More Than Tech:
Humanizing Construction Digitalization
November 08, 2022
Construction digitalization continues its gradual acceptance and adoption within the industry. It’s a promising sign in an industry that’s historically been slow in its adoption of technology, especially when compared to other sectors.
Something to keep in mind though is this digitalization isn’t just about the technology; it’s about the people who use it, perhaps even more so. While mobile apps, software and field technologies have been positively disrupting how projects are managed and delivered, there seems to be a corresponding concern over ensuring it doesn’t negatively disrupt how individuals out in the field and in the back office do their jobs. After all, fears abound of robotic technology taking over jobs, artificial intelligence (AI) rendering actual human intelligence irrelevant, and software replacing key tasks traditionally done by those with specialized knowledge such as estimating.
So it might help to take a step back and acknowledge what construction digitalization is meant to do: use technology to streamline processes and optimize project workflows. It comes down to making construction technology more human-focused and human-friendly — not just used by people, but for them.
There are multiple approaches you can take to “humanize” construction digitalization so technology supports people and their jobs, rather than the other way around.
People-focused change management is key
Despite how ubiquitous technology has become in our daily lives, it may be new territory for a lot of project team members regardless of their specific role, especially on the jobsite. Naturally this kind of change will replace what is familiar. And as technology becomes more advanced and prevalent, it’s vital to acknowledge the very real concern many may have that it will replace them in some way.
Change management is key to cultivating an environment where employees feel comfortable with the tools and technologies that can ultimately help them do their jobs better. This can help allay fears of a tech takeover of jobs and foster an embrace of construction digitalization.
Granted, it’s not going to happen right away and there will be the expected hiccups and learning curves. But there are ways to manage change so that it’s positive for everyone involved. Sure, there are a variety of ways that smooth the actual adoption of new technologies, but there are several things you can do from a purely human-centric perspective to shift any hesitant mindset:
- Start by conducting an honest assessment of the value any current technologies bring to your business processes and operations and how well they help everyone do their jobs. Or, if no tech is in place, look at current processes and whether digitalizing them will remove bottlenecks, automate tasks to improve productivity or help alleviate workers’ pain points.
- Create an internal culture where everyone can be part of the conversation: People value being heard and having a chance to voice fears, suggestions and questions. Leading off collaboratively in this way can make people feel like they’re part of the solution rather than having something thrust upon them without their input.
- Invest in digital skills training for tech veterans and novices alike that emphasizes how the technology will positively impact workers onsite or in the back office, not just it will help the company’s operations or bottom line.
Focus on technology empowerment instead of just the tech
Construction digitalization is not just about using technology to make work easier and more efficient. It’s about changing how we think about work, how we build relationships with our clients, how we interact with each other and how we collaborate across departments and teams.
While there’s no denying that automation will continue to play an important role in construction management and delivery, it won’t take over every aspect of an organization’s daily operations. In fact, automation will free up time for individuals to focus on more strategic tasks that require human decision-making capabilities. Likewise, AI does a great job at making sense of large amounts of data and drawing conclusions from that data. However, it can’t do anything that would require human judgment or common sense.
It’s this human factor that matters most when it comes to construction digitalization. For example, cloud-based digitalization empowers workers to contribute to the project’s overall success by giving them access to valuable information at their fingertips, from any device at any time, so they can stay informed about what’s going on throughout construction. It also supports real-time collaboration among teams by eliminating communication and data silos, which promotes transparency and trust among stakeholders. When teams can easily share data with one another, they become more efficient.
Human-centric tech adoption using a less-is-more approach
How so? By choosing a single integrated platform with connected data as a basis for collaboration, decision making and project certainty. There’s been a tendency toward single function “solutions” rather than more integrated “systems.” This can lead to fragmented systems that not only can’t share data and don’t work together well but can hinder project teams from working together well as a result.
Integrated platforms are more efficient than multiple tools for managing data. As organizations adopt more software tools to manage different aspects of their business (e.g., scheduling, estimating, risk management), they risk creating silos of information where data can’t be shared or analyzed holistically by all stakeholders involved in delivering a project or performing work onsite.
It’s that data quality that will make such a huge difference in helping individual workers and project teams work together more effectively — because having access to project data is one thing; having access to the right data that is the most up to date and accurate is another. This depends on construction digitalization whose tech-based processes can deliver project data that is current, consistent and correct. From a technology standpoint, an integrated platform does just that.
It provides visibility into what’s happening across a project at any given time and the ability to track project performance data with a lot more certainty. Ultimately, it helps connect data and people; not only can the different functions “talk” with one another and share data, but project teams can depend on that data as a basis for gaining insights and making highly informed, collaborative decisions throughout the project life cycle.
Humanized construction digitalization brings people to technology
The industry will continue to rely on human labor, experience, expertise and decisions. Construction digitalization is a means toward those ends; you might say it humanizes how we ultimately work together. You may have questions about how your company can undertake this process or how a solution like InEight integrated platform can fit in your digital transformation plans. We’re happy to answer your questions or take you through a platform demo; just schedule a consultation that’s convenient for you.
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