How do you decide to spend your day? – Reflections on digitalization and process change

Digitalization is rapidly changing the way we do things. Many traditional ways of doing business just disappear, because the new digital way can provide a better customer experience saving both time and money – and both from the customer and business perspectives. Yet, for many businesses, the digitalization is not happening or is very slow.

Although we know and have understood the benefits, it seems that we are still keen on keeping our old routines and can list a number of reasons for why it would be difficult and even risky to change the way we do our daily work. This is why I thought that it might be worthwhile to play a small mind game and think how we as consumers have ended up digitizing our ‘critical’ daily routines.

How did I switch to digital

For me, it was quite natural to start reading a digital version of the daily newspaper. There are clear benefits. A digital version of the paper costs 46% of the paper copy. There is no need to fetch the paper from the mailbox on windy and rainy mornings, no need to carry old newspapers to waste paper collection points and no arguing inside the family who has the right to read first the A part of the paper.

This was my old process: I ordered the paper, fetched it from the mailbox, read it and recycled the old papers. Easy, but so is my new digital process: I buy the license of the newspaper app, read my newspaper on a mobile device or in internet using a desktop. The switch is easy for those of us who have been using other digital tools – the internet and mobile devices, – but for new beginners, there is a process to learn. You have to buy a device and connect it to a Wi-Fi network and find out how to use both the device and the app. In the end, it is a very simple process change, but it is a change that has to be made. Otherwise, the benefits of the digital newspaper cannot be reached.

Digitalization and our critical daily processes

The transformation has been enormous in financial services & insurance. Some time ago banks were competing which enterprise has the best and most prestigious bank office. One of the reasons for this was that the banking business was strictly regulated. The Bank of Finland sets the limits of interest rates and the total amount of granted loans. The rapid liberation of the banking industry and the enormous rise of loans granted ended up to crises. Now Financial services & Insurance sector is leading the adoption of digitalization (2012 Industry Digitalization Study).

Maybe the crises and hard competition were in fact the driving force to the adoption of new technology and enabled the huge process change. Today, banking services are online, and if you don’t want to learn new processes, you have to go to a bank office and sometimes wait for hours before you get face-to-face customer service. I recently had an experience of the old process when my bank asked me to fetch my new credit card from the bank office. I sat waiting for 10 minutes in the queue and then started to ask what was the total waiting time – it was more than one hour. I walked away and contacted my bank online, and they sent my new credit card by post with the needed PIN code by SMS. My lesson learnt: One has to learn these new digital processes, or the life gets harder.

Digitalization and construction industry

In construction industry, there are a lot of new digital technologies available. Contractors have taken machine control in use; drones can produce 3D as-built models efficiently, and internet of things, robotics, and 3D printing are coming.

Currently, the biggest mega trend in the digitalization of construction is the use of BIM (Building information modeling). Many studies have shown that adoption of BIM is linked to a number of benefits that cannot be achieved with the old paper-based process. Hence, it is not surprising that owners of infrastructure projects, when becoming more and more BIM savvy, start to demand more value for their time and money expecting to see the known benefits in their projects.

In the UK, the government has set a goal for the next eight years so that by 2025 the use of BIM should save construction costs by 33%; construction works should be carried out 50% faster, there should be 50% fewer emissions, and furthermore, the government is looking to increase export of construction by 50%. In order to reach these goals, the government has set a mandate that all of the public construction projects must follow BIM level 2 compliant processes and tools. BIM on level 2 means that all project stakeholders must use BIM so that it is possible to produce comprehensive and collaborative BIM models. Hence, a switch to the use of modern technology was not considered sufficient as such, but the government also defined a process for how to best deploy the technological tools.

The biggest barrier to successful application of BIM is the fear for the needed process change. Even though the difference between the traditional manual and new digital process is not that significant, it does require proper planning and often means e.g. definition of new roles within the organization, adoption of new tools, personnel training and systematic testing of the new workflow. In many cases, experienced BIM consultants assist the organization to take well-planned easy steps from the old process to the new one making sure that the process change does not cause any hiccups for the business

The thing is that a process change really is a must for a construction business, or there will be no business. It helps, if we think how we decide to spend our day. Stand in the bank office queue reading paper magazines or embrace change, roll-up the sleeves and get things done?

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