Geo Week 2023: Takeaways from the emerging technology conference

Bringing together more than 3,000 building and geospatial professionals from 50 countries, the annual Geo Week Conference in Denver, Colorado focused on the changing needs of the built world and the impact of emerging technology on the AEC industry.

With recent technological advances, hardware breakthroughs and a growing demand for cloud-based workflows, construction companies must re-think their approach to innovation and how they leverage solutions to streamline projects.

Skanska’s Senior Director of Emerging Technology Danielle O’Connell attended Geo Week to speak on the use of breakthrough technologies and highlight the challenges facing the AEC industry with radical digitalization on the horizon.

Opening keynote: How ready is the AEC industry for digitalization?

According to data from Pitchbook, construction tech investment has grown 10x over the past decade.

Thanks to this massive increase in funding, AEC firms have been able to embrace recent advancements in laser scanners, drones, digital twins, data analytics, robotics and more.

Even owners are getting more tech savvy, therefore expectations around digitalization by their AEC partners are increasing.

With this rapidly expanding universe of applications, firms must be strategic in how they adopt and integrate these solutions into their existing workflows.

Steve Jones, senior director of Industry Insights Research at Dodge Data & Analytics hosted Danielle and four fellow construction technology experts at Geo Week’s opening Keynote Panel.

The group discussed how to build an effective technology strategy that can empower workers to solve their biggest challenges, add value for clients, and successfully scale across projects and teams.

Key takeaway: Leverage your existing tools through education, integration and partnerships

According to Danielle, AEC firms should build the following key elements in their technology adoption process.

First, it is critically important to determine which solutions teams already have and identify how those tools fit into existing workflows.

With existing tools and processes identified, construction companies should leverage internal networks to communicate best practices and explore new use cases.

By educating and facilitating internal knowledge sharing among teams, AEC firms can eliminate outdated workflows, experience higher rates of technology adoption, and improve the speed of innovation.

Additionally, Danielle emphasized the importance of building on existing relationships with technology vendors.

Firms should take an active role in facilitating feedback between users and vendors to help drive the evolution and development of their existing solutions.

Construction tech leaders should challenge vendors to take the time to understand the existing tech stack and how their solution fits in.

Key takeaway: Build a process for piloting new technologies

Once a firm has a good understanding of what solutions are already in place, they can more easily identify other challenges that existing tools cannot solve.

It is critical to follow a tech adoption process once problem statements and new opportunities are identified.

This should include a thorough needs assessment, detailed research on vendors, IT security compliance and implementation support, and contracting before diving into on-site pilots with project teams.

To determine whether a solution should be scaled across the organization, pilots should be measured with specific data and success metrics in mind.

Vendor scorecards or tools such as Choosing By Advantages (CBA) can help quantify a vendor’s performance and bring objectivity to vendor evaluations.

Key Takeaway: Connect your innovators

With a strong understanding of the existing tools in place and problem statements sourced from project teams, AEC firms can improve the interoperability of their technology stack.

It is equally important for firms to establish data standards, upgrade their IT infrastructure and sunset technology solutions as necessary.

Technology implementation should be thought of like any other change management process. A robust, proactive technology plan will improve feedback loops between stakeholders and allow for more informed decision making across the organization.

As investment in construction tech continues to grow and impact the industry, the firms that drive knowledge sharing throughout the business, listen to the boots on the ground and put their people at the center of their technology strategy will lead in the digital age.

Watch the entire “How Ready is the AEC Industry for Digitalization” keynote here.