Harnessing technology for a better built environment

Nic Jacobs
The most successful organisations are exploiting advances in technology, to innovate, improve performance, and to future-proof.

As we move towards a global digital economy, there are profound implications for our built environment. Many countries have implemented national digital strategies to drive performance and policy goals of value for money, productivity and sector growth.

At macro level, the concept of the smart city has emerged, describing digitally-led urban innovation, and new modes of governance and urban citizenship. Typical themes include integrated urban planning, diversifying the urban economy away from climate sensitive sectors, sustainable transport, management of water and waste, alternative energy and new building design.

In the built environment industry, drivers such as BIM, off-site construction, and ‘big data’ analytics are transforming design, construction and operations. The most successful organisations are rapidly adapting their digital infrastructure to exploit advances in technology, to innovate, improve performance, achieve a more competitive market position, and to future-proof.

Faithful+Gould hosted a live video broadcast on this topic – watch the recording here

Here in the Middle East, many of our built environment clients are looking for ways to improve their business processes, harnessing the most suitable technology for their needs, and aligning it with their corporate aims and objectives. For most, the technology is an important catalyst for change. Typically this leads to a period of significant transition from a project/programme focus to a broader overall business perspective.

Technology also enables the industry to make much better use of project management skills. The role of the project manager has evolved over the past few years from a policing role, to a role of strategic advisor. In tandem, a new type of asset has emerged — data — which is used to form more evidence-based decisions.

Traditional project managers spent a lot of time collecting, auditing and presenting data, leaving limited time to add value through diagnostics, analyses and value-added guidance. Today, workflows and business processes enable automated collection of data at a granular level, with quality and accuracy assured.

Today’s collection and analysis should be aligned with the client organisation’s aims. Interrogation of business objectives, critical success factors and KPIs will enable these to be built into the software solution. Clients typically focus on costs, becoming more efficient, behavioural change, better governance and compliance. A well-designed digital approach unlocks the potential for these factors to be addressed. It also provide us an opportunity to develop tools to reach other parties and ensure the information and messages get across as intended. As you are fimilar with the concept of left brain / right brain people, we face the challenge of preparing reports by mostly left brainers, and ensure the right brainers ‘get the message’. Below is a graphical explanation of the communication challenge. 

 

With access to the latest technology and the ability to represent data in any format possible, project managers can now report interactively to all stakeholders, using highly effective 3D modelling and geospatial features. Platforms are beginning to incorporate artificial intelligence, enabling processing of large volumes of data to produce trends, forecasts, benchmarks and even visualisation of future state.

Most client organisations have limited funding for systems research and development. At Faithful+Gould we aim to contribute our technology investment and expertise to our clients’ advantage. Our in-house suite of digital platforms (shown in Fig. 1) are testimony to our commitment to the digital agenda, and they underpin our focus on value added activities.

Fig 1 Faithful+Gould’s project management platforms.


Software developer firms are increasingly working with built environment clients to develop bespoke solutions. Faithful+Gould has been active in this arena for over ten years, partnering with industry-leading technology solutions providers. Our relationship with Oracle Primavera is one example, where we continue to invest in designing and deploying Unifier-based solutions.
When supporting clients through a business processes transition, we typically work alongside them in a business partner model, to gain understanding of their key issues, and to identify the most efficient solutions. The client organisation often has fragmented IT systems that prevent the business from performing optimally and are not capable of driving the required change. A technology review usually reveals considerable scope for improvement. We then aim to provide a robust information management system to support service delivery, bringing both cost and operational efficiencies.

Faithful+Gould has a detailed understanding of the way in which digital strategy helps buildings, services and infrastructure to work together, to facilitate efficiency and cost-effectiveness. We are developing industry-leading practice in data management and this enables us to drive efficiencies in our clients’ design, delivery, operational management, and asset maintenance programming.

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