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Digital Transformation

Understanding Digital Transformation in Construction Project Management

Written By: Joe Demski
March 15, 2022
9 min read

While company-wide digital transformation begins with executives and construction technologists, construction project managers play an integral role in implementing new processes and tools. Since the pandemic, 85% of business leaders have accelerated their digital transformation strategy, and 84% say it has revealed new business opportunities. It’s up to project managers to execute the transformation across departments and personnel.

Digital transformation is the core of all areas of business. Advanced business apps have to meet the needs of consumers and workers. The tools that make digital transformation possible for organizations have similar underlying technologies but different features to meet different business needs.

For construction project managers, digital transformation is about guiding your organization through the digital transformation process, integration processes, and onboarding vendors and subcontractors. Some workers will be ready to use new tools, but others will want to continue their legacy processes. It’s up to project managers to show how digital transformation can benefit everyone. At the same time, they must respect that each individual will approach this significant change differently.

Is your operation ready for a digital transformation? Let’s find out.

Defining Digital Transformation

When you think of digital transformation, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s an image of a large scientific lab with holographic presentations, or perhaps it’s just an image of a fashionable Gen Z investor. All around the world, people are finding new ways to use technology for a more streamlined experience.

Digitization is a little less dramatic for businesses but still very powerful. Digital transformation is about streamlining customer-facing and internal processes for maximum efficiency.

Digital transformation is beneficial for businesses and customers. It allows builders to respond quickly to customer needs, adapt to a changing marketplace, and become more proactive in their daily processes. Not only does this help businesses run more efficiently, it ultimately provides their customers with a better experience by ensuring projects finish on-time and within budget.

Other benefits of digital transformation include:

  • Better communication — cross-team communication is more accessible with tools that allow project teams and contractors to communicate in real-time, cutting down on email clutter.

  • Effective collaboration — modern work management platforms create a better environment for collaboration with the ability to assign tasks, approve assets, and organize dashboards.

  • Increased focus on strategy — while digital tools automate tedious processes, project managers have more time to focus on delivering successful outcomes.

Valuable analytics — improved tools provide better access to data, so that insight reports are generated using quality analytics in record time.

What Tools and Processes are Involved with Digital Transformation in Construction?

In a nutshell, digital transformation is about structuring your business around digital tools. But the tools that various companies use to operate will look very different depending on the industry. Each organization has to address the areas that can be automated and digitized.

On any given day in the construction industry, a construction project manager may need to consult 10 or more different apps or software systems just to understand the full portrait of project status and plan for subsequent work. Workforce management, site safety and compliance, supplier tracking, resource management, contractor communications, and more may all be housed in individual systems or your email inbox.

For most construction organizations digital transformation is not merely adopting more software. With some basic tools already in place, they can focus on more advanced processes. This might include capturing data for analytics and improving workflows by integrating existing software into an agility layer. In addition, 73% of leaders are capitalizing on low-code tools to enhance their software development.

Digital Transformation and Construction Project Managers

Construction companies with a good digital transformation strategy perform better than those without one. Digital transformation helps project managers streamline communication and improve collaboration by shifting the focus from output to outcomes.

The role of project managers during digital transformation

No one individual at an organization can ruin a company-wide effort to switch to new digital tools. However, construction project managers have a lot of power regarding digital transformation. But as someone once said, with great power comes great responsibility. Without a clear execution strategy, project managers may struggle to impact their organization positively.

In addition to the technical aspects of digital transformation, project managers also face the human element during this process. It can be challenging to get other departments and employees on the same page with the company’s digital transformation strategy.

Here’s what project managers can do to ensure a smooth transition:

1. Convince colleagues that agility matters

Spreading agile values is the number one role of project managers during a company-wide digital transformation. But once a forward-looking company culture has been established, and employees begin to see the results of their efforts to use new tools, project managers can return their focus to strategy, execution, and results.

Effective project managers engage leadership and stakeholders in finding out how to make internal processes run more efficiently. It will help them confront the old processes and prepare for better processes to come.

2. Respect what legacy processes bring to the table

While some old processes will no longer fit into a transformed organization, some processes will be hard for employees to give up. Whether it’s the platform, the process, or the way tasks are executed, it’s up to project managers to work with leadership and respect the solutions that work for each team.

