Technology is everywhere. Our personal lives are surrounded by hardware and software that has radically changed our perception of what is possible.
As an example of our changing world, more than 50% of internet traffic is now originating from mobile devices. Meaning, there is increasing expectation to provide near real-time, frictionless technology solutions to accomplish our daily tasks.
Unfortunately, misalignment of expectations and incomplete answers are commonplace within the AECO industries. The adoption of internally developed solutions disappoints. Enterprise technology fails to provide solutions that meet growing expectations from users. All coupled with being locked into software companies incentivized to prioritize sustainment over feature development creates a toxic relationship with technology.
A Different Approach
Every conference, journal, and marketing pitch catapults excessive hype and conflated jargon around that make it seem as if there's a silver bullet to solve all of the technology woes we face. The incumbent technology providers race to provide their version of the latest trend to retain their enterprise customers. Our clients latch onto the hype and expect us to deliver on the inflated promises. It's a horrible, endless cycle that leads to growing expenses in technology with little to show for it. To add insult to injury -- our in-house talent grows intolerant to technology changes and eventual burn out of technology pilots. It is no wonder why there is a desire to "do things the way we have always done them." There is no silver bullet.
Technology is only as good as those that know how to leverage it. This maxim is evident in innovation adoption lifecycles or industry digitization trends. AECO continues to trail other industries year after year. Within the Industry, we refer to BIM as an indicator of a firm's adoption of technology. I believe this is a mistake. BIM is only an indicator of the willingness to evaluate the project delivery process, similar to adopting LEAN construction processes. Instead, we need to evaluate the firm based on the holistic digital integration of business processes. These measures are the cross-section of the firm's day-to-day operations. Similar to the growth rings of a tree, the strength of the firm's implementation grows with each compounding layer. As we move away from the core, we build on each passing layer to grow wider and taller, increasing our adoption and capabilities.
Grow not Build
Nature has built complex systems for millennia. It has taught us that everything is connected. On day one, the ultimate form of an organism is not complete. Instead, it is grown from a blueprint and nurtured until its final form develops. Organizations are no different. Each discipline, each designer, each digital asset, is related in some way. Taking a cue from nature, we can remove the silos that have emerged as complexity has increased in project delivery workflows. By analyzing the requirements for each facet of the project as each phase progresses, the right balance of needs can be fostered to work in a connected workstream. Data can become the conduit that moves vital decisions to/from disciplines instead of relying on latent reviews that erode trust in the design. Technology can play a large part in removing the perceived labor and complexity involved in capturing and distributing the right information at the right time.
Data can become the conduit that moves vital decisions to/from disciplines instead of relying on latent reviews that erode trust in the design.
By rethinking the traditional model where IT is the beginning and the end, we can layer the responsibilities to better align with the required flow of information.
Example Responsibility Matrix
Using the RACI role and responsibility model. (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed)
- Responsible for the Common data layer for the organization.
- Responsible for roadmap for enterprise level data retention, compliance practices.
- Responsible for Identity Management policies and practices.
- Accountable for all Cloud and On-prem security concerns.
- Responsible for the management of all Business applications.
- Accountable for Talent management, Cost Controls and HR governance systems.
- Consultant for Identity Management policies.
- IT MANAGEMENT
- Responsible for the management of On-prem hardware solutions.
- Responsible for deployment and configuration of vendor software and designer environments.
- Accountable for all hardware and software procurement.
- Accountable for physical security.
- PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
- Responsible for the development of software solutions for the organization.
- Responsilbe for the management of internal and external development partners.
- Responsible for the integration of the common data layer for existing and future vendor solutions.
- Responsible for software engineering standards.
- DESIGN AUTHORING
- Responsible for design facing authoring solutions.
- Responsible for project BIM management and support.
- Accountable for Design Authoring standards.
- Accountable for BIM processes and content.
- Accountable for all visualization solutions.
- Consults with Product Development for Interoperability solutions.
- CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT
- Accountable for all Project management, estimating and scheduling systems.
- Accountable for all construction facing requirements.
- Responsible for Reality Capture solutions.
- Consultant for Identity Management, BIM processes and Project site hardware solutions.
- KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
- Responsible for developing Knowledge Sharing systems.
- Accountable for all Training, Business and Project technical support.
- Consultant for all training, documentation, standards development.
People > Process > Technology
Understanding human behavior is Integral to all technology implementations. Often cost control or hype outweighs this factor in organizations when trying to digitize workflows. Though artificial intelligence and machine learning may one day equal the cognitive ability of humans, computers are still dumb today. The professional experience of our talented resources needs to drive every technology decision. We should recognize that technology solutions are only there as a means to perform their duties shifts perspectives even further. We should try to make technology fade into the background, similar to the way we take our more analog tools for granted today. Focusing on empathy for the tasks and workflows each person must perform, robust solutions can develop that reduce friction and unlock their potential.
The ever-changing landscape of technology is intimidating even to those that shape it. AECO professionals should not be burdened to meander through various competing technologies aimlessly. Instead, concerted efforts to empower their needs and help fill gaps in their current workflows should be the first principle. In analyzing those needs and examining the connective tissue with other processes, solutions emerge while yielding agency back to each person involved. Throughout all changes to process, a tight feedback loop is critical to ensure the solution still meets expectations. As technology evolves, it's incumbent on technology leaders to break some perceived norms when appropriate but never at the detriment of delivering the highest quality and value to the client. It's easy to forget that we can remove computers from the equation and still bring value, but in today's market, we need to level-up talent.
Gone are the days of buying seats of desktop applications and stating that a company can provide BIM. Owners are increasingly savvy about the value that smart data can provide over the lifecycle of their assets. To be competitive in a market saturated in false marketing promises, it is imperative to bring tangible, pragmatic value to clients. Competitive advantage in the age of information is reliant on trusted data. By providing clients with consistent data that is exchanged quickly with rigorous security builds trust. To achieve this goal, defining measurable workflows, aligning client expectations to logical value propositions, and executing against promises are critical components.
The distinction between following market trends and providing real differentiating benefits begins with a solid foundation. Layering people, process with technology provides the perfect mix of elements to grow roots that can scale to meet both the needs of today and the demands of tomorrow. Fostering professionals to adopt and experiment with new forms of data encourages growth into new and exciting opportunities for our clients.