Elizabeth Manning is the managing editor of Construction Business Owner magazine.
Nowadays, in order to recruit and retain the best talent in the industry, embracing cutting-edge technology must be a top priority for your company. Implementing solutions like cloud-based software and wearable technology is only the beginning of the tech revolution happening in the construction industry, and providers like Oracle are focused on how to make the implementation of tech a smooth, successful process.
Oracle recently acquired construction cloud solution provider Textura, which, together with Oracle Primavera, form the new Oracle Construction and Engineering Global Business Unit. Heading that operation as senior vice president and general manager is Mike Sicilia, who recently spoke with CBO on industry tech trends and how to embrace advances in technology successfully. Read his answers below.
CBO: What big issues do you see with the adoption of technology in the industry currently?
MS: AEC companies have long been the laggards of tech adopters. However, I think the fact that they were behind has led to a revolution. As more E&C companies are realizing the benefits of the cloud, opportunities to transform allow construction companies to skip entire generations of tech, instead of going through complex upgrades. When Oracle works with companies in the industry, we are often replacing a manual process with a technological solution. The lion’s share of the firms out there today are still using antiquated processes. On the other hand, we are also seeing an increase in drone technology, Internet of Things (IoT) technology, Augmented Reality (AR) and big data analytics.
These kinds of technologies then lead to industry leaders becoming end users to our application suites across the board. Every time I go out to visit a jobsite, I see a new sensor or wearable. And, in-context visualizations such as AR are perfectly suited to engineering and construction-type work; the challenge for contractors is how to monetize it. This is where the cloud and the power of predictive analytics will take center stage. So, part of the industry is still not spending the money on technology that they need to, and another large part of the industry is spending money on top-grade tech.
CBO: What is your advice for capitalizing on new business ventures with digital solutions?
MS: The AEC industry is moving to the cloud. The cloud should be the first thing to look at if your construction company has not already implemented it. Not only does it suit rapid project-by-project starts, but it also can enable the roll up and predictive analytics that service the enterprise.
Procurement, contracts and labor management all happen project by project, even at the largest firms. Ask yourself, how can you take some of the best practices learned on one project to the next project through the use of cloud solutions? Being able to look at an entire project portfolio can have significant benefits to the company overall. There has to be a way for the GC to be able to see what is going on across all the projects currently going on at once.
With on-premise solutions, it’s very difficult to do that. There may be a weekly synchronization, at best, back to headquarters, but from an overall risk management view, it is hard for the executive team to see what’s going on.
Secondly, construction companies should look closely at automating and digitizing as many processes as possible. For example, today, processes like subcontractor compliance management and payments are still primarily paper based, with slow turnaround, significant and redundant data entry and lack of scalability and enterprise visibility. With the right technologies, construction companies can digitize and streamline these processes to save time and costs, while making their operations leaner, mitigating compliance-related risks and achieving higher operating margins and better cash flow.
CBO: What do you think is the next big move in terms of tech in the AEC industry?
MS: The integration of applications and the Internet of Things (IoT) – being able to take information from a concrete thing and answer real-time questions using that data. We have all the pillars, and we are adopting cloud solutions in the industry at faster rates than we have ever seen before. Integrating these things together into real-time decision making is something we truly need to focus on in the near future.
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