Digitised Construction - Beware the Lure of the Sirens

Digitisation promises to solve a plethora of industry challenges, especially in the Construction sector.

Digitised Construction - Beware the Lure of the Sirens

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.

It is safe to say Construction has been decidedly slow when it comes to technology uptake. I’ve been involved in this space all my working life and seen this first hand. Is this a lack of awareness or simply learned behaviour? Is the Construction sector suffering from being “Once bitten twice shy”? I believe it quite possibly could be. 

As head of Portfolio Management, I keep my finger on the technology pulse, attend numerous industry related events and seek out and filter trends that have potential longevity. I also have the privilege to future gaze, which compels me to challenge everything, to ask “why”, “why not”, “why not now”, “what if”. I do this not only to find a solution for known problems but to consider the wider impact. To seek out benefits outside of the circle of immediate impact, to discover the wider opportunities that could enable possibilities not even considered.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen new technologies and start-ups sprouting from every corner of the globe, promising digitisation solutions for Construction across a wide range of issues. The fantastic bells and whistles offered are indeed impressive, compelling, inspirational even. Mostly they look to entice would be passers-by into a quick sale with their wow-factors and shiny widgets. Put another way, ‘enchanting music and singing voices’. I refer to this as the ‘Lure of the Sirens’ and I’m well practiced in avoiding this enticing pitfall.

To avoid the inevitable shipwreck of being wooed by shiny new tech, the “why” part of my brain looks beyond the known problem and focuses first on the goals and aspirations of the company (our own and that of our customer). The drivers and outcomes striving to be achieved by the business leaders. The processes, people, performance, capability, reputation, and even satisfaction (not just customer but employee, department, management, and even suppliers) come into play. This helps put things into perspective. It helps prevent impulse purchases of point products, which often fall short of expectation or introduce new problems that only result to distract focus from key objectives.

When considering going digital I encourage you to think first about your needs before looking at what a bit of technology can do. Avoid focusing on features and functions – I am positive this is a major contributor to “Once bitten twice shy” scenario I mentioned earlier. Focus rather on outcomes, integration, interoperability, access, automation. Think big. Think beyond the known (or unknown) problem you are trying to solve. Think company wide. End to end. Most importantly, do it now.

How many times have you put off doing something because you are too busy, only to find that when you are not too busy, you justify the need to batten down the hatches because you are concerned for the future. The result, either way, is the same - you still end up doing nothing, or very little. Of course, there is always something - the current project, market conditions, economy, resourcing, Brexit, the list goes on - but if there’s one thing we’ve learnt from past events, the best time to act is now. Unless complete Armageddon is pending, or you have no intention of growing your business, believe me when I say, digitisation is inevitable. 

If you find yourself or members of your team responding with “we are too busy”, “that would take too long to do”, “we’ve always done it this way”, “why fix it if it’s not broken”, or simply doing the same thing they did last year and expecting better results, please stop and spend a few moments considering the all too familiar illustration of old, which still remains more relevant today - probably more so then ever!

Most people don’t know they need help or indeed don’t recognise the problem until it’s too late. It’s not simply leveraging technology that will ensure success. As with everything in life it’s how you use it that counts. The once bitten twice shy I mentioned earlier tends to raise its infamous head here again with a fundamental faux pas of companies neglecting to educate effectively.

I personally use the term ‘everything is easy once you know how’ but I think Nelson Mandela said it best with “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Derek Bok, former President of Harvard University, is credited with stating “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”. Take them as you will but these all support the key ingredient of success, the driving need to continually develop the skills of your people.

Simon Sinek probably supports this article best with “You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills”. If you do not educate yourself or others around you effectively, you will undoubtedly be at a distinct disadvantage, even when armed with the best technology.

I read somewhere years ago that everyone is uninformed only in different subjects. This is quite reassuring as not everyone needs to have all the answers, nor are they expected to. Because our focus is on outcomes and our selection process looks beyond features and benefits, Symetri proudly offers one of the largest technology portfolios in this space, with over 160 technology platforms, and steadily growing. This expansive portfolio is supported by a team of seasoned and highly sought after experienced technology and industry professionals. The reason for this is simple, our goal is to enable our customers to compete. Make it easier for them to get access to what’s needed to grow their business and meet their aspirations. We’ve invested in strategically growing our portfolio and team, not to have the most products available, simply to better support the ever changing, every growing needs of our customers.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you need help with your digital strategy, reach out to Symetri.