News & Latest Blogpost

February 2020

Digital transformation in the construction industry

 

Productivity growth in the construction industry in Switzerland has been stagnating for the last few decades. According to an analysis by McKinsey there is a positive correlation between productivity growth and the degree of digitization. As can be seen from the chart, the construction sector has not been able to keep pace with overall improvements in productivity in the economy (Barbosa, Mischke, & Parson, 2017).

Previous Posts:

Interview Andrea Nienaber & Hansruedi Zellweger:
Download PDF

Interview Annina Haller & Fabienne Kälin:
Download PDF

Merry Christmas:
Download PDF

Dangers of a Generation Gap:
Download PDF

Interview Jean-Michel Fürst & Axel Riester:
Download PDF

New look of DB:
Download PDF

Axel Riester joines DB:
Download PDF

Fiducia – new collaboration with Asia:
Download PDF

Figure 1: Productivity growth over the past 15 years, Swiss Federal of Statistics, 2019

Another study from 2019 looked at the impact of the digital transformation on the construction industry and found that awareness of new processes and opportunities associated with digitization is low. This lack of knowledge about processes and organizational changes makes it difficult to create a working environment within and between companies that supports digital development. This study shows that it is necessary to improve cooperation between the customer and the project participants in the early stages of the design process. In line with this view, the need arose for the owner and the user to be more involved and active in the definition and exchange of project requirements with the parties involved from the very beginning of the process. Furthermore, the relationships, roles and responsibilities within and between organizations must be clearly defined in order to create a working environment conducive to digital development and aimed at fostering a dynamic network of teams (Talamo & Bonanomi, 2019).

The second result addresses integration. It shows the need to facilitate and strengthen integration between project participants in order to improve information exchange and performance simulation according to different parameters (Talamo & Bonanomi, 2019).

DE BORD INTERNATIONAL sees the need for construction companies to review their business processes and invest in digital transformation to improve productivity in the construction industry. However, there are some obstacles and challenges. To improve both collaboration and integration, we need specific leadership and management skills. We interviewed our expert for the construction industry, Axel Riester.

Axel, which leadership qualities are absolutely necessary in the process of digital transformation?
I think that it is primarily a matter of wanting to get involved in digitalization. In concrete terms, this is indicative of consciously abandoning tried and tested mechanisms and turning to more open systems of leadership, to more participatory, collaborative models. This can be interpreted as a seemingly reduction of control or diminished control ratio within the organization, which can lead to uncertainty amongst the managers. In terms of leadership qualities, it becomes important – and at the same time challenging – to give the team room to explore while at the same time consistently pursuing concrete, short-term milestones and to allow the latest findings to be incorporated more quickly into decision making. Mastering this contrasting program, flexible on one hand and resilient on the other, is a requirement that fluctuates between mentor and implementer. And in terms of leadership quality: that of the empowering, driving and authentically inspiring leader.

From a management perspective – how can we create strategies and measures to build a digital workforce, sustainable cooperation and alliances?
Above all, we must focus on the will to persevere and leading by example. Getting the workforce excited about digitization itself is simple at first: there are exciting tools, technologies and methods available and cooperation between trades and with partners from all disciplines opens up new opportunities. So far so good. The resistance that will arise due to external obstacles, mistakes and errors that will happen and moments uncertainty tempt us to fall back into the old ways of doing things. This must be prevented at all costs. Consistent upkeep of the alignment of the mindset and approach to the methods of digitally based forms of collaboration, communication and development must be the central action. From a strategic point of view, it is essential to go digital, not because it is en vogue, but because the question of the added value of this digitization for customers and the company itself must be answered in a crystal-clear way. Why and with what goal do we as a company want to digitize and to what extent do we want to do so?

What do you think needs to change in order to increase productivity levels in the construction industry? Where do you see the biggest challenge?
This is a very challenging question and I can only speculate. We should abandon even more technological solutions and focus on more end-to-end communication and more reliable data. In other words, to seek the answer in ever more powerful technology does not seem to be a good idea to me. Either way, the technology will come, and that is a good thing. We are lagging behind in dialogue and, above all, in the quality of its content. If the project succeeds in communicating across disciplines and throughout the project from the very beginning, the speed increases, the error rate decreases, costs decrease and satisfaction increases. And this improves productivity because the various comfort buffers are no longer needed.
I see the greatest challenge in the nature of things. Digitalization, specifically the digital twin that is being built, leads to greater transparency throughout the project, in the earliest phase and across the entire life cycle. That is reasonable and economical, but it challenges an approach that has been established in the industry over the years. Because the pressure on prices was so high and the margins so low, offers were made at low prices and profits were earned through claims for additional costs. The digital twin is changing this structure and is forcing the industry to adopt new business models. This might also have an impact on portfolio management and it may also affect the valuation process of real estate as a whole. This adjustment process is demanding and requires a great deal of mutual understanding at all levels.

Where do we start? Do you have recommendations for companies to increase their productivity levels and take a step forward?
The debate about what digitalization should bring in terms of productivity needs to be answered in very concrete terms. It seems to me that at the moment the urge to do something is more important than the question of why should we really do it. This digital activism leads – in my opinion – to cosmetic adjustments and superficial changes. I therefore consider it of primary importance to first deal with what is currently being done and why. Often processes have grown and established themselves organically for good reasons. These reasons may no longer exist, may have become obsolete or are even counterproductive. To develop an understanding and to consciously deal with it, to understand the very analogous questioning of the circumstances by us humans, as a valuable part of the corporate culture, seems to me to be a suitable starting point for launching into digitally driven productivity improvements.

