We can imagine the look on your face reading the unlimited budget line, however, it is the perfect constant to ensure a level playing field with ambitions unrestricted by budget. To complement this unlimited budget, contributors were also asked to assume they have unrestricted computing power, skills and manufacturing.
The following executives contributed to the discussion, facilitated by Construction News and Autodesk.
- Steffan Battle, national pre-construction director, Wates
- Mark Cotton, CIO, Galliford Try
- Paul Hamer, CEO, Sir Robert McAlpine
- Madeleina Loughrey-Grant, legal director, Laing O’Rourke
- Paul Timmins, project director, Amey (standing in for Nicola Hindle, MD – Consulting & Rail)
- Peter Tosland, group commercial director, Murphy
- Claudio Veritiero, COO, Kier
- Matthew Wrighton, commercial director for the South East, Willmott Dixon
- Tom Fitzpatrick, editor, CN (and ‘chairman’ of the board)
The purpose of this discussion was to gain an understanding of the challenges facing construction organisations operating using “traditional models” and how the use of effective technology could overcome these challenges.
There is a discussion about the current state of the lending landscape, not just for construction firms themselves, but for clients who are commissioning projects with Kier COO Claudio Veritiero commenting “the environment is getting tighter and that’s coming from a whole host of perspectives. From the systemic view of the banks to a sector that has changed”.
Madeleina Loughrey Grant from Laing O’Rourke believes that technology, specifically AI will change the industry hugely over the coming years especially in terms of legal departments. She believes that AI only provides the ability to summarise data at the minute from a legal standpoint but understands that in the future legal advice will come from technology with future law firms “going to be heavily tech-based, and in-house teams are going to have to innovate”.
The panel speak next about how technology and unlimited resources could affect client relationships with a general consensus of positivity with Mr Vertiero believing it provides the ability to sell clients “an output rather than an input”. Further explaining this point he gives an example of a resurface project where technology will allow them to have accurate information of traffic flow on that particular section of road and offer the ability to deliver a “more turnkey solution”.
Autodesk's Matthew Keen draws a comparison to how General Electric, a company operating outside of this space, sells “hours of thrust to the airline industry” – moving to outcome-based selling – the number of hours in the air as opposed to the hourly rate for engineers. He goes on to state that Rolls Royce is moving to a similar model and believes the future of the construction industry may well turn to asset-as-a-service. This, of course, would be an impossible move without the prediction and data analysis capability that technology provides.
For closing remarks, the panellists are asked to give insight into the future and how they see change. Mark Cotton, CIO at Galliford made an excellent point on the issue of analysing data stating “For me, the absolute nugget is getting insight into it,” he said. “We’ve got many systems with petabytes of data, which is providing absolutely no intelligence to us whatsoever. You can question whether there is any insight in it, but unless we push forward and mine that, we’ll never know.”
Peter Tosland, Group Commercial Director at Murphy made reference to the fact that they are stifling their own destiny to some extent commenting “we’ve always been slow in that pre-construction and advisory area, and let the consultants take the lead. If we can be braver in that place, then we’ve got a chance of setting up the procurement method and everything else.”