New research from Aurecon says organisations must adapt business models and skills as the architecture, engineering and construction sectors evolve.


New research reveals need for AEC industry to adapt workforce and business for the future

New research from Aurecon says organisations must adapt business models and skills as the architecture, engineering and construction sectors evolve.

The second wave of Aurecon's 'Our Digital Futures' market research identifies four key areas organisations must focus on to thrive in the digital economy.

03 March 2020 – International engineering, design and advisory company Aurecon has released new research that reveals organisations need to adapt their business models and upskill people to create new value as the laggard architecture, engineering and construction sectors evolve workforces of the future.

The second wave of Aurecon’s Our Digital Futures research named The Digital Horizon’ surveyed more than 100 business leaders and specialist futurists across the world and uncovered the following:

  • More than one in two respondents feel their organisation is, at best, only somewhat capable of thriving in a changing digital landscape
  • Survey respondents believe that significant change will only catalyse in 11 years’ time yet experts advise that organisations need to prepare now instead of waiting
  • People from STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields that have deep technical capabilities will be increasingly important in a technology dominated future
  • Technologies which promise to fundamentally reshape entire industries such as artificial intelligence (AI) and energy tech were deemed less important than data/efficiency and distributed computing technologies
  • 75 per cent of respondents named ‘upskilling staff’ as a focus area for their organisation to thrive over next two to five years 
Explore the Digital Horizon report

Aurecon Chief Digital Officer Dr Andrew Maher said the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector had not yet experienced as much digital disruption as other sectors, partly due to the physical nature of the sector’s products.

“Yet great disruption is knocking as new technologies are now connecting the physical infrastructure and digital worlds at a pace and scale never witnessed before. Many industries which the AEC sector services will transform beyond recognition and, without the ability to anticipate these changes, organisations may miss their chance to effectively adapt,” Dr Maher said.

“Our survey data demonstrated a need for leaders to stay up to date on emerging trends and understand what technology is in development, when it will reach maturity, how it will impact their industry and how they can respond commercially. This is critical for businesses to stay agile and turn disruption into opportunity.”

According to the survey, many technologies which promise to fundamentally reshape entire industries and are set to catalyse significant change such as AI, energy microgrids, autonomous transport and blockchain were deemed less important than data/efficiency and distributed computing technology.

“Technologies that will connect the digital and physical built environments in the future have the potential to improve efficiency and productivity, transform entire industries, leading to new challenges for the business models of industry incumbents, and should not be overlooked,” warned Dr Maher.

While conventionally there is concern about job loss associated with automation, Our Digital Futures depth interviews suggest that in many organisations automating systems and processes are not being undertaken purely from a productivity perspective, but rather to free up people to engage in continuous learning opportunities and enable investment of saved resources in other ventures.

Spending less time on repetitive, automatable tasks can provide people more time to learn and experiment, engaging in higher-value or strategic activities and reducing the risk of their knowledge and skills becoming obsolete. These insights highlight that business leaders understand that enriching knowledge and skills is critical for the longevity of businesses. Over the next three to five years, 50 per cent of Aurecon’s workforce will become devoted to digital capabilities.

Dr Maher also explained that the depth interviews highlighted that many organisations lack a deliberate and systematic way of assessing how digital technologies and trends are impacting their industries and their organisations.

“Assessment of where things are heading is done through hunches and guess-work, not based on statistics or fact. It is increasingly important for organisations to develop the means to monitor the changing landscape and understand how to translate the insights into strategic initiatives within their businesses. Those that do will develop the means to anticipate what might come and effectively act, rather than simply react,” he said.

Questions that organisations need to be asking and recommendations to help move forward can be found in the full report here.

'Our Digital Futures' market research and client insights

The Digital Horizon is the second instalment of Aurecon’s Our Digital Futures research, providing key insights into the issues – and opportunities – that digitisation creates.

The first wave of research The Digital Landscape is available here and additional insights will be shared with Your Digital Strategy in July 2020. More than 100 business leaders and futurists from Australia, New Zealand, Middle East, Asia and South Africa shared their views as part of the Our Digital Futures research Aurecon conducted in 2019.

The research builds on discoveries unearthed in Aurecon’s 2016 Digital Perspectives study

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