Construction industry conversations around digitisation must evolve

Construction industry conversations around digitisation must evolve
Neha Bhatia is the editor of Construction Week.
Published: 13 October 2019 - 9:58 a.m.
By: Neha Bhatia

Events season is upon us and Middle East construction’s decision-makers are back under the spotlight, headlining, attending, and sharing their insights at key industry events, including Construction Week’s hugely popular Leaders in Construction Summits in the UAE and Kuwait, the Leaders in Construction KSA Roundtable, and the upcoming Construction Week Awards 2019.

Each of these gatherings has consistently been the ideal platform for industry leaders to network and interact with emerging talent in the construction sector, but as our calendars brim with new industry exhibitions every week, it’s worth reflecting on whether the regional building community is truly conversing about the key issues it must address to achieve its growth targets.

Our industry’s conversations about technology should instead focus on how to incorporate new tech into contemporary organisational structures, how to recruit and upskill talent to work in these new conditions, and how these platforms – which inherently offer procedural transparency – can be used to mitigate construction disputes.

Take the example of innovation and digitisation, which have been major talking points in the sector for well over a decade. ConstructionWeekOnline’s archives, a trove of data and insights for regional industry professionals, include analyses dating back to 2006 on the uptake of tech tools such as computer-aided facilities management (Cafm).

However, despite the number of years that technologies such as Cafm and building information modelling (BIM) have been used in the global market, explaining the benefits of their adoption continues to be a priority for technology vendors in the Middle East.

Our industry’s conversations about technology should instead focus on how to incorporate new tech into contemporary organisational structures, how to recruit and upskill talent to work in these new conditions, and how these platforms – which inherently offer procedural transparency – can be used to mitigate construction disputes.

Change does not rapidly find takers, and of course, the Middle East is no different from any other international market when it comes to incorporating a new element – be it a product or a process – into existing business models. However, the ambitious mega- and giga-projects under way in the region at present should incentivise regional builders to modernise themselves.

Despite challenges related to liquidity and declining real estate market demand, 2019 was a busy year for the sector. Next year will be an even more important period: Expo 2020 Dubai will open its doors on 20 October, and Saudi Arabia will have just a decade to meet its Vision 2030 goals. The region has the knowhow it requires to build the future, but we must ensure the talent pool is equipped with the right tools to do so.

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