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Uncertainty impedes IT adoption in Canadian companies: PwC

Canadian companies know that information technology is important to their success, but they don’t necessarily know how to use it effectively. That’s the finding of a new PwC study, its sixth Annual Digital IQ Survey. The survey measures how businesses “understand, value and weave technology throughout their organizations.” Technological change was identified by survey respondents as the factor most likely to affect their business over the next five years, and most organizations claim to be a “digital enterprise,” the PwC statement says. In reality, though, only a minority are truly there, and can be said to have high “Digital IQ.”

The survey found that there is a gap between knowing the importance of technology and knowing how to implement specific strategies, such as data mining or use of social media. Canadian companies were also found to lag their US and UK peers when it comes to using external research. Just 14 per cent of Canadian companies said that they used external resources like universities and labs to help develop new ideas for applying emerging technologies. In the UK, 54 per cent of companies did so.

The characteristics of an organization with this digital intelligence include having a CEO who “actively champions” digital innovation, and having a CIO-CMO team with a solid working relationship. An “outside-in” approach to digital innovation, whereby companies search outside their own resources for new ideas is another behaviour associated with success.

Innovation is a top priority for many companies. Global CEOs ranked product and service innovation as their top strategy for growth, over increasing market share, entering new geographic markets, M&A, or joint ventures and strategic alliances . . . Yet most businesses don’t cast a wide enough net in their pursuit. A great deal of innovation occurs beyond company walls such as in government and university labs. Consider the rise of open source-based innovation, explosion of crowd-funded innovations, and the uptick in venture funding.

PwC, 6th Annual Digital IQ Survey

Change coming to AEC industry 

The field of architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) is not directly addressed in the PwC survey; however, much has already been done to transform the building industry. Digital modeling systems and visualization tools are already revolutionizing the AEC industry, while Building Information Management (BIM) systems provide the means for communicating digital design and construction information from diverse sources. World-famous architect Frank Gehry has used 3-D modeling software called CATIA to design his increasingly complex buildings. These systems allow for a whole new level of collaboration and information sharing among architects, contractors and sub-contractors. This collaboration has been shown to reduce errors and improve overall design.

But the use of computer assisted design and information management systems is just the beginning, according to a recent article in Construction Executive (The Rise of the Construction Information Manager). The author, a business owner, calls the change that is underway in the AEC industry a “seismic shift.” In the first place, being a digital business today means being connected to data and information through devices and “things,” not just having a computer network. The vast and pervasive power of billions of users connected through microprocessors will challenge the AEC industry to come up with new design solutions, new construction methods, even new workplaces and workers. Buildings, the author predicts, will be intelligent enough to perform preventive maintenance and self healing. Drones will be used in hazardous construction areas.

As technology continues to transform the AEC industry, a new specialist, the construction information manager, will emerge, replacing general contractors and construction managers.

In the age of  “Technology 2.0,” the author argues, a new approach to IT is emerging, with a grassroots base that will challenge the status quo in ways not seen before. It will be facilitated by the Internet of Things. 3-D printing, digital fabrication, 3-D gaming and smart buildings “outside of the AEC industry.”

The new reality can best be seen in an event called a Hackathon, a gathering that is “rebellious” in nature, where participants solve problems by “breaking things” and rebuilding them from the ground up. An AEC Hackathon was held recently in California, at the headquarters of Facebook. It is the “energy and amazing solutions” that arise from these Hackathon events that will give rise to the new AEC professional, the construction information manager.

The Hackathon approach is “uncomfortable” for those in the industry who have “made money and careers out of inefficiencies,” the author provocatively states, but the writing is on the wall. The “mega projects of the world” are embracing the transformation.

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