By David Rekker

Digitalization — the adoption of a process that is operated via a computer and the internet — is emerging as a transformative force in the civil engineering and construction industries, enabling companies to innovate and optimize their operations. A recent McKinsey & Company analysis highlights this shift, attributing the accelerated adoption of digital technologies to strong infrastructure demand, skilled labor shortages, and a growing need for data transparency and integration.

In the past three years alone, companies within the architecture, engineering, and construction industries have directed $50 billion toward technology ecosystems, marking an 85% increase since 2017. This investment is allowing firms to operate with unprecedented efficiency, speed, and safety by revisiting and revamping traditionally paper-based, often government-mandated processes that have been industry staples for decades.

Digitalization is achievable

Many who have worked in the industry for a long time, or those from smaller firms, may feel like today’s digital tools are beyond comprehension. Still others are simply hesitant to change familiar processes. However, the need for meticulous documentation of existing procedures is universal, irrespective of company size, and going digital can save time and money in the long run — and help smaller businesses remain competitive.

This transformation is not about digital replication of analog processes; it is a reinvention intended to leverage technology investments to their fullest. The increased availability of tools in today’s market democratizes digital transformation, enabling companies of all scales and agility to embrace it swiftly, affordably, and effectively.

However, the adoption of digitalization does not automatically equate to increased profitability or impact. The emphasis should be on effective implementation, making it as pivotal as the investment itself.

Implementing digital transformation

Below are three tips and practical steps toward their implementation that will help any organization efficiently and effectively transition to digital processes:

1. Formalize your processes and standards

Before diving into a digital transformation, document and formalize existing processes and standards thoroughly. This proactive approach will help you identify and implement digital solutions that are aligned with your operational needs, enabling true change rather than just digitizing analog tasks.

Make sure to:

  • Document existing processes and clearly outline current workflows, identifying key tasks and responsibilities.
  • Evaluate, formalize, and update documented processes to ensure they are structured and scalable. Take this time to refine processes to make sure existing processes are up to date and aligned with the needs of the business.

2. Target specific outcomes

When embarking on digitalization, focus your efforts on achieving well-defined outcomes. The deployment of digital solutions can remedy inefficiencies inherent in manual tasks, offering substantial time and cost savings and enabling enhanced collaboration.

Make sure to:

  • Identify areas for improvement, pinpointing tasks or workflows that are inefficient and can benefit from digitalization.
  • Research proven industry solutions. Due to rapid innovation, it may not be obvious which problems can be solved by technology. Look for case studies describing the successes of industry peers.
  • Implement suitable solutions. Deploy software or tools that directly address the identified inefficiencies and are tailored to the desired outcomes.

3. Appoint a digital project leader

Assign a dedicated individual to oversee and guide the digital transformation journey. This leader should ensure the chosen solutions will work across departments and functions and meet the digitalization goals of the organization without imposing extensive modifications or draining resources.

Make sure to:

  • Select a champion for the transition. Choose an individual with change and project management skills as well as the vision to lead the digital transformation efforts.
  • Foster inclusive environments. The champion should create a low barrier to entry by establishing and celebrating quick wins across the team. Ensure the solution supports data sharing and integration with other systems.

Digitalization in civil engineering and construction is a journey that reshapes traditional operations and workflows, aiming to fully leverage innovative technologies. It can be a daunting proposition, but it also can help revitalize organizational cultures and strategies to ensure sustainability and success.

As the industry evolves, digitalization is becoming a fundamental prerequisite, shaping the future landscape of civil engineering and construction with enhanced efficiency, collaboration, and innovation. Thankfully, with an implementation plan in place, it has never been easier for construction firms to embrace the benefits that come with using digital technology.

David Rekker is as senior manager of customer success at Bluebeam, a developer of solutions and services for architecture, engineering, and construction professionals worldwide.

This article is published by Civil Engineering Online.