COVID-19 has been a catalyst for accelerated change in technology, especially with how the world communicates and conducts business on a daily basis. Construction and real estate (CRE) are no exception to this rapid digital transformation. In fact, it is most likely that the driving force that led digital transformation for most CRE companies was not the chief information officer, chief technology officer or another member of the executive committee – but rather the shutdown and economic impact from COVID-19 itself. These industries must now acknowledge that digital transformation is active and accelerating due to COVID-19, and that as a result of a rapidly dispersed workforce, security and data are more important now than ever. Companies should consider taking action and making smart investments as part of a digital transformation plan so they are emerging strong in the Next Normal.
Emerging Strong with Digital Transformation
Transition to the Cloud and Remote Work. Project delivery and project design in the cloud has been commonplace for some time within the industry. However, COVID-19 has caused an acceleration of moving to the cloud for office productivity (e.g., Office 365 software), backoffice enterprise resource planning (ERP) and overall company-wide collaboration. With business shutdowns throughout the country, companies have had to adapt by quickly transitioning to a remote workforce, causing stresses on internal infrastructure (e.g., bandwidth of service level agreements with cloud vendors, remote access applications for software licensing, collaboration tools such as Zoom and Teams, etc.). As a result, CRE companies are laser-focused on a complete transition to the cloud and responsible deployment of their remote workforce. Challenges that were present, but slow to be addressed, are now accelerated by the pandemic and require immediate attention. Doing so can help to limit departmental silos, knowledge gaps within teams, outdated workflows and any limits of craft and skilled labor for projects.
Workforce Initiatives. CRE companies can benefit from workforce investment in the areas of field reporting, safety checklists and inspections, human resources (HR) and engagement and training. Focusing on such workforce initiatives can deliver immediate impact by appropriately leveraging technology. When employees can complete different tasks required on the job in a safe, technologically advanced and secure way, work can be completed faster while also enabling the tracking of data for later analysis and use. Training effective end-users is also a valuable return on investment (ROI) on security measures. For example, training end-users on social engineering (phishing, vishing, whaling, etc.) is critical along with an increase in protective controls of email vendors as a result of COVID-19.
Digitization of Key Workflows. Automation of inefficient workflows can greatly improve the digital transformation of CRE companies, including procurement, invoice routing and approvals, time and material (T&M) tickets and work directives, and daily reporting and job photos. It is important to help employees understand company policies regarding actions they are allowed (and not allowed) to perform on their work devices. If employees are using their own device, consider investment in reputable antivirus and install updates as well as password manager implementation and multi-factor authentication.
Formalize a Roadmap for Digital Transformation
CRE companies should consider creating a formalized roadmap to help them understand how they can achieve digital transformation. Such a roadmap can include the following steps:
As CRE companies formalize their plans, it could be beneficial to utilize and invest in a technology partner in order to make certain that software is leveraged effectively as well as properly manage the project.
Best Practices for CRE Technology Success
The following are considered best practices for CRE companies as they engage in digital transformation:
- Executive Ownership – Everything starts at the top with clear leadership and accountability.
- Set Business Objectives – Identify and communicate the business impact and value to your employees and other key stakeholders.
- Define Success – Clearly articulate the impact and define success by phase.
- Leverage Partners – Expertise and experience help to achieve overall success.
- Manage the Project – Oversight, communication and accountability are crucial.
- Engage Users – Listen and receive input from key stakeholders at every phase of the plan.
- Celebrate Wins – Share easy wins and allow users the opportunity to shine.
- Review and Refine – Measure success tied to objectives and impact, and then revise accordingly.
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