Want to make the most of digitalisation in construction? Focus on people


Interview with: Casey Rutland, Chair of BuildingSMART UK and Ireland, Vice-Chair of the UK BIM Alliance and UK Director of Digital for Royal HaskoningDHV.

As legions of construction professionals around the world were being forced to work from home for prolonged periods, companies rapidly assessed how prepared they were for this sudden shift.

Plenty will have come up short. Others will have raced into action, digitising workflows and trialling new systems. More forward thinking companies carried on with relative ease thanks to serious preparation and the planned introduction of digital technologies.

This last one is the ideal Casey Rutland looks out for. As Chair of BuildingSMART UK and Ireland, Vice-Chair of the UK BIM Alliance and UK Director of Digital for Royal HaskoningDHV, he is a clear advocate for boosting technology adoption among the built environment professions.

Go behind the formality of the titles and position and you meet a man who has taken BIM out to construction’s grass roots. He founded #BIMOpenMic, where professionals get together to ask straightforward questions and get clear answers, without what Rutland calls the marketing polish. He is also one of the most influential voices for digital technologies online.

He talks to The Big 5 Hub about technology’s role in the built environment sector in the wake of the pandemic’s impact.

What advice do you have for built environment organisations taking the first steps toward digitisation?

When companies within our industry embark on their first digital steps, they tend to look for a single software solution for all endings. And that happens, without fail, on every digital transformation they go through, because people want to solve their problems with software.

First of all, software rarely solves problems, people and processes do. The software just offers support. So we need to understand that the first thing to address is your people. Understand your people, understand what their daily challenges are, understand what the processes they go through are and then apply the technology. That is the process behind any transformation not just a digital one.

Will the lockdowns accelerate wider technology adoption?

I think so. Rapid mass adoption identifies gaps in the market more quickly. If we didn't have this global health crisis, things would have carried on as normal and eventually we would have found out where someone needs a solution for something. What the pandemic has done is compress all that and provide a good stress test for existing services.

What do we need to look out for as we approach the future of digitisation in the industry?

When we get to the point where the whole industry is working with data, we need to be much more sensitive and diligent. We can’t just take what information we've got out of context. That becomes dangerous.

We must contextualise the data and understand the baseline of where it came from, how accurate it is and what that means. We need to be more diligent, question the data and understand how it can be construed and accurately used.

What opportunities do you think lie ahead for contractors using technology?

For contractors using technology there are increases in quality and efficiency, and reductions in waste.

We're all going to be up against it. We will all need to tighten our belts, do more with less and technology is the way to achieve it. We're not looking at robotising the whole industry. But we are absolutely looking to augment our skills, our abilities and our performance with technology.

It's shocking sometimes to realise how many parts of our industry are still working on site with pieces of paper, folded up, stuffed into their jacket. One thing I just haven't managed to put my finger on is to understand why that is still acceptable, when their personal lives are so driven by the powerful technology in their pocket?

It's an open question. I keep asking at every conference I speak at, at every event I go to and no one's been able to explain it.


Did you know: The first ever Digital Construction World will feature as part of The Big 5 in 2021, learn more here: