In his recent article “These 3 Technological Forces that are Changing the Nature of Work,” Greg Satell addresses the recent shift in business strategy based around technology. This shift is affecting all businesses, not just those that are technically focused. This, he claims, is because as technology is used to do tasks once done by people, people are becoming the commodity. Now, rather than hiring one person to do a task, businesses must search for teams that can create and assign tasks for, and collaborate using, tech solutions. Satell makes four key points that are important for businesses to remember as they navigate this shift, which when applied to the AEC industry offer huge opportunity, especially for the general contractor.
1. Business models no longer last
Traditional business models are constantly being upended in favor of new, tech and team enabled models that offer faster and more comprehensive results. The standard design/bid/ build construction model is especially susceptible to current changes, as it relies on three separate parties, none of which are held accountable to the others. Lack of input from each team, and communication to ensure each party has the most up to date information, means more errors and delays in construction. A popular change in business model for construction would be design/build, in which design teams and builders are under a single contract, promoting a shared risk and accountability model.
2. Collaboration itself is becoming a competitive advantage
As technology pervades and changes every industry, no one company will have all of resources necessary to compete. This means different teams, with different specialties, will have to communicate to have an understanding of what they must accomplish for the other to work. This has been a challenge in the AEC industry in the past, because of the popular construction business model of design/ bid/ build. Contractors and subcontractors that have the lowest price or the best availability are often selected, meaning the supply chain is constantly changing. As such, there are relatively few groups that work together repeatedly, with a few key exceptions.
3. You need the best teams (not exactly the same as the best people, see #2)
As was mentioned above, tech advancements that can enhance tasks once done by people mean no single person will have the resources or time to run a project, or a subsection of a project, on their own. Everything is about teamwork, not the individual superstars. Stars are good, even great, but with the level of technology being employed to make gains it is better to work as a construction team member than it is to be a construction hero.
4. Hire, manage, and train focused on new skills (not just engineering, coding, or project management)
The new emphasis on teamwork means that in addition to hiring and training based upon construction experience and practical knowhow, businesses must also train employees in the new tech solutions that enable collaboration in the field. Technology is sweeping the industry, and SaaS based technology is easy to connect systems together to create powerful solutions to make team collaboration simple. At Assemble we have recently partnered with Procore to ensure project management and communication of BIMs. As these solutions become more pervasive, applying them to real world projects will be necessary to stay competitive.
Change is here. There are tech solutions that expedite nearly every business task across industries. However, as the AEC industry is more recently adopting these new team focused solutions, it is more important to keep these points in mind. Those who adapt to these changes will keep up, while those who don’t may perish.
Don Henrich is an accomplished technology veteran in both the MCAD and the AEC industries. As President and CEO of Assemble he brings an distinguished track record of innovation, winning strategies, team building, and the ability to quickly grow revenue and market share. Don and his wife Noel have three children, reside in Marblehead, MA and spend as much time as possible sailing on Massachusetts Bay.