Is the AEC industry broken?

By December 7, 2020December 9th, 2020No Comments

There is a growing view that the current Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry operating model, relied upon all over the world for the delivery of infrastructure, is broken.

It would be ideal to test this theory through the analysis of data, in order to assess productivity and value generation, but unfortunately, collective access to this data is not possible. In some ways, the fact that one cannot access this data due to the federated nature of the industry goes some way to expose the problem. In the absence of data, I will have to draw upon my own personal experience and views gained over my 20+ years in the industry.

Construction Management is run like a game of poker

Delivering infrastructure projects under the current model can be likened to a game of poker where information is valuable and held close to one’s chest in order to capture the pot.  One team succeeds and the other fails, by virtue of the game.   Similarly, success in the AEC industry is measured in isolation by each federated entity in the supply chain.   There is nothing to foster project success or failure as a whole. This has resulted in a complete lack of trust and transparency, and has caused commercial terms to dominate the landscape, where there is no logic in the apportionment of risk and reward.

The biggest challenge that confronts the industry now is that while most senior stalwarts from the industry will agree there is a problem, they have become the active players in the broken nature of the industry, and there is not enough trust nor faith to see a solution.   They cannot see the forest for the trees.

Data sharing is the key driver of change

Having had the opportunity to look at the industry through a new lens, I believe that sharing data and using technology is the key to changing the landscape.  Why?

  • It forces transparency
  • It records baselines and captures trends
  • It can be used to make sure that no value is left on the negotiating table
  • People cannot hide from it if it is systemized

A flexible, systemized approach to total infra project delivery from inception to concept to bankability, procurement and delivery could be produced using technology and workflows from end to end of the project management lifecycle.  While I appreciate that this sounds like a colossal task, it is nothing when we compare it with the inefficiencies and value loss and conflict that currently plagues the industry. To share certain information across the supply chain is the end game, to ensure everyone is leaves the table a winner.

How to begin working with data?

When a business is so busy surviving, there is little time to stop and assess how it can be run more efficiently. Certainly COVID has enabled some to stop and take stock. In the very same vein, an existing CIO or IT Manager is completely absorbed in the tasks at hand and is not measured on how he/she improves efficiencies and drives improvement. For this reason, it is imperative that a new team is formed to address the opportunities around change … to assess, design and identify areas across all business functions which can benefit from the implementation of new tools, systems and processes which work across the landscape to invite collaboration and real-time information transfer.

Who is responsible for driving change?

A Chief Data Officer (CDO) is the latest term coined for this new role, tasked with the job of data governance, management, sharing, strategy and business intelligence – drawing valuable insights from all of the combined information gathered across enterprise. In some cases, the CDO is tasked with designing digital tools to harness business intelligence to resell and create new revenue streams. What is universally understood is that a successful digital transformation strategy is doomed to fail without a centralized data team to unify the process and work alongside technology vendors.

I would like to be a part of the solution, and I am sure many others, both individuals and firms, would also be motivated to help.  Let us reinvent the industry so that we do not continue to plough the same ground with low yields, through collaboration and technology.  If you are interested in getting involved in driving change, please get in touch directly or visit to arrange a demonstration of our portfolio of data management solutions for the AEC industry including PMIS, Analytics and Dashboarding, Risk Management, Bid Modelling, Supply Chain Management, Resource Management and more.

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