How COVID-19 will drive digital transformation in construction

Digital transformation in the UK's construction sector has been turbo-charged by social distancing measures introduced during the pandemic.

Mike Mead

16/09/2020

COVID-19 is a world-changing event.

The pandemic appeared almost out of nowhere and changed everything we thought we knew about almost all industries – from healthcare through to retail and manufacturing.

A recent IDC report even highlights the rising impact of COVID-19 on the digital transformation of construction companies. As development sites evolve to suit new demands for safety and staff management, every company now faces a host of new, never-before-seen challenges.

According to most construction experts and business leaders, smart project management, digital construction, and improved health and safety practices were already progressing before COVID-19 emerged. COVID-19 just accelerated the pace of adoption.

So, what trends are set to revolutionise the construction industry moving forward? We take a look.

A New Hybrid Workforce

Many companies had to act fast when COVID-19 struck. In a world where it was no longer safe for people to work in close proximity within an office environment, remote operations became the norm.

Despite the sudden shift to remote operations prompting a great deal of confusion and disruption in the workforce, companies responded to this new demand exceptionally well. They discovered that through video conferencing and instant messaging with tools like Microsoft Teams, colleagues could stay connected – no matter where they were.

Even as the return to the workplace began, most companies decided to operate with a hybrid workforce, consisting of both professionals in-office, and team members working remotely. The remote employees could connect with team members via solutions like Nice Network Teams Talk, providing them with a quick and easy way to communicate in a safe and secure environment.

Video connections make it easier to demonstrate what’s happening on-site so that project managers and specialists can still offer useful insights, no matter where they’re located.

In a construction environment, businesses can continue to use such communication and collaboration tools to bring people together wherever they are, be it for team meetings or company updates, while abiding by social distancing measures.

Supporting the Flexible Environment

It’s not just remote working and cloud computing that today’s construction employees feel more familiar with after COVID 19. Many experts have also grown accustomed to things like using their own tools and technology.

The chances are that the BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device trend will continue to accelerate in the years to come. BYOD is great for employee efficiency and reducing equipment costs. Still, it’s not so great for managed service providers who have to keep track of various devices, and deal with the associated security risks.

BYOD is still a complicated concept for many business owners. On the one hand, having access to their own devices means that employees can feel more confident and productive in the workplace. They have the power to use the technology they feel most comfortable with, wherever they are.

On the other hand, BYOD choices like smartphones and tablets aren’t always as secure as laptops that belong to the business. Most personal devices don’t have the same degree of security to offer as the tools provided by IT staff.

That’s why it’s so important for teams to have the right mobile device management and security systems in place. Even before COVID-19, smaller companies from all industries, including construction, were investing in more mobile solutions to keep businesses running smoothly.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools are the key to ensuring that you can track your team members and deliver the support they need. In some cases, this could mean simply getting rid of viruses as soon as they begin to appear on a device from a distance. In other situations, teams might use MDM solutions to wipe an entire phone that an employee loses. Solutions such as SOTI MobiControl, powered by Nice Network, can help alleviate the stress associated with monitoring and managing personal devices.

Experimenting with New Technology

Aside from the development of a more tech-savvy human workforce, life after COVID-19 is likely to introduce us to a new era of robotic and machine-based solutions too. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already begun to emerge as a powerful tool in many business landscapes.

With AI solutions it’s easy to track analytics and send alerts to engineers in real-time. At the same time, companies can accurately assess the health of construction machinery, and determine when parts need to be repaired or replacements need to be ordered, reducing down-time and significantly increasing productivity.

Elsewhere, things like IoT and 5G are combining to provide new solutions too. Using applications, business leaders can give team members control over crucial pieces of equipment from a distance. This would mean that employees could continue to carry out essential tasks without having to be in the actual workplace.

While IoT connects human beings to machines, 5G ensures that the connectivity is strong enough for companies to avoid any issues with lag and latency. This means that you don’t have to worry about any problems with a delay when team members are sending instructions to machines.

Moving to the Next Stage of Digital Transformation

Here are Nice Network, we work with plenty of companies exploring their own digital transformation strategies. In recent months, we’ve noticed that those digital transformation efforts have quickly ramped up, leading to new opportunities for every industry.

Recently, our team worked alongside a construction company keen to add more technology innovations to the construction process. The first step in this was enabling a cloud-based environment where team members could securely share information and connect with one another.

Through Nice Network Teams Talk, and a dedicated strategy for cloud telephony, we created a dedicated digital space for the business, where teams could work together just as efficiently as they did in-person. The cloud platform meant that it was easier than ever to share reports and insights in a unified environment.

At the same time, we were also able to begin working with the company on new ideas for IoT implementation. Particularly in the age of COVID-19, the internet of things can be an extremely valuable strategy for the construction industry.

Through connections between machines and people, it’s possible for employees to initiate actions quickly and easily from a distance, without having to bring people into a potentially dangerous environment.

Mike Mead, Corporate Account Director at Nice Network, said: “Companies in all industries are experiencing a unique environment right now. We’ve been pushed into a landscape where we all need to rapidly evolve. Some construction companies were deeper into their digital transformation strategy than others. The good news is that there’s still an opportunity to evolve and optimise. With our help, a local construction business has aligned its remote and in-office employees. We’ve even found a way to introduce them to the possibilities of IoT.”

Preparing for the New Normal

COVID-19 launched us into a new world full of remote working, new technology, and endless challenges to face. There’s no going back to the way things used to be. However, as many companies are discovering – this doesn’t need to be a negative outcome.

Innovation is often born from necessity, and that has certainly been the case with COVID-19. All industries, including construction, are changing at a rapid pace. In the age of the new normal, technology will be the only way for companies to continue serving their customers with the right solutions.

For some construction brands, this might mean spending more money on tools that allow teams to work remotely and using mobile technology. For other companies, the aim will be to explore new and disruptive technology, like 5G, and the Internet of Things.

Whatever your strategy is, reach out to Nice Network for more help bringing your post-COVID strategy to life.