A digital future will fast-track the next generation in construction 

Martin Sudweeks Square

Martin Sudweeks

Managing Director

UK

The development of digital ways of working to support the construction industry can help to optimise project delivery – controlling costs, speeding up scheduling and establishing greater visibility on performance. Companies that embrace these technologies will lead their markets and allow new cohorts of talented professionals to redefine their careers.

The challenge of improving productivity behind construction projects has been discussed for the last decade. In the UK we are starting to see much greater momentum on the support of digital solutions from across the construction industry, in both the public and private sectors. The Construction Productivity Taskforce identified data and metrics as one of its three mutually reinforcing areas designed to improve performance.  

The private sector construction playbook (which largely complements its public sector predecessor)– has identified the embedding of digital information as one of its 10 drivers of success and major public sector investments such as the NHS’ New Hospitals Programme see data and technology as key to delivery, transforming how construction projects are delivered.  

After so much talk, could this bright new dawn finally be upon us in 2024?   

To-date, the sector has seen incremental investment in individual digital tools. Too often initiatives have been discipline-led rather than directed at a cross-programme or project level. The trick is now to look at how these can be integrated as part of a common programme or project digital architecture. Those who forge ahead in this new world of design or lead their field through investment and innovation will be the new frontrunners which will fast track the next generation in construction.   

The data opportunity 

The foundation stone for a digital approach to construction lies in data. In cost management, we have always dealt in data – benchmarking costs, evaluating market rates and controlling spend over the course of a programme.   

We have invested in digital tools over several years to digitise these processes recognising that, in a fast-paced market, the scale and richness of data that we hold matters. Our suite of connected apps combined with our people capability has transformed the role of the traditional cost manager, providing clients with the power to make clearer and faster decisions. 

The climate conundrum  

The choices we make are now more complex too. We are no longer simply focusing on the traditional pillars of safety, time, cost, and quality. Carbon is now the fifth dimension for us to manage.   

Cost and carbon are the twin currencies in construction. This trend is only set to continue as governments and investors align behind an ESG agenda. Digitisation is even more critical to carbon calculation than it is to financial costs. Assessing the carbon impact of a development remains a relatively new field – it relies on establishing a toolset and comprehensive data banks that can keep up with the pace at which the world is understanding the carbon challenge. We have invested heavily in both because we see the value it brings both now and in the future. 

The talent requirement 

Carbon choices don’t just matter for developers and investors, but for us all as individuals. Across the board, we are seeing a new sense of purpose come to the fore in project teams when we talk not solely about building effectively but building conscientiously.  It's an opportunity to showcase construction as the solution to challenges that we face as a society. Current and future generations coming into the industry expect this approach. Once again, this is made possible by digital tools which enable us to gather better data, and thereby tell better stories around the industry and its value.  

The career catalyst  

The big question for digitalisation pertains to skills. Will advancements in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), lead to job creation or job displacement? 

We are confident that it will change them for the better. The primary purpose of technology is to improve productivity, and we view AI as just another technological innovation to embrace. We believe that AI will inevitably reshape how we work day-to-day, in the same way computers and the internet have previously – we can be more productive while being able to spend more time focusing on the advice we give, ultimately allowing us to deliver more value for our clients.  

If we are to truly leverage AI in construction to drive performance and decision making, we need our own data and models, as there will be a limit to what value generalist tools like ChatGPT can achieve. AI therefore compounds the importance of collecting high-quality data that we have confidence in. 

This technological pathway leads to solving another industry challenge – attracting the best talent. Opening the door to new cohorts of talent into the industry is crucial to address this and drive better performance and productivity across the key stages of a major programme.  Energetic, purposeful generations from different technical backgrounds can contribute in ways that were not possible because digital technology and sustainability will act as a paradigm shift in terms of the appeal of the industry.  

The need for partnership  

At the heart of digital transformation is collaboration and partnership. Common platforms that provide access to design, programmes, knowledge, tools and data creates transparency in project teams, uniting them behind common goals and objectives which is at the heart of how projects can be set up for success.   

This opens the door to new ways of working in the construction sector, not least when approaching operating models, contractual relationships around risk, and the chance to focus on incentivisation which builds towards trust and productivity.   

With technology, data and sustainability at the heart of how we deliver cost management, we have fundamentally changed how the industry recruits talent. From apprentices to non-cognate graduates the talent pool we can draw from has shifted. This creates a wider capability set and plays strongly to diversity and gender equality goals.   

For further information contact:

Martin Sudweeks Square

Martin Sudweeks
Managing Director

t: 44 (0)20 7544 4000
e: