training sessions can also be recorded and used whenever a new employee comes on board.
Moreover, it is a great idea to request for a specific person/mentor to be assigned to your team by the software provider. In that manner, you can always get faster and more personalised guidance.
Related reading: The 6 Phases of a Construction Project Life-Cycle
4. Hold regular meetings with your team
One of the goals of implementing a new digital tool in your construction project is to reduce the needless phone calls and time-consuming meetings.
This doesn’t mean, though, that you should stop talking with your team.
To the contrary, it is essential that you hold regular all-hands meetings where you can exchange your views on the progress of the project and share any points of concern that you might have. Thanks to this approach, you can always remain on top of your project and ensure that everyone is using the available tools and equipment in the optimal way possible.
Through this continuous discussion, everyone can remain on the same page and plan the development of their operations in with respect to the existing plan, processes and systems.
5. Replicate systems and processes for future projects
Last but surely not least, being able to replicate your systems in future projects is one of the most substantial steps for the digitalisation of your construction process.
To achieve that, of course, you need to have an impeccable data collection and analysis framework which will allow you to improve your strategy on a continuous basis.
The construction industry is heading more and more toward standardisation and modularisation (eg. Amazon enters the prefabrication market) and in that sense being able to replicate your processes to future projects is considered as a critical competitive advantage that can help both your projects and your organisation thrive.
Digital adoption is the next barrier for the industry. Getting the people on site to adopt digital tools requires us to show them how they can make their lives easier and reduce the stress they face on a daily basis.
That is they key behind the vital paradigm shift that takes place in construction today. In that sense, the creation and development of a data-driven project goes through an organisation-wide cultural change.
Starting from the managers involved in the project is probably the best strategy as a gradual roll out throughout the whole organisation can help people see the true value of the digital transformation much faster.
About the author:
Anastasios Koutsogiannis is Content Marketing Manager at LetsBuild, the end-to-end digital platform for the construction phase.