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How do we address the lack of trust in data?

27 September 2022

ICE members discuss the findings of a recent survey on how to enable a digital transformation in our industry.

How do we address the lack of trust in data?
The goal of the survey was to identify the challenges faced by the industry when implementing a digital transformation. Image credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

What are the challenges and benefits of a digital transformation in our industry?

ICE held a roundtable discussion with members to review the findings of a recent survey that explored this. The discussion was led by Mark Enzer, strategic advisor at Mott MacDonald.

The survey, supported by Bluebeam, was born out of recognition that ICE members at all levels wanted more guidance on how to best embed digital processes.

The goal was to identify the challenges faced by the engineering and construction industry when it comes to embracing and successfully implementing a digital transformation.

James Chambers, director of global industry development, build & construct division at Nemetschek, noted that some of the survey’s findings, while expected or surprising, revealed a core misunderstanding of the benefits of a digital transformation.

Enabling Digital Transformation

ICE Fellow James Rowntree kicked off the discussion. He pointed out that it’s “good” to see technology being integrated into business operations more, but that the pace of adopting this technology varies.

Alan Mosca continues: “There still seems to be a lot of inertia, whether it’s at an organisation level or culturally. The reluctance to rolling things out, even when the benefits are obvious, is something that clearly frustrates the respondents.”

Emma Wei, civil engineer at Mott Macdonald noted the lack of alignment between middle-management and senior-management.

"It’s not aways about bringing new people in. It’s about identifying the priorities and investing in upskilling the current team,” she said.

Dealing with mistrust

Lydia Walpole focused on the ‘processes and automation’ section of the survey, highlighting a difficult roadblock: mistrust.

“Individuals still want to check and double check results, even if things were automated. This shines a light on the need to educate teams,” she said.

Dave Owens put it succinctly: “When it comes to digital transformation, the strategic awakening has happened, training and real-world implementation hasn’t.”

What are the priorities?

1. Building trust

Ricardo Bittini Miret highlighted that behaviour towards technology differs from personal to work perspectives.

He said: “We experience everything on our phones and devices, whether its shopping, banking, or everything else! We rely on the data we are provided, we trust it, and use it to our advantage. And yet, in our work environment, that trust is lost.”

It’s clear that building that trust is the top priority.

To do this, Enzer suggested the need for “expressing tangible results related to digital initiatives that encompass time, cost, quality, safety, and environmental impact.”

2. Data sharing

Making data accessible is something a lot of organisations struggle with.

Mosca believes that a lot of the issues come from middle-managers that want to avoid risk and lack motivation to implement leader’s innovations.

To trust the quality of data and have faith in sharing it, the industry and every organisation, project team, and individual should be able to understand and state what it is they’re delivering.

The objectives around digital transformation must be clear.

Enzer said: “Quality of data is directly related to trust. Three key pillars of purpose, trust and function must be established. Trust, comes down to openness, security, and quality.”

3. Clarity on strategy

The next priority is making the strategy clear.

Organisations need a clear direction and solid points on why technological investment is necessary.

Rowntree discussed enterprise models versus project delivery: “A difference in approach is necessary when faced with enterprise investment and project programme delivery investment.”

“There are clear benefits and outcomes of running a technologically driven organisation. However, the piece that is missing is the careful focus on how this works for individual projects,” he said.

The distinction between the two must be understood and communicated.

4. Training for all levels

What was incredibly clear throughout the survey responses was the need for change, investment, and training.

A top-down approach is essential.

The C-suite must communicate with middle-managers, passing down the relevant information so that team leaders can develop and implement processes that encourage innovation and enable digital transformation.

As stated by Wei: “Each tier, from senior leadership through to ‘boots on the ground’ will have varying training needs to work productively and effectively.”

What are the core training needs?

1. General awareness

Walpole identified a general lack of awareness around data and digital.

Terms like ‘cybersecurity’, ‘common datasets’, or ‘data warehouses’ aren’t part of people’s vocabulary.

The goal of digital transformation training is to teach individuals the benefits of data-driven practices for given projects and day-to-day operations.

Each person, whether you’re an engineer, middle-manager or coder, should be able to describe what they’re delivering as part of the digital transformation journey.

To engage with individuals, Bittini Miret suggested a customer-first approach.

He said: “Anything we want to change, or transform is going to work better if we link it to customer outcomes. All training must cascade down from customer needs and outcomes.”

2. Ground-level training

From an engineering and coding perspective, Wei understands how to create a digital solution. However, she’s unaware on how this gets delivered on site.

Likewise, project managers can explain how a slab is formed, while the digital team may not.

The siloed approach needs to evolve with training for all on how projects get delivered.

The journey from digital to pouring concrete on site must be shared so that every person along the chain understands, respects and buys-in to the process.

3. Change management

There needs to be a fundamental change across an organisation if it is to embrace digital transformation.

Change management training, when done effectively, will demonstrate and expose the benefits of digitisation to all.

Through ongoing communication, a business culture can be transformed and the barriers to execution broken.

4. Practical training

Finally, practical training across various technologies is needed.

It’s clear from the survey results that very few people are worried about technology as most people understand it.

Then why isn’t technology being adopted?

Yes, training is a key component, but it’s also worth reviewing the technology in place. Is it intuitive enough to deliver what’s needed?

Join the conversation

We’ll be hosting a webinar on 5 October to discuss some of the key points addressed in the roundtable.

We’ll delve deeper into the survey, and review some of the training requirements highlighted.

Join the discussion
  • Amy Morrison, freelance writer