Opening Up the Tech Conversation, One Perspective at a Time
AGC Tech Summit addresses the innovator dilemma
“We have this innovator dilemma which we are all facing today,” explains Nathan Wood, CEO for SpectrumAEC. “The strategy is to understand the balance between what is possible with technology, what is viable in your particular marketplace, and what is ultimately desirable to the end user.”
With that, the first-ever Associated General Contractors of America One-Day Sharing and Innovation Tech Summit kicked off, sparking lively debates and deep-level explorations of technology within construction.
Wood co-hosted the daylong panel and discussion session with Sasha Reed, Bluebeam VP of Strategic Development. Billed by Reed on Twitter as an “honest, closed-door conversation by customers about what’s working and what’s not,” the summit broke down technology in construction with a roomful of different perspectives wrapped around three key themes:
- THE PROCESS: How to Create a Digital Transformation and Avoid Disruption
- THE TECHNOLOGY: IT Security in the Digital Age: How Contracts & Culture impact Risk
- THE PEOPLE: Overcoming the Barriers to Adoption of Technology
The dialogue even extended among the audience, who were driven to explore these topics during breaks. “My goal was to create a forum providing construction technology thought leadership and an opportunity for individuals with an IT function to engage in a ‘safe place’ to share and exchange ideas,” says C. Fara Francis, PMP, who co-curated the event with AGC IT Committee Chair Howie Piersma. “It was important to connect with the right speakers to make an impact on the audience. My focus was on speakers who have their pulse on technology innovation, have a passion for our industry, and who are visionary in their view of the future.”
If the AGC One-Day Tech Summit is any indication, the future Francis speaks of holds great promise, as the majority of the audience’s questions were more about how technology can be utilized and maximized as opposed to why technology should be so heavily integrated into the build environment.
“The industry has to evolve; the technology is there, but if our process—our people, if we don’t evolve with it? We don’t get the effectiveness out of it,” explains AGC IT Steering Committee member and IT Director for the Gallegos Corporation, Jeff Sample.
Part of the discussion’s success is thanks to the willingness of the audience to be honest about their concerns and issues involving technology. “It was surprising to see that most of the attendees were willing to share their mutual challenges: budget constraints, operational challenges and so on,” notes Francis.
IT security was also a hot topic, with TitanAEC’s Principal, Shobhit Baadkar, initiating a spirited conversation that included Sample and Benjamin Crosby, Director of BIM/VDC for W.G. Yates & Sons Construction, as well as Nige Wingate, Former Director of Information Technology at Mortenson Construction. Baadkar stressed the belief that hosting cloud-based solutions is the optimal way for companies to set up their own data storage and tech integration, but he cautioned that constant surveillance and maintenance are still necessary to prevent hackers and phishing scams.
Sample agrees. “We have to have tools in place before we need them. When we roll into the BIM side of things, I’m not talking about my company’s security, I’m talking about project security, because I have 35 vendors that are all going to be exchanging models. We have to have something that everybody can get to.”
“This event revealed a need for technology conversations at our conventions,” concludes Francis after surveying the room. ”We must position the industry for the workforce of the future.”
The idea of having breakout roundtables for attendees to interact with each other, as well as the panelists, proved to be an effective way of organizing and facilitating the discussions. “It’s refreshing to work with an organization like AGC that supports the vision of cutting through the noise by providing a new forum to talk about technology in construction,” says Reed. “We were excited to see how engaged the attendees were, pulling conversation off of the stage and down to the floor, where open discussions provide a more hands-on experience. We purposefully talked through biases to build awareness and to find consensus on how to best drive change. This level of engagement is what it’s going to take for us to really move the needle in construction, one company at a time.”
The next AGC IT Summit is set to take place in Denver, August 3 & 4, 2017.