Overcoming resistance to digital technology: ditch those spreadsheets!

I’ve worked as an Industry Consultant in the Engineering and Construction space for many years.

I’ve noticed a common theme: whenever I’m presenting a modern software solution— particularly a tool featuring a new, disruptive approach to a business problem— I’m often met by some degree of resistance from a few in the audience.

Skeptics often claim they can use a spreadsheet faster than learning and implementing a new software application. That may be true in some instances, but it doesn’t make it right.

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For example, during one presentation I attended, the audience unanimously agreed that their existing system and business processes were inefficient, expensive, hard to learn, and administrative-heavy. Two individuals who disagreed with this assessment were an IT administrator and internal developer—both intelligent and competent professionals.

My theory: the possibility of change is of greater concern to many digital laggards than the risk of failed project delivery—whether the proposed change impacted their job security, increased or decreased their work hours, or introduced some other personal inconvenience.

Which leads me to the question: why is there so much opposition to improving business processes with digital transformation?

Easy Riders: Successfully mitigating risk

Consider risk for a moment. Many motorcyclists who ride tens of thousands of miles accident free may have remained intact for the following reasons: 1) they ride conservatively and safely 2) they wear highly visible clothing with reflectors at night 3) they view the consequences of an accident as greater than the cost or inconvenience of preparedness or training. These riders are successfully mitigating risk— similar to those who adopt digital transformation in the engineering and construction (E&C) industry.

The light at the end of the tunnel in the E&C industry

The ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ tunnel has been repeated for years, and, frankly, it’s an outdated construction project reference. Today’s successful, well-lit tunnels are built as a digital asset long before the drill tip touches any rock. Most organizations agree on the importance of maintaining an ‘on-time, on-budget’ reputation in today’s competitive construction market. Effective collaboration and efficient communication between hundreds of organizations participating in the design, bid, and build phases of infrastructure projects are the true light at the end of the tunnel— start to finish— making risk visible.

Digital transformation exposes risk, including:

  • Excessive RFI’s created by the same people early in a project, or noticing an approval process that’s taking longer than expected.
  • Lack of information flow– particularly during the design stage.
  • Excessive document revisions without accompanying reviews or distribution.
  • Delayed, incomplete, or terminated processes.

The value of understanding how and why these risks are occurring— and mitigating these instabilities early— far outweighs the cost or inconvenience of preparedness. This is, in effect, putting light at the beginning of the tunnel where it’s really needed. Spreadsheets can’t do this in a timely and effective manner. Digital transformation in construction management is exactly the method of delivery to accomplish this.

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Ray Roske

Ray Roske

Industry Consultant, Client Services at Oracle's Aconex
Ray Roske is an Industry Consultant at Oracle's Aconex, a leading collaborative construction and engineering management software
Ray Roske