Although the point of digital transformation is to upgrade legacy systems in favor of more efficient solutions, managers should find out why each team prefers their legacy system before criticizing them for lagging behind in implementation. Understanding each team’s needs puts you in a better position to help team leaders establish best practices that support their daily tasks.

3. Reach out with client feedback loops

Project managers primarily interact with clients at the beginning and end of a project. But creating a feedback loop with clients can support your digital transformation in surprising ways.

Digital tools make communicating and collaborating with clients and stakeholders easier than ever. Now, project managers can check in throughout a project. Aligning project requirements early on helps to ensure that the client’s needs will be met and avoids costly rework investments.

4. Rethink how your company interacts with clients

Project managers must also consider how innovative digital tools can enhance the customer experience, especially when it comes to project tracking and support. Consumer expectations have changed since more and more companies are implementing digital technologies that provide 24/7 on-demand service.

Client questions can arise at any time. They may need to know when a task is in-progress and what expected completion times are. Consider reducing client questions by surfacing pertinent information to them in a clear dashboard. Digital tools give clients increased visibility and reduce the time project managers spend answering their questions.

5. Lead by example

Finally, the most valuable role of a project manager during a digital transformation is to lead by example. How can you expect your colleagues to commit to using new tools and processes if you don’t use them yourself? Be the face of change at your organization while remaining mindful about how other people handle drastic change. Eventually, your teams will see that you truly believe in the benefits of going digital, and they will follow your lead.

Is Your Construction Business Ready for a Digital Transformation?

If your business struggles with the disconnected systems and time-consuming manual processes, then it is time to begin taking the steps towards digital transformation. Developingdigital resilience is vital for incorporating advanced digital tools into daily workflows. In a recent report called “Re-evaluating Digital Transformation During COVID-19,” Harvard Business Review Analytic Services surveyed business executives about their number one goals for digital transformation. They found a 33% increase in companies seeking to improve business resiliency and continuity going into the Digital Age.

Construction project managers play a crucial part in executing successful digital transformations. Through working closely with team leaders, executives, and stakeholders, it’s up to project managers to create a strategic plan for implementing new processes that make executing tasks efficient and manage friction from employees that is expected with any major change.

FAQs

What are the 4 main areas of digital transformation?

Digital transformation replaces old processes and tools with new ones that make work more efficient. There are many aspects that organizational leaders must consider before starting a digital transformation. The four main areas of digital transformation for a company are:

  • Process transformation — focuses on developing processes that lower costs, reduce cycle times, and improve customer satisfaction. May include robotic process automation.

  • Business model transformation — focuses on transforming how a company delivers value to their customers. Think subscription services, automatic deliveries, SaaS, etc.

  • Domain transformation — focuses on shifting into a new area or industry. For example, Amazon went from being a bookstore to a mega-online retailer and then successfully shifted to becoming a cloud services provider.

  • Cultural transformation — focuses on redefining organizational mindset and approach to the workflow (i.e., more innovative, open to change, and inclusive.)

What challenges are associated with digital transformation?

Many challenges will depend on the scope and scale of your digital transformation. However, there are three main challenges that all organizations must consider.

  1. Keeping up with evolving customer needs. Digital transformation is a big distraction. Even companies with great customer satisfaction scores can fall into the trap of focusing too much on internal processes. Don’t forget to address and check in regularly with your customers so that you can evolve your business processes to match your clients’ needs.

  2. Getting valuable feedback from clients. A lack of meaningful feedback makes it more difficult for organizations to improve since they don’t know what’s working and what’s not. Prioritize creating well-crafted surveys and regularly reach out to your clients to gain valuable insights.

  3. Taking action based on data. Capturing and analyzing data is much easier with modern tools. If your organization is used to going off of gut feelings and hunches, then making data-driven decisions might seem like foreign territory. Get used to generating reports on usage statistics and other valuable metrics. Then apply what you learn to your business decisions.

Why is digital transformation so important?

Companies that embrace digital transformation are 23% more profitable than those that don’t. But there’s more to it than increasing revenue. Digital transformation makes it easier for employees to communicate, collaborate, develop new processes and meet customer needs in a changing global marketplace.

Written By: Joe Demski

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