We delve into what an ambitious digital strategy can mean

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The first four articles in this Building Academy course on Digital Construction have covered, what is meant by digital construction and why now is the right time to embark on the next stages of your journey towards this digital future. And we say next stages, to highlight that, whether you recognise it or not, you have already started on this journey. We are all using technology in the form of email and, I have no doubt, software to support the accounting functions amongst many other things. As we have repeatedly indicated, the future is digital, hence the next few articles consider what steps you can take now.

If the journey to this point would be described as ad hoc, the emphasis here is to establish a more focused attitude to achieve a future that you envision. Whether we call it a strategy, or an action plan, the purpose is to learn from the white rabbit’s wisdom referred to in the first article of this series, where the inference is that a planned approach is more likely to result in success. It is why, when we look outside construction, we increasingly see organisations producing and sharing their digital strategies as well as employing individuals with responsibility at board level for the implementation of this strategy. Whether or not your organisation can employ an individual in a Chief Technology/Information Officer role, the precedent is clear, organisations of the future will have a route map that takes them towards enhanced digital competency.

Hence, your action is to produce your digital strategy.

A digital strategy will refer to technology; equally important will be reference to data, workflows, and people. The strategy should recognise your current capabilities, articulate a vision of the future, and identify the actions to be taken to take you towards the vision. The real value in producing this strategy will be the activities undertaken in its preparation, so let’s consider what is involved.

In the previous articles, it has been suggested you should consider an information management audit as well as a review of the performance of recent projects. Reference was also made to CITB’s publication “Unlocking Construction’s Digital Future”, suggesting you should use their scale to assess your digital competence. These are all activities that are part of recognising your current capabilities. As part of these activities, engaging with others within the organisation, in different roles to appreciate what they perceive works well, does not work so well and what they would like to see done differently. In my experience, employees will invariably have a good appreciation of the organisation’s current capability in terms of technology, data, and workflows; this will can provide a basis to learn from and build upon.

The second aspect of the digital strategy is to imagine what a digital future looks like for your organisation. Whilst it’s probably that time pressures from work in progress and winning the next project result in little to no time contemplating that future, it is imperative that time is made available, even half a day, to consider how you would like your business to operate in say 2030. Inspiration can be taken from many different sources, be it within the industry or outside. Think about, amongst other things:

  • How you would like your business to be different, and this does not need to refer to being digital.
  • What do your clients need, and what are your competitors doing?
  • How will you comply with the forthcoming legislation requirements?

Again, the real value in this process is to start to consider what the future could look like.

The third part of the digital strategy is the action plan. What actions need to be taken to move you from your current position toward that digital future? You can determine the timescale for this strategy and whilst many organisations will take a five-year horizon, there is nothing to say you should. It might be the case, that you need to take a shorter perspective to develop a better understanding of your current capabilities and what that future might look like. Hence, you might prefer a six to twelve-month horizon to understand whether you need to be concerned about digital twins, artificial intelligence, or common data environments.

This article in the Building Academy’s Digital Construction course has focused on what steps you can take now to move towards a digital future. The recommendation is to produce a digital strategy, that outlines your current digital capabilities, a view of the future and an action plan. If you are thinking that this sounds like management-speak and you do not have time to produce a digital strategy, then let me suggest that these activities need not take too long, nor cost too much; the real value of this recommendation is the understanding gained from undertaking these exercises and challenging the business to consider what a digital future means.

The focus on imaging a digital future has not suggested anything outlandish, like whether there is life on Mars, however, this does provide an alternative approach to preparing a digital strategy. Rather than take the suggested incremental approach to your strategy, articulate a compelling mission for the business that inspires action to be taken. This process will still need to be resourced, managed and controlled, I am certain that any such compelling mission will need to be underpinned with an appropriate strategy to utilising the power of people, data and technology.

Whichever approach you take, you will need to work with your clients, suppliers, and other consultants to achieve your vision. Hence, subsequent articles will delve deeper into the production of your digital strategy, concentrating on technology, data, workflows, and people and how you can collaborate with other stakeholders. We will start with people and investigate the digital skills that are needed now and in the future. You are encouraged to think about the digital skills currently possessed, how they are developed and how skills gaps are identified.

Until next time, keep working hard, be happy and have fun.