By Aubrey Tucker, Director, Innovation + Technology, and Dara Wone, Brand + Culture Builder, ETRO Construction
Nearly every article encouraging AECOO organizations to pursue digital transformation reiterates the same statement “Those that do will win. Those that don’t will get left behind.”
While the extremism of that sentiment booted some businesses into technology-integration-action in the earlier days of this data-driven revolution we’re in, it’s not the rally cry that’s currently inspiring action. Previous objections to the necessity and importance of data, digitization, technology and innovation in construction put to rest — like the “when” and the “why”—we’re in a new phase of greeting the data dialogue: the “how”, and the “what”.
Specifically, the “how” from a human-centric perspective: the ways businesses are integrating and implementing tools and technologies that enhance the experience of the people working in, and with, their company. And, specifically “what” kind of data is meaningful, complete and strategic based on business goals, and the insights people can draw from the data captured.
It’s not who has the most anymore — but who can do the most with it in the most meaningful ways.
We revealed the ETRO Construction BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) in early 2019: build a people driven AI that makes beautiful attainable by 2030.
The key to our BHAG is being “people driven”. Our intent is to create an ethical piece of software that gives individuals — not in the AECOO industry — access to ETRO’s construction experience in order to have a better and more beautiful home.
We began looking at what insights would be needed to power that project in the future, and, how by capturing future-oriented data, we could elevate the experience of working in and with ETRO today. It provided us with a starting point; a commitment to begin strategizing our technology choices with.
Alongside the BHAG, we uncovered the core of our purpose, summarizing ETRO’s deepest commitment in two simple words: “People First”. Putting people first has been, and will continue to be, at the heart of our digital transformation; a unique commitment with its deep technical subject of building the right “data schema” for a company.
Our pursuit of tools to aid in automation proves that when processes are elevated by technology, the possibilities of what we can do as humans inside a business grow exponentially.
For us, exploring the right tools and partnerships took breaking some habits, asking hundreds of questions, and trusting the process — accepting trial and error as part of it. Our tool stack is evolving as we grow and experiment with the ever-growing landscape of solutions available for businesses digitizing their processes. Here’s how we use each tool in our current-state tech stack, and how the insights we’re gathering are going to work:
Airtable is an online database platform which is quickly becoming our hub for all information in ETRO. At the “top” of our tech stack, it’s where all other data we gather feeds back to; turning it into a robust database that we learn from after — and throughout — every project.
An audio transcription software, Otter.ai transcribes real time, helping us capture verbal content often lost in meetings and phone calls. The main highlight: when reviewing conversations we have throughout jobs, it provides insight into repeat themes and helps us spot common problems and clues into our biggest time wasting tasks.
Tettra.co helps us enhance our Lean processes; it provides one centralized place for documenting processes, policies and procedures. Essentially, a slimmed up version of an internal “wiki” or “intranet site”, the data is typically in text format but relays to documents and standard operation content that’s scattered across all our digital tools and storing systems.
LucidChart also helps with enhancing our Lean processes by creating easy to understand and read data visualizations to increase efficiency; helping us identify bottlenecks, find areas of improvement, and articulate process implementation. LucidChart offers a visual representation of how our entire company works, and its superpower is it can link across to different files and applications similarly to Tettra.co, making them work together to cover more learning styles for all the employees at ETRO.
For all things document management. A construction project management tool, Procore is enhanced by integrations with other tools and platforms:
BIM collaboration software used for issue tracking and correspondence on those issues.
Image recognition software using cameras around job sites to identify and track trades, safety hazards, equipment, and deliveries and logistics on site. It’s improving safety of our people onsite and enhances the capabilities and capacities of our people — with key information about every level or corner of a project being sent right to their fingertips.
A camera that converts pictures using infrared and photogrametry from which you can derive a 3D model as a 1:1 scale with the building.
VR video creation that, once you import Matterport and 3D BIM models, can create walkthrough videos.
A preconstruction service that keeps bidding history and offers comparative views to make the bid review process a more transparent and easier to navigate process.
Using touch screens in how we interact with the systems, platforms, and tools we use at ETRO provides a natural means of access. Touch screens are way of democratizing technology so the interface is intuitive and more accessible to people.
We use them within Revizto, as we can use a pen and write as if we’re on a piece of paper when in fact we’re drawing digital lines on a BIM model. In the future, these screens will completely replace paper at ETRO; a huge step forward towards our goal of being paper free.
For now, VR allows us to have immersive experiences with Revizto, Revit (with Enscape) and Matterport within TwinMotion. As we’re leveraging it now, VR is a multiplier for our other sophisticated tools.
And, while we’re not using AR directly on any projects right now, we’re researching it thoroughly for how we can bring design files to the site and place them in the physical context.
Choosing these tools was an act of finding performance-aligned solutions to our processes and to the data ETRO is committed to understanding in service of enhancing our work today while building for the future. They reflect our high value processes, finding tools that collect data in these tasks and how that task is connecting that to all other tasks.
And they’re all connected back to our purpose; “People First”. Every tool is enhanced by human insight while simultaneously enhancing the human experience around ETRO.
Creating a “red thread” — or the thesis that weaves your digitization together — means moving beyond some traditional practices of tech-adoption. With way more tools readily available and businesses continuing to diversify in their uniqueness, it’s time that the approach to technology is personalized to each company; reflective of more than what your contacts are using, and how they’re using it.
Crafting a thoughtful tech stack that helps you gather meaningful data looks a little like this:
Before adopting or adapting anything new, dive into your culture; your vision, your values and your purpose. Create filters that help you understand how technology and innovative approaches to work can amplify what you’re already doing — and how you’re doing it.
Fin-tech institutions have been leveraging technology since the 80’s. Industry-referred tools and technology are great, yet the right fit for your needs may be a non-industry-specific solution. Go to conferences seemingly unrelated to your industry, and broaden your scope; you never know what you might find.
Say goodbye to the days of trying to find ONE master tool that “does it all” and embrace the niche technologies and tools that can do one — or two — things really well.
Remember: seek the tools to best represent the values of your business and the preferences of your workforce. And, consider these tools can be furthered to be specific for a particular job where collaboration outside of the office is enhanced.
There are some tools whose uses cross from simple software or standard tools into strategic data capture, interpretation and search functionalities. Leverage these.
For example: most construction companies must have security cameras on their sites. By applying the INDUS.AI technology to the camera system, those security cameras offer highly usable data that creates opportunities for efficiencies in reporting, exponentially more site transparency, and tools for ongoing training and development.
Make a line item for technology and digitization specific R+D in your budget. Greatness comes through experimentation; and without some trial and error, the costs of implementing non-essential tech could be exponentially higher in time.
You don’t have to stop asking “What do you use?” to the mentors and industry contacts you know and trust. Our invitation is simply to start asking “Why is it good”; get the full picture of why one tool works for a certain business — and consider if — or how — it can work for your company based on what you have, what you need, and who your company is.
As they say: “The future is customised.”
Move forward with your people in the data spotlight. It’s time to create a plan to think about and bring in new tools, and to better understand your company performance and prepare today’s roles for the future by better anticipating technology and its impact on human-powered and informed processes and practices.