Skanska AB’s Innovative New Digital Hub
The brand-new endeavour is devoted to improving how construction uses technology and solving for real-world problems.
There are few global construction companies thinking as hard about technology, and of ways of working with and shaping that technology to empower their project team members, as Skanska in Sweden. The company’s new Digital Hub, announced 1 January, is the culmination of many years of work. About five years ago, the company created a program called Go Mobile, which consisted of a group of progressive digital thinkers hand-picked from various parts of the organisation, who were expert at certain technologies and could evangelise those across the teams and sites. Lotta Wibeck, who’s played an outsized role in Skanska’s development as a technology pioneer, was at the helm.
Jimmy Forsberg, who travelled around Sweden showing people how to get the most out of Bluebeam Revu, explains that the GoMobile team was “trying to make sense of all the tools that we had and how they sort of fit together. Everything was constructed like silos,” he says. They wanted to bring everything together, and also to work with software partners like Bluebeam to get the most out of the technology. “Bluebeam was sort of, for us, the beacon in the sky.” Both Wibeck and Forsberg mention a saying at Skanska — the Bluebeam feeling: “If you ask anybody in Skanska Sweden, they know what a Bluebeam feeling is,” says Forsberg.
The program, which was created with a start and end date, enjoyed significant success, and people noticed. When it ended at the close of 2018, Skanska agreed to a logical and permanent continuation of their GoMobile efforts: the Digital Hub. With 13 dedicated employees all committed to finding and adopting the best tools, this was a profound statement on Skanska’s part: in essence, they recognised that tech must be a permanent area of inquiry and improvement. You’re not going to just solve your company’s technology issues and then be done with it.
Forsberg, who’s the resident Bluebeam expert, thinks of the Digital Hub as being partly about innovation and partly about supporting and getting the most out of what’s already in use: “We need to be that pillar in the organisation that everybody else can lean on when it comes to, ‘Okay, I have this workflow, I’ve heard of this software. Could this help me? Have you looked into this? Could you please help me look into this? Or are you looking into something similar?’” Think of the members as part IT, part Futurists.
For Wibeck, so much of the success of the Digital Hub depends on trust, both in terms of the people and the solutions: she feels that she has the company’s trust to take a daring initiative and make it worthwhile. She handpicked her own team members, who are technologically savvy and also intimately familiar with the realities of life in the field, because she wanted people she knew she could rely on without having to look over their shoulder.
Relying on the digital solutions that the people at Skanska rely on everyday is also of utmost importance. Forsberg likes to talk about Bluebeam as a partner, not a vendor, because the relationship is truly symbiotic: “We don’t say vendors. We say partners because we are equally responsible for it to succeed. If Bluebeam didn’t succeed as a software within Skanska, it wouldn’t be good for Skanska, but it would not be good for Bluebeam either. We are in a relationship with each other.”
A guiding light for Wibeck and Forsberg and the entire team is not just capability, but ease of use: with tens of thousands of employees, and many times that number of subcontractors, Skanska must make sure that their digital tools are not just best in class, but that they’re being utilised across the board. Simplification of the tech stack; taking advantage of agreements already in place with software partners; thinking about things like practicality in the field and safety of their workers.
“Everybody is a different level, everybody is a unique person,” says Wibeck. “How do you make sure that you reach that person best? And you need to talk on the level that person is at. That is the only way. Otherwise, you shoot over their head. And when you leave them nothing has changed.”
“It’s a big responsibility that we have at Skanska,” Wibeck continues. “In Sweden, we are seen as the biggest and everybody looks to us. We have the opportunity to influence and do good things for the entire construction industry here, not just for ourselves.”