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From Spreadsheets to Smart Construction: The Long Journey of Embracing AI in the Building Industry

Have you heard about the buzz around AI in the construction industry? It seems like everyone is talking about how artificial intelligence will change the game for construction companies. But here's the thing: despite all the hype, many construction projects still rely on good old Excel spreadsheets. And even when companies do try to adopt new technologies, they often get bogged down in the process of creating these "data lakes" without a clear plan for how to use the data.

As a result, many companies delay discussions about how to leverage AI until they feel more mature from a digital standpoint, missing out on potential benefits and falling behind competitors who have already started embracing the power of AI.

So let's share some insights that may be helpful to consider during your digital transformation process.

[AI-generated image using DALL-E software from OpenAI]

Why Do We "Love" Excel Spreadsheets So Much?

Construction companies often use a range of digital tools that don't work together, leading to fragmented and disconnected data. This makes it tough to monitor progress and pinpoint holdups in projects. As a result, construction professionals have traditionally relied on Excel, but let's be honest - this dependable tool has its flaws.

After countless conversations with companies in the sector, we've learned that one of the primary reasons for using Excel is its flexibility. However, this flexibility comes at a price - limited capabilities that lead to inefficiencies in workflow management. Users end up creating a column in a spreadsheet for each activity in their workflows, manually inserting dates left and right to support their data. This manual process may seem harmless, but it can cause errors, delays, and miscommunication, ultimately putting project timelines and budgets at risk.

Ultimately, the frustrations of data fragmentation and limited capabilities are what prompt companies to use Excel as a crutch. However, this strategy makes it exceedingly difficult to analyze data and prevents the addition of predictive capabilities that would enable companies to anticipate what's going to happen.

Data Lakes: A Brute Force Approach?

To add to this, companies are busy creating data lakes without a clear understanding of how they want to use the data. They're told that having all this data in one place will be valuable in the future, but the truth is, it might also be a brute-force approach that may become inefficient and expensive.

Instead, it is essential to invest in understanding the main pains in your construction projects, both in the field and the office, and create a business value-driven growing data collection.

Don't Wait for the End of the World to Embrace AI

Digital transformation is a continuous and never-ending story because technology is constantly evolving, and businesses must keep up with these changes to remain competitive. The pace of technological change is accelerating, and companies that fail to adapt risk being left behind. Waiting for digital transformation to be "done" is not a viable option because there will always be new technologies to adopt and new ways to use them.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a crucial component of digital transformation, and companies that want to stay ahead of the curve need to start considering its use now. In the construction industry, AI can enable smart construction by automating processes, improving safety, and reducing costs. By embracing AI early on, companies can gain a competitive edge and position themselves for success in the years to come.

So, instead of saying, "I will consider using AI once we have upgraded to our new ERP, replaced our EDMS, or onboarded a new program management system," ask yourself the bigger question: "How can I actually leverage the power of AI in a way that will make a real impact on my projects?" Then, ask software providers the next important question: "How can you ensure that the AI models and approaches I create to learn about my operations will survive our continuous digital transformation without the need to reinvest in re-implementing and re-training AI-driven solutions every time we make changes to our digital ecosystem?"

In other words, ask your software providers about flexibility to change, wide interoperability, and AI-driven approaches that are agnostic to the digital tools you use to manage your information.

The Long Journey of Embracing AI in the Building Industry

To fully embrace digital transformation in the construction sector, it is essential to start leveraging AI-driven solutions in a constantly evolving digital environment. Excel spreadsheets, while useful in the past, are no longer sufficient to remain competitive and efficient in today's fast-paced world. Investing in understanding your specific pain points and implementing AI and Machine Learning can help take your construction projects to the next level, streamline your workflows, and ultimately improve your bottom line. By finding methods to integrate AI-driven solutions into your operations, you can stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape.


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