This week I look at reasons why street lighting slowly edges towards a truly digital future instead of racing towards it! Remember only a year ago you’d probably never used “Zoom”, despite that it’s here to stay and changed your working life forever.

A capital project is an ideal ‘way in’ to digital transformation because there is no service precedent and the impact can be major.  The problem is overcoming resistance to change, such as that illustrated below.

There are two main headings preventing businesses from adopting digital, Contracts and People:

Contracts:

If you’ve been contractually required to work in a certain way for, say, ten years (not uncommon in highways infrastructure) then much of what’s occured in the market during that time is likely to have been missed.  This is where authoritative lobbying can bring change to contracting practices so that they reward innovation and progress. 

Fragmentation

Construction is often split among stakeholders (there’s more on this in an earlier post). This brings a challenging problem but, coincidentally, it also brings the most rewarding outcomes. Today’s digital platforms address this complex issue with ease, making transformation in large capital projects so rewarding.

“Silo working” and decentralisation

If you’re working in a silo then any benefit from digital that breaks down those silos might be seen as threatening the status quo.  In my experience, this can apply in local authority contracts where clearly defined requirements have led to stagnation through repetition.  Breaking the mould will be necessary! 

People:

Digital can be seen as a threat to personnel, especially engineers and technicians whose role may be ‘diminished’ (paradoxically) by taking some repetitive tasks off their hands. There can be a sense of loss of control. It’s hard to see what’s on the other side of a transformation and many will be inclined to the negative.  However, removing the mundane will release people into new working ways, allowing them to focus on what’s really important. 

“We can’t afford the overheads”

Senior management is often not fully informed, so can be struggling with working in semi-darkness when it comes to decisions on change.  Let’s get one thing straight: conservatively, digitisation of construction services results in a 30% saving. That’s not overhead, that’s return on investment, the service paying for itself, costs avoided, risks mitigated, and compliance and control of a project managed right down to the last lantern and fuse. 

“We are already digital”

It is likely your business already has some level of digital adoption; it’s impossible to ignore, but maybe the investment has floundered or someone else’s idea of being digital is just using SharePoint. Technology investments are expensive and that means they need to be used extensively by well-trained people, supported by champions.  And feedback is essential. If a user interface is slow, difficult to understand, doesn’t capture what you need or updates can’t be implemented, then it’s not going to be a platform for the future and it’s time for a rethink.

“We can’t risk the disruption”

This will be the standard line from someone apprehensive of change and unaware of its positive impact.  Past experience of failed change, an uncommitted management tier, lack of understanding of the business process in its entirety and simple old-fashioned change-aversion can stand in the way.  It’s resistance that isn’t grounded in evidence, but in needless anxiety.  To win hearts and minds there needs to be an inspiring vision, with return on investment and smoother working practices at its centre.

If you’re still on this trip with me then thank you, and I hope you enjoy the next post about improving construction productivity.