Improving productivity for the Built Environment

That comfort you feel when you know you’ve made the right decision

We are currently living in an era where change is being imposed upon us due to pandemics, technology advancements, urbanisation, climate change and more.  Governments, companies and individuals are all finding their own ways to adapt, survive and thrive.  It is both tough and exciting all at the same time!

But through all this turbulence we still need to address the urgent and important day-to-day matters within our business, such as:

  • Supporting staff working remotely and keeping them engaged, and productive;
  • Ensuring my projects are delivered on time with minimal overrun;
  • Addressing diminishing profit margins; or
  • Creating a sustainable business/es that can withstand downturns and is ready to capitalise on hot markets when and where they appear.

But how do we know that this is our biggest challenge right now?  What is our data telling us?  And are there technology solutions that could help us address these challenges in an incremental (rather than a full-blown and costly transformational) way?

With our attention focussed on these urgent matters, what impact is this having on our customers and how is this impacting their experience with us?

71 percent of companies are on the brink of disruption (Accenture, 2019).  That disruption could be because our customers/clients are turning to new technology solutions that solve a significant problem or challenge for them.  Or disruption could come from new non-traditional competitors converging into our market area providing new, cheaper or more efficient ways to serve our clients.  

“5G mobile technology has the potential to accelerate the application of artificial intelligence across industries, leading advances in driverless cars, smart cities, telemedicine, and the internet of things, to name a few”
(BlackRock Investment Institute, 2019)

During times of economic turbulence, it is important that we keep an eye to what is happening outside our organisation and have a plan for how we will adapt and maintain our value to the market.  Then, when we emerge from economic hibernation, we are less likely to discover that our market share has been eroded by new players.

The answer doesn’t necessarily need to be major transformational changes.  As long as we have a plan that sets the precedent for lesser decisions and future actions within our organisation, then simple incremental changes can have substantial benefit.

The amazing breadth of technological systems and innovations that exist today offer considerable value for even small incremental changes.  However, these must be viewed as a tool, or as a servant, to help you secure the sustainability of your business, now and into the future.

We need a plan…

The recent COVID-19 isolation constraints have demonstrated that when companies are faced with an obvious and immediate need that they are willing to invest in and scale-up their enterprise-wide remote working technology solutions very quickly.  The reason for this is that they were confident that the need was real and that the investment would return a benefit.

But how do we derive this same level of clarity and confidence that our next technology investment will address a real need and return a benefit?  By having a plan that clearly sets out the digital technologies that we will implement or explore.

By having a plan that sets out the role that technology and data will play in achieving specific outcomes, such as efficiency gains, innovations or improved customer outcomes, will enable us and our people to make quicker, more strategically aligned decisions and technology investments.

This will avoid the trap of jumping straight to an immediate digital solution because it seems to be the right thing to do right now.  It may be that that solution won’t integrate with your other systems, it may be a soon-to-be obsolete technology, or it may unnecessarily lock you into a single vendor’s ecosystem.

When incorporating digital into our business strategies and plans, three keys are to:

  • Focus on the outcome we need to deliver. This will ensure we only select technologies, systems, or vendors that actually help us achieve those outcomes and performance targets. Remember, technology is our servant, it is not the outcome of itself.
  • Take a customer-centred Focus on our clients’ needs all the way across our value chain and what they regard as value, both now and into the future. Where can we eliminate their frustrations? Or in what ways could we offer a superior service?
  • Take a data-driven Whether it is our designers, our project managers, our asset managers or our field workers, in what ways could we help them to do their job safer, more efficiently and more enjoyably? What information do they need in order to make faster more impactful decisions?  What tasks could be automated for them so they can spend more time on the things that really add value for our business?

Remember, what we measure and then reward, will be the behaviour that we drive.

Strategy Article Additional Image…that starts from where we want to be

Taking an outcome, customer and data-driven approach to incorporating digital into our business strategies and plans need not be complex, time-consuming or expensive.  We just need to start with the right mindset, set aside some specific time and have the right information in front of us.

Here are some key questions to explore: 

1. Define the current situation:

  1. Problem/Need Statement: What is the outcome/problem we need to address?
    For example:  We are losing too many proposals.  We need to improve the efficiency of our asset.  We need to improve the safety for our field staff, etc.

  2. Dig deeper – internal
    For example: Do we have the right data to confirm this is a priority to address?  Are our teams working together or in silos?  Do the right people have the right information in an easy format to decide?  What time-consuming processes could be automated?, etc.

  3. Dig deeper – external
    For example: What technologies are our clients using/trialling/mandating?  And what about their customers?  What new ‘digital-first’ competitors are entering our market?, etc.

2. Is digital technology an enabler to address this problem/need?

3. If yes (and where appropriate), then select the technologies we are willing to explore/ implement/ scale.
For example: Consider: Real-time data collection; Automation; Blockchain; Machine learning; Digital twins; Cloud based data housing and analytics; etc.

The next task will be incorporate this into our action plans and then scope up, select, trial and/or implement this solution.  That will be the harder part, but at least now we can be confident that our teams are investing their time and energy on solutions that add to the long-term sustainability of our business and will genuinely serve our customers’ needs.


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