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No Industry more Important than Construction, No Role more Important than CIO

By Jeff Brzycki, CIO, Autodesk

No Industry more Important than Construction, No Role more Important than CIOJeff Brzycki, CIO, Autodesk

It is a bold title I know, and one your colleagues will probably scoff at—but hear me out. The construction industry sustains residential, social, and economic infrastructure all over the world. Without the construction industry, you would have no house to live in, no bridge to cross to get to work, and no building to work in. And modern technology has brought us great advancements: the ability to walk through your home before breaking ground, build a bridge using robots, and the ability to connect to everything. Today, the construction industry is experiencing three major technology-driven disruptions, catalyzing a new phase that we call the Era of Connection. As CIO, your position is crucial in helping the industry embrace new technologies to understand and maximize the opportunities from these disruptions.

Changes in the Means of Production

The first disruption is to the way project teams undertake the planning and design of buildings and infrastructure, including how teams land on the most appropriate commercial strategies and contract terms. The means of physical production is changing, as easier access to complex and offsite production methods is bringing down time and/or cost requirements, and raising quality and value. Technology continues to shrink the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds; for example, cloud computing enables contractors to access vast amounts of processing power on demand, and big data technologies enable the capture of large amounts of highly trustworthy information—opening the door to the long-sought ability to predict the future by mining that data.

Changes in the Nature of Demand for Construction Services

With the rise of economic prosperity around the globe, there is a larger, more educated population of consumers, which increases and changes the demand for construction products and services.

If you are still just dipping your toe in the BIM waters, it is time to step off the diving board

These consumers are more connected and educated about products, and they have more choices about which products they purchase. Aesthetics, personalization, sustainability, and manufacturing location have a greater impact, as these factors are important to consumers. This shift in demand translates into not only the consumer-driven residential sector, but equally so into the expectations of business consumers of all forms of constructed building and infrastructure assets. As the development of desktop, cloud, and mobile products and services continue to grow, so do customer's expectations.

Changes in Product

At the same time, product intelligence is increasing. Physical things are now deeply connected—to each other and to other systems. Things increasingly interconnect and relate to each other, both physically and digitally, and this is opening the door to new ways of adding value to buildings and infrastructure. This growing interconnectedness also better aligns supply with demand across many dimensions—occupancy levels, energy performance, water usage, passenger journeys, refinery throughput, and more. There is an opportunity to move beyond the individual asset and build new relationships with your clients based on outcomes, rather than on price or even value.

Disruptions will Create a New Era of Competition

These three disruptions are creating a new age of rivalry. Access to unlimited processing power can help solve the most complex problems effortlessly: seamless connection of talent, across geographies and commercial interfaces, to get the best ideas; intelligent digital connectivity within and between assets to deliver better outcomes; and freer access to capital, from reduced risk and alternative funding. These capabilities will be available to any company, regardless of type, size, or location. The barriers to access will be low.

Your Role in all of This

In all likelihood, you have heard of Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Building Information Modeling (BIM), but if your firm isn’t adopting these building approaches on all of your projects you are behind the eight ball. In this new era of connection (and competition), there is no room for a wait-and-see approach. BIM is the foundation for success, with tightly connected “design to build to own” processes across the lifecycle. A recent Economist Intelligence Unit report, Rethinking Productivity across the Construction Industry: The Challenge of Change, made a few bold statements of their own about VDC and BIM. Here is one example: “If companies want to remain competitive, they have no choice but to incorporate these technologies and strategies into their project-planning and delivery process.” All across the world, governments are starting to mandate the use of VDC/BIM on projects and the percentage of construction firms expected to adopt a VDC/BIM process is on the rise.

It’s Not too Late, but You are Cutting it Close

If you are still just dipping your toe in the BIM waters, it is time to step off the diving board. BIM is the conduit to success in the era of connection. It puts the digital model at the center of all activities, showering construction firms with benefits across the board; in 2013, contractors cited everything from reduced errors and omissions to better cost control and predictability (see McGraw-Hill graphic).

BIM adoption is still in its early stages, and the time to adopt is now. In fact, that same Economist Intelligence Unit report revealed that early adopters of these approaches have a clear advantage over their competitors.

This is a historic time for construction and technology. In your position as CIO, you have the unique ability to significantly impact how your company takes advantage of these opportunities. Eventually these disruptions will become the norm, and construction firms that jumped ahead of them will be just that—ahead. Some on your leadership team may be resistant to the type of change successful BIM adoption necessitates. It will be your job to help drive this change and to increase adoption to use on all projects.

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