This is the second post in our "build vs. buy" series.
The 2016 Engineering and Construction Trends report from PwC, identifies technology advances as one of the top five global trends that will impact AEC firms. In fact, it was at the top of the list ahead of demographic shifts, shifts in global economic power, resource scarcity and climate change, and urbanization. If you think about these top five, you will quickly recognize that technology advances is the only one that is within your control.
This puts an exclamation point on how important it is to put a strategy in place to continually assess, acquire, and implement the right technologies for the right reasons at the right time. You need to do this to gain competitive differentiation and maximize profitability in AEC. Firms must adopt a strategy of continuous technology assessment and adoption alongside operational process re-engineering. There is no other way to keep up, especially since technology advancements will continue at a rapid pace for the foreseeable future.
Creating a diagram of your existing technology landscape is an effective tool to manage this fusion of technology and process. Revisiting and challenging the technologies deployed in the landscape as an ongoing part of your strategic plan will pay dividends for the entire organization.
At the heart of the landscape for a construction engineering firm are the core foundational applications that are required to run the business. The core most likely includes ERP, CRM/Quoting, Field and Lab Operations, and Data/Document Warehouse Management solutions. Periodically identify and review the specific functions for each of these applications as new software revisions are released. This effort will help identify technologies that either overlap or are insufficient to execute a lean process.
For all data master files, such as customers and projects, it is key to identify which application is the system of record. It is also important to design processes and integrations to share those master files across other systems of reference in order to provide data integrity across the landscape. Review the functionality of these core applications to ensure they support lean processes that capture data at the point of origination and allow that data to be improved along the path to delivery. It is essential to identify and eliminate duplicate processes, manual processes, and dependence on spreadsheets.
Outside of the core applications, firms will most likely need to employ “add-on” applications to round out requirements that are not native to the core applications. Again, it is essential to identify the role these “add on” applications play and how to integrate these applications efficiently into the core in order to minimize the landscape.
Last but not least, engineering firms will deploy a variety of operational technologies ranging from design to equipment management to geospatial technologies, etc. The last piece to completing the landscape is to identify which of these technologies, if any, create data or transactions that should be integrated into the core business technologies.
This technology landscape will become even more important as the pressure to connect and/or integrate to outside parties intensifies. Likewise, the next wave of technologies that support IoT, 3-D printing, and augmented/virtual reality are poised to cause rapid and disruptive change, so you need to be ready. Now is the time to be intentional and aggressive in re-engineering your business processes to be digital. Make sure your technology landscape comprises the best model available for you to drive strategic gains in profitability and competitive differentiation.