RedSky hosted a thought-provoking seminar and networking event on 23 January, themed around digital transformation in the construction industry.
London’s Prince Philip House, home of the Royal Academy of Engineering, provided a superb venue for RedSky’s event, which attracted a broad range of industry professionals, from construction and M&E, to demolition, asbestos and architecture.
RedSky client Will Barrett, Managing Director of Francis Construction, said: “I brought along our new Financial Controller because I wanted her to be able to understand the many different parts of the RedSky system and how they all link together.
“We came away really excited about the future of digital transformation and about using technology to empower our people and drive up productivity and profitability.”
The main topic for discussion was the move towards paperless projects, and the urgent need for the construction industry to accelerate progress on its digital transformation journey.
Keynote speaker Rob Driscoll, who is an advisor to the Cabinet Office, provided a fascinating bird’s eye view of UK politics and economics. Anthony Puma, RedSky’s Head of New Business, said: “Rob outlined how the political turbulence of the last few years has impacted on the construction industry. He spoke of the need for Government to join up its many isolated initiatives, ranging from BEIS payment reporting to retentions reform.
“As Rob sees it, in a world of wafer-thin margins where an organisation can lose an entire year’s profits on one bad job, the best way to get to profitability is through a combination of digitisation and working more collaboratively with the supply chain. And I think he’s spot on.”
Although there are of course some early adopters who are ahead of the curve, it’s fair to say that the construction industry as a whole is lagging a long way behind other sectors. In retail, for example, the likes of Amazon and Tesco have embraced technology and firmly embedded it within every aspect of their business. Meanwhile in manufacturing, the introduction of automation and lean principles has of course taken productivity and profitability to new heights.
Some construction companies are indeed reaping the benefits of digitisation. A great example of this was provided by RedSky customer Ian Saville, Group Financial Director at John F Hunt, who spoke at the event. Neal Hooks, Head of Sales – Europe, PayApps, said: “It was interesting to hear from Ian about how he is transforming his business processes by digitising them from start to finish.
“Ian obviously views RedSky as a valued partner. It certainly didn’t come across as the usual client-customer relationship, where the only time you get in contact is when you’ve got problems.
“It was also great to hear from people who’ve been in the industry for a long time, working in, say, utilities before moving into software, so they’ve been on both sides of the fence. They talked about how to manage an IT implementation and what’s required to make it successful.
“I liked the fact that they didn’t pretend everything would be rosy. Occasionally there will be bumps in the road – when you’re rolling out organisation-wide solutions that are not easy to manage, problems will inevitably arise. The important thing is to be aware that this will happen… and not to be disheartened.”
RedSky client Judith Ruthven, Company Secretary at Buxted Construction, said: “The event gave me a very positive outcome because it made me realise how far our business has come on its digital transformation journey.
“I was shocked to find out how many construction companies have not invested in moving with the times. Digitisation isn’t about reducing the number of staff in an organisation; it’s about redeploying staff so they can use the additional knowledge they get from the system to work more productively.”
All in all, the message coming through loud and clear at the event was that for UK construction companies to thrive, all parties involved need to work together, to help drive forward the digital agenda. It’s the most effective way to future-proof a business against competition, change and political uncertainty.