Within project and construction management, much of the work that takes place is fundamentally the same as it has been for the last three decades —even though there has been investment in new tools and automated processes to help the industry evolve and clients stay ahead of the competition and much adoption of new technology, compared to the majority of industries outside of construction the improvements have been incremental rather than seismic, small steps rather than leaps forward.
This poises the industry with a few deep-seated questions and reflection.
Should we Evolve?
Essentially we have two choices: Step up the speed of progress, or fall behind.
Progressing means coming from behind, which is good as it means we have examples to follow. The world in which we operate is in transformation, and we should look at what’s happening for guidance to the future, rather than wait like the canary in the coal mine that signals the arrival of change by falling quiet and keeling over dead. Project and construction management firms should research and embrace technologies supporting automation, integrated project delivery, and new skills creation to foster an environment of learning and progression.
We can see from existing advances how the adoption of technology-supported processes has led to a decrease in data-entry time for project documentation. For the construction industry, improvements in administrative efficiency have an outsized impact. Our clients do not require us to manage document controls processes when project documentation is an automated byproduct of a completed workflow whose data courses into a system where it can be captured, sorted, archived, analysed and reported without human intervention.
Technological advancements help decision-makers and developers use more integrated design and construction solutions. The increasing use of such project delivery methods aligns incentives of entire project teams and stakeholders and facilitates collaboration. Also notable is the rise of new services and vendors coming into construction, bringing manufacturing and supply-chain expertise to help project and construction managers deliver (to owners) true turn-key, facility solutions.
We need to Leave Behind What You Have… For What we may Receive
To get to the Future sometimes you have to let go of the past. Tomorrow’s project managers must question traditional methods and welcome technological advances. To stay ahead of the industry through innovation, companies need to embrace program management information systems (PMIS), building information modeling (BIM), virtual design and construction (VDC), business intelligence and reporting tools, geographical information systems (GIS), reality capture, the internet of things (IoT), digital twins, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) while rolling all that up to support the delivery of data services to clients.
The PM and CM business model can really only succeed by establishing and maintaining credibility with owners. With many practices stuck with the idea that credibility can only be built on personal relationships and the delivery of high-quality leadership services as the bridge between clients and projects. That’s is important, of course, but it is not enough, and those that think may well be shaken as the technology paradigm shifts. It may not be easy to establish and maintain credibility with clients if you do not have the technology resources and expertise to deliver the new services required. With most PM and CM firms already operating with lean benches and low overheads, their ability to lead within this changing digital environment will be key to survival.
Digital transformation is one way to avoid the fate of the coal mine canary, and the roadmap to digital transformation is as plain as the story of Netflix, which embraced technology to transform its CD- and U.S. Mail-based product delivery model with digital streaming, pulling rapidly ahead of its competition in the process. It’s a perfect example of the churn of businesses, services and products rising and falling as a result of innovation and progress that’s known of as “creative destruction,” a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1943. It has never been better exemplified than by Netflix over the last two decades.