To conclude, we would like to refer you to an exciting project from the United Kingdom. The UK’s Infrastructure Client Group has developed Project 13 (www.p13.org.uk) as an approach to improving the delivery of infrastructure. Their report has identified five features of enterprises that are effective in delivering infrastructure projects – governance, organization, integration, digital transformation and the capable owner. The key message is that the current model for implementing large infrastructure projects and programs is not integrated to the extend needed. It prevents efficient implementation, hinders innovation and therefore does not provide the powerful infrastructure networks that businesses and the public need. A new model is required (Institution of Civil Engineers, 2018).

We thank Axel Riester for the exciting inputs and we are looking forward to your comments!

 

Your team DE BORD INTERNATIONAL

 

Would you like to learn more about Axel Riester? Please read here: https://debord.ch/en/team/

 

Sources:
Barbosa, F., Mischke, J., & Parson, M. (July 2017). Improving construction productivity.
Institution of Civil Engineers. (2018). p13. Retrieved from Project 13: http://www.p13.org.uk/
Talamo, C., & Bonanomi, M. (31. December 2019). SpringerLink. Retrieved from The Impact of Digitalization on Processes and Organizational Structures of Architecture and Engineering Firms: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-33570-0_16

 

 

News & Latest Blogpost

January 2020

The team at DE BORD INTERNATIONAL itroduces itself

 

Three, two, one – in the last part of our three-piece story you will get to meet our power-duo for the industry of life sciences. Andrea Nienaber and Hans-Rudolf Zellweger answered our questions and let you peek into their everyday life at DE BORD INTERNATIONAL.

 

Annina Haller

How long have you been working for DE BORD INTERNATIONAL, and how did you get here?
I have been working for DE BORD for more than 4 years now. During my master’s degree, I was employed part-time. For almost 1.5 years now, I have been working full-time and am responsible for the smooth running of our office and for the communication and content activities. I originally became aware of DE BORD through my network – which is indispensable anyway in our business.

What fascinates you about your work at DE BORD INTERNATIONAL?
I work closely with the respective consultant on each project, which gives me a deep insight. No project is like the other; so it remains exciting, I get to know new, interesting people and I can observe how a company and new key employees come together. It’s alsmost a matchmaking on a business level.

In your eyes, what is special about the collaboration with DE BORD?
With us, you benefit from an operational experience which is directly considered in the consulting process. This entrepreneurial insight into the business therefore influences our work just as much as the personal and human cooperation. We design briefings and interviews on a very personal level with our customers and candidates as well. Our communication channels are short. A small team often brings big advantages, that’s for sure one of them.

Was there a moment in your career that you will keep in mind forever?
After completing my bachelor’s degree, I got the opportunity to do an internship in a magazine editorial team. A special moment for me was when I had the first magazine in hand, which I played a major role in creating it. When the week-long work suddenly manifests itself in a finished product, the joy is great. Today, I am no longer working on a physical product, but the feeling has remained: If our honest commitment results in a successful conclusion for all sides, it is a great experience.

Where are you when you are not in your office?
Since a few years now, I am really into the so-called «escape rooms»: within an hour, you have to solve puzzles and find your way out of the room. It’s fun and almost addicting! Apart from that, I like to spend time with my be-loved ones or with a good book.

 

Fabienne Kälin

How long have you been working for DE BORD INTERNATIONAL, and how did you get here?
I am part of the DE BORD INTERNATIONAL team since July 2018. At that time, I was living in Spain and from there I was looking for a new challenge in Switzerland because my semester in Spain was slowly coming to an end. I worked part-time for DE BORD for a year – until I finished my studies. After that, I increased my workload and today I am responsible for the marketing and communication strategy and I have the opportunity to gain my first experience as a junior consultant in the area of ??executive search.

What fascinates you about your work at DE BORD INTERNATIONAL?
The variety in my work, which I can experience every day. I like to bring in my communication and marketing knowledge and to implement it on an operational level. I also like the exchange and interaction with very different and interesting personalities in the area of ??executive search.

In your eyes, what is special about the collaboration with DE BORD?
The high sense of quality in all actions represents an enormous added value for customers and as well candidates.

Was there a moment in your career that you will keep in mind forever?
Absolutely. That was when I worked at De Sede AG as an after-sales manager. At that time, in addition to Switzerland, I was also responsible for the partners of the countries BENELUX and Germany. We were in contact with each other almost every day and yet I had never seen many of the partners face to face. During the IMM (international furniture exhibition) in Cologne, I was able to get to know them personally and to exchange ideas with them. It was definitely an exciting experience for me.

Where are you when you are not in your office?
Dancing, playing tennis or riding are personal energy boosters for me. I also enjoy being outside in nature and spending time with my family. The physical movement gives me the necessary boost for a balanced mind.

 

Previous Posts:

Interview Annina Haller & Fabienne Kälin:
Download PDF

Merry Christmas:
Download PDF

Dangers of a Generation Gap:
Download PDF

Interview Jean-Michel Fürst & Axel Riester:
Download PDF

New look of DB:
Download PDF

Axel Riester joines DB:
Download PDF

Fiducia – new collaboration with Asia:
 Download PDF

Skip to toolbar