AEC organizations are no strangers to digital transformation. As technology helps companies communicate and complete projects in these challenging times of COVID, the concept of a digital transformation is evolving. Within the AEC industry, new applications and software continue to increase any firm’s tech-stack. Today more than ever, these digital transformations are increasing in pace and frequency for the AEC industry.
In this article we’ll cover how e-learning, knowledge capture, and knowledge sharing will impact AEC organizations’ digital transformations in 2021, including:
- What is digital transformation?
- Barriers to digital transformation
- The e-learning solution
- Knowledge capture
- Knowledge sharing
Read on to learn more about the ways e-learning, knowledge capture, and knowledge sharing will play into AEC organizations’ digital transformation.
What is digital transformation?
Recall the addition of a new technology into your daily workflow. Perhaps it was an application to help HR track your time off request, or it was a new tool to help you finalize the schematic of your project. These are common examples of digital transformations happening around us, which we adopt without a second thought. Digital transformations take many forms, but for this article, we’ll define a digital transformation as the organizational, operational, and cultural change of an organization through the intelligent integration of technologies, digital processes, or digital competencies in a staged and strategic progression.
Successful digital transformation requires facing the challenges of cost, time required, and skills training head-on. Regardless of their employment size, yearly revenue, global footprint, or any other tangible measure, the one factor which sets successful AEC organizations facing a digital transformation apart from all the rest is the ability and willingness to adapt and change.
The barriers to digital transformation
Since the early 1980s, AEC companies have embraced digital tools to increase productivity and efficiency within projects. For all organizations, digital transformations come with barriers to overcome: cost, time, and skills gap.
What do organizations who are succeeding with digital transformations have in common? Initially, they all faced a real, tangible market pressure. Perhaps a competitor debuted a new product that threatened to take market share or a global pandemic forces organizations to reinvent their entire structure. Given these challenges, successful companies address their organization’s culture, processes, and models for ways to improve or potentially compromise.
Evaluating needs, technology is a crucial driver to help combat these obstacles. Of course, factors like cost, time, and skills needed must be carefully assessed for any process to be adopted and lead to a digital transformation. How do successful organizations overcome these challenges and thrive?
The e-learning solution
Digital transformations require organizations to change their existing models. For instance, training used to be cost-intensive and time-consuming, requiring employees to step away from working projects and attend instructor-led courses. These courses could last a day to weeks, requiring additional costs for travel, material, and lost productivity.
In the last few years, skills training has morphed drastically from instructor-led courses to personalized, targeted e-learning paths. With e-learning adoption, these same employees can begin performing learned tasks on projects almost immediately. Instead of structuring projects around training times, organizations can start billing for work faster, completing projects on time, and begin growing more opportunities sooner.
E-learning has adapted well to the times. Instead of pre-recorded long-form webinars, e-learning platforms (like Eagle Point’s Pinnacle Series) have adapted course content to help foster learning. This is because digital transformations are often fragmented. For instance, Information Technology Director Dan Galivan from Payette Architectural revealed how digital applications are often not implemented linearly within a business. Many team members use specific, targeted pieces of different software packages to complete a large complex project. Keeping information flowing between these critical processes takes training and competency on each of the applications, but not full expert-level knowledge. Summarizing necessary steps, communicating results, and collaborating in real-time are three key areas e-learning has helped achieve successful implementation of the myriad of tech options available within the AEC market.
It’s important to note digital transformation is not always a zero-sum game. Many AEC organizations will continue to use older methods around projects, selecting those new technology pieces that work best for them. This means effective training needs to be offered at the right times and pace for each firm. According to Galivan, if you try and push training on people, they become more reluctant. When people can harness their natural curiosity for their learning, it helps make the learning environment positive, non-punitive, easy-to-use, and straightforward.
COVID-19 has dramatically impacted how AEC organizations navigate digital transformations. Many processes, which before COVID-19 required face-to-face contact, have been forced to evolve. For example, retail transactions involving credit cards no longer require signatures because of COVID-19 transmission concerns.
Closer to home, AEC organizations have experienced the need to complete projects outside of their typical office environments. Galivan revealed that Payette Architectural’s teams have had to get creative around collaborative efforts. Within their brick and mortar office building, colleagues could collaborate freely on projects, lending expertise and experience for projects seamlessly. Now, because all employees are working remotely, they found this collaboration had halted. More experienced employees could no longer lend expertise on a project and help guide newer employee development.
Quickly, Payette decided something needed to be done to solve this barrier to collaboration. Initially, email was tested, but found to be too time-consuming and lacked real-time communication. The adoption of a communication software helped, but it didn’t allow for the effective sharing of drawings. Ultimately, a combination of drawing software coupled to their internal chat system accomplished their goals.
Now quick, seamless collaboration between peers on a project could take place. The transformation didn’t happen overnight- it took trial and error and a coordinated effort to figure out the best combination for a solution. Galivan credits the organization’s culture around innovation and willingness to try new things as huge factors in this transformation. Keeping the knowledge flowing around the office on technology kept the project on track and on time.
Because a digital transformation can be fragmented, keeping best practices and standard operating procedures centralized and easily located is critical. Capturing knowledge gained from one team member around a process can help alleviate frustration for other team members.
Carl Storms, Technical Solutions Lead at BIM Track, relayed that their organization’s culture encourages innovation specific to technology. It’s this willingness and ability to change which sets successful companies apart from the crowd.
Of course, innovation requires an in-depth understanding of the current practice or process. Only if someone understands all the pain points, potential inefficiencies, and outcomes can they truly address how to improve any method. Having readily accessible knowledge around a procedure inside a project helps challenge the status quo. No organization can survive by simply repeating the same process over and over because that’s what they’ve always done. The pace of technological change continues to increase, requiring better trained, more informed employees to make creative decisions.
Although digital transformation within the AEC industry began nearly 40 years ago, it continues to accelerate. Advances in robotics, automation, 3D modeling, digital twins, and virtual reality are upending many organizations’ workflows. Successful teams embrace these changes, innovate around technology, and test best practices. Keeping employees trained on new technology helps push barriers around adoptions down. Encouraging collaboration and teamwork improves workflows and lowers the knowledge gaps between members on the same team. And storing valuable knowledge at a fingertip’s search helps ensure new projects can adapt and learn from previous efforts. Companies who keep these tenets at the center of their culture will be able to navigate any technological challenge or digital transformation.
Ready to see how an e-learning system can impact your AEC organization’s digital transformation? If you’re a current Pinnacle Series customer, log in now to check out the knowledge capture and sharing features. If you’re not a current customer, reach out today to schedule a demo.