Clicks and mortar: why digital construction firms need cloud IT

By the end of 2020, an important first step in the digital evolution of the architecture, engineering and construction sector will nearly be complete. It’s at this point nine out of ten firms say they will be using Building Information Modelling (BIM) for the planning, design and construction of their projects.

Today, according to the 2019 National BIM Report, just over two thirds (69%) of firms are using BIM. And although not every firm is using it on every project right now, the government’s Digital Built Britain policy is transforming the way this sector operates.

Ultimately every firm in the construction supply chain from design to build and maintenance will work with BIM, in some way.

Digital construction: bigger than BIM

While BIM has been a catalyst to introduce a better, more tech-enabled approach to the planning and construction lifecycle, it represents just a small part of the potential technology which will power digital construction now and in the future.

According to the Construction Industry Training Board in its 2018 research ‘Unlocking Construction’s Digital Future: A skills plan for industry’ unless the industry leaps forward in its adoption of digital technology, firms will fail to remain competitive. Leaving them ripe for disruption by businesses who can put new tools to good use.

The key technologies beyond BIM include:

  • Artificial intelligence: the use of machines to interrogate data, learn and solve problems. By looking at past projects AI can help eliminate waste and reduce costs in construction.
  • Augmented reality/virtual reality: allows users to simulate and interact with real-world environments. Useful for remote inspection and visualisation of building models.
  • Automated vehicles, robots and drones: un-manned objects which can be deployed to do repetitive tasks or survey dangerous environments.
  • Internet of things: so-called ‘smart’ devices which are connected and able to capture and share data.
  • Productivity and planning apps: software which captures data that supports better project planning, risk monitoring and workflow management.
  • Wearable technology: worn items which contain electronic sensor which can capture data from the building environment.

While some of these technologies may appear outlandish or even irrelevant to construction, engineering and architecture firms today, the way they are used and the data they capture will have an impact on every business.

Every business is a digital business

What this means is that in now and in the future, every firm involved in the design, planning and construction of built projects is now a digital business.

That doesn’t simply mean using technology to improve workflows but putting digital workflows at the heart of the way the firm works to:

  • Better collaborate: with clients, supply chain partners and internal teams.
  • Improve accuracy in planning and design: reducing waste of material optimising resources
  • Introduce new ways of working: enabling mobile working so that data, designs and other information can be accessed when and where it is needed.
  • Work more efficiently: reducing the time taken on individual projects, freeing up resources and capacity
  • Win new business: take advantage of the emerging generation of ‘digital by default’ clients and supply chain partners who only want to work with firms who have a strong capability in digital construction.
  • Harness future technology: ready to embrace and adapt emerging technology to improve the way projects are conceived, planned and managed.
  • Attract talent: bring on board the right people with the right digital skills to support future business growth.

For every leader or senior manager in an engineering, architecture or construction firm, the ability understands and adopt technology for digital construction is as therefore as critical as the core professional skills which are critical to their job.

New IT for a new breed of firm

Based on our conversations with firms across the sector, many understand the opportunities around digital construction – the need to shift from ‘traditional’ ways of working to new ones which leverage technology. While there is no lack of a digital mindset, the issue which is holding back many is having the right digital tools to do the job:

  • Data held on servers, which limits where and how people can work on projects, impacting productivity and the ability to work on client sites.
  • Security and other technical issues mean that working outside of the business or remote working is impossible, limiting the opportunity to collaborate with partners.
  • The cost of new desktop PCs and associated IT infrastructure, standing in the way of businesses who want to scale and grow.
  • Legacy IT is a disconnected collection of hardware and software tools running on a combination of server, desktop and in the cloud.

The key challenge for every firm is to put the right IT platform in place which can solve these problems, providing a springboard for future growth.

Reach for the cloud

For nearly every firm in the architecture, engineering and construction sector, the only way to keep up with the working practices demanded by a digital construction sector, will be to move to cloud IT.

Cloud IT can give any business, regardless of size, the ability to store and manage limitless amounts of data, work on client sites or on the move and the capability to test new technology and applications that boost productivity. Whether your IT is managed in house, by a senior manager or an IT specialist, it’s unlikely you’ll have all the current skills and knowledge to audit and plan your IT needs for the future. Moving part or all of your business to the cloud requires knowledge of which tools are right for your business, a roadmap to get you there and technical support along the way. This is where a specialist like CloudDirect can help. Our experience of working with firms like yours means you can benefit from our experience and chart the best route to the cloud. We can also help you manage costs, performance and security, allowing you to get ahead in the race to seize the opportunities which are already available in digital construction.