How is disruptive technology changing construction?

Earlier this year, I was asked three questions by Copenhagen, Denmark-based construction technology vendor GenieBelt for a blog post they were planning. Below are my responses, penned at a time when I was thinking about how construction businesses might add value and differentiate themselves with their customers.

In what ways do you think disruptive technology is changing construction?

Construction lags every other industry sector in terms of digital transformation, and so is ripe for change. But it’s not just about technology, it’s about changing industry cultures and processes.

Unless we can get people prepared to change “how we’ve always done things,” then the industry is doomed to remain wasteful and inefficient, and unattractive to new recruits.

Too many in construction still regard technology as ‘disruptive’ rather than ‘differentiating’. The successful construction businesses of the 21st century will be the ones that rapidly adopt digital technologies as normal, and deploy them better than their competitors to meet their clients’ business needs – which will not be about delivering built assets at lowest price, but about helping deliver clients’ long-term business outcomes.

How has software improved the construction industry?

We have started on a journey from paper-based communication towards more data-driven communications, but, too often and particularly in the small and medium-sized business sector, all that we have done is switch from sharing paper to sharing electronic paper, with no change to contractual mentalities. Software will really improve the construction industry when we also change how we procure our projects and how we collaborate.

The successful clients of the future will be ones that demand data as an intrinsic part of their project deliverables so that they can operate and maintain their built assets more efficiently, and – in the process – ascertain how well their suppliers are helping them meet their long-term objectives. Software on its own won’t improve the construction industry, but it can provide data that astute clients can use to be more discerning.

What is one thing any construction company could do right now to improve their business? (a tool, software, marketing, business dev decision, templating, etc).

Ask: “how does my business add value?” Clients will increasingly look beyond ‘lowest price,’ and want to do what’s best for their business across the whole life of their built asset.

If your business isn’t helping them deliver better whole life value, then you won’t be one of their preferred suppliers.

Please feel free to comment on any of my responses. You might also be interested to look at the views of the other contributors: Neil Parsons (CEO of Design Build Pros), Jim Lillig (community manager at BeThePro) and Aarni Haiskanen (managing partner at AE Partners and AEC Business blogger).

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