Then and now...
How many articles have you read at this stage that outline how technology is taking over? There is an abundance of thought-provoking statistics that demonstrate how we have moved into a new Digital Age. In the last 15 years, 52% of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared.
For better or worse, household names have disappeared.
Blockbuster’s monopoly on movies replaced my Netflix
Kodak’s monopoly on photographs replaced by Instagram
Nokia’s monopoly on mobiles replaced by Apple’s iPhone
In the Construction Industry, the T-square was replaced by 2D Drawing software like AutoCAD which is now being surpassed by 3D Modelling software like Revit. Even Revit is being supplemented by Plugins, such is the speed of change.
In the future, these tools may be replaced by new applications with better User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) offerings. The chainage measurements of a bygone era have been replaced by the Total Station and GPS which is now being overtaken by Point Cloud Surveys and advancements in Augmented Reality.
The Myth of becoming Obsolete
Any conversation involving these types of technological advancements typically accelerates the mind in one of two ways. Depending on the type of person you are, this discussion can excite you or often, it can frighten you. Nobody likes ‘change’; it comes with ‘fear of the unknown’… but then again, great things never came from comfort zones!
When the concept of BIM was introduced, some professionals argued that BIM was going to take their jobs! Jobs will undoubtedly be affected but the workforce will adapt, improve and become more efficient.
When we were first introduced to BIM and Digital Construction, the profession that was always highlighted as being next in line for the "chop" was the Quantity Surveyor. Digital Quantification was heralded by some and shunned by others. The industry was in a state of flux as it came to terms with the new technology being made available to the profession.
The most interesting thing was that it was not Digital Quantification that started to put Quantity Surveyors out of business; it was the enlightened Quantity Surveyors that began to use Digital Quantification that started to put the old-school Quantity Surveyors out of business. The ‘traditional approach’ firms simply could not keep up with the amount of work that those mastering Digital Quantification could get through. By fast-tracking the mundane task of completing manual quantity take-offs, those using Digital Quantification were able to use their knowledge of the industry to focus on ‘value-engineering’ and streamlining the commercial aspects of the projects.
However, this is only one example of the Construction Industry moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, most projects are hampered by traditional scopes and workflows. The paperwork tends to lag behind the technological advancements. Contracts and scopes get copied and pasted from project to project down through the years… some are so old, that our friend Shakespeare may very well have wrote them himself!
Crossing the Chasm
So, will machines have completely taken over by 2039 or will there always be a need for humans? More importantly, what will become of the humans that don’t adapt and integrate technology into how they carry out their work. That’s a rhetorical question…
The Innovation Adoption Curve is a great graphic to gauge your own stance on incoming technological innovations. It started as a typical bell curve, but Geoffrey A. Moore’s adaption introduced ‘The Chasm’ to illustrate that there is a clear distinction in how people respond to innovation.
There are those who get excited by change and welcome it with open arms. These people are the ‘Innovators’ and ‘Early Adopters’. They are the minority.
The Mainstream Market is composed of the ‘Early Majority’, the ‘Late Majority’ and the ‘Laggards’.
This curve is generally used by Technology Start-ups to identify who their target demographic is, but it can also be used as a means to measure your ability to adapt in a rapidly changing industry.
The ‘Innovators’ and ‘Early Adopters’ tend to have realised that there is a problem with the status quo and are motivated to find a solution. There is an element of risk associated with taking up a position to the left of The Chasm.
However, there is also a substantial level of risk with finding yourself in the ‘Late Majority’ or ‘Laggards’ groups. You may have missed the boat to advance your own capabilities by missing the opportunity to integrate technological advancements into your workflows.
The opportunists tend to be the ‘Early Adopters’ who avoid the risky experience of trying new untested technology but capitalise on others doing the dirty work for them. This contingent quickly position themselves as individuals that are at the forefront of their profession and successfully manage to generate future business as the remainder of the Mainstream Market come on board.
Fostering Skilled Resources
As an industry, we need to reduce the amount of scare mongering when BIM andDigital Constructioncome into conversation. Thankfully, the “We’ve done it like this for years” remarks are starting to fade away. Company Directors may not fully understand BIM and Digital Construction, but they do understand that there is a new way of doing things. These modern methods of construction require the ‘new kids on the block’. What’s more, the ‘new kids on the block’ need to be given a certain level of autonomy to implement the required changes to current processes.
The Construction Industry has over 80% of its workforce in non-desk roles. These individuals are non-digitised and not connected through any real time communication networks. We need to use this evolution/revolution in the Construction Industry to build a level of excitement and hype. We need to attract the brightest minds. Other industries currently come across as far more enticing. The future generations will follow industries that understand how to make the most of technology and integrate it into their processes. Fintech (the use of technology in the Financial Industry) and even Agritech (the use of technology in the Agricultural Industry) are everyday terms that excite students. Contech needs to have a similar impact. Contech doesn’t even come up as an option when filling in registration forms for technology conferences at the minute! Let’s face it, the Construction Industry needs a face-lift in order to attract the next generation regardless of whether the roles are blue collar or white collar.
New Roles, New Technology, New Opportunities
Businesses need to continue to build their workforce but also continue to up-skill their workers. Combining the experienced individuals with those that are more digitally advanced will ensure that the team members become well rounded and skilled in their roles. Technology is rapidly changing. Make no mistake about it, everyone will need to be able to use technology in order to improve at their job. The notion that established trades like Carpenters, Bricklayers and Electricians will be replaced by technology is nonsense. However, tradesmen that do not take advantage of integrating technology or even making use of the vast amount of information available digitally will get left behind. These roles will become more specialised as technology advances.
Today’s toddlers can work their way around an iPad to an astonishingly high degree. Technology is part of their everyday lives. It is expected that over 67% of the next generations job titles have not been invented yet. That expectation should be enough encouragement for anyone getting on the career ladder today to remain agile.
New roles such as the BIM Manager, Innovation Director, CIO’s have all been introduced to clear the way through the forest of Technophobia. These roles are all required and necessary to up-skill the rest of the workforce. The mantra for these individuals is simple... change the manner, change the workforce, make Digital Construction ‘Business as Usual’!
Digital Construction will be the difference between DarWINNING and DarLOSING!