I had the pleasure of talking with Per-Erik Åstrand, Business Development Executive at SoftwareONE. We discussed construction sector digitalization and how to succeed in it. Per-Erik is a keynote speaker at WDBE in September.
Per-Erik has a background in the AEC industry, like many construction digitalization specialists. He has a master’s degree in civil engineering, which led him to work as a design engineer at SWECO for over seven years.
Per-Erik experienced how much manual work was involved in small infrastructure and larger multi-disciplinary projects. For example, engineers spent weeks drawing cross-sections and manually creating quantity takeoffs from borehole data. Various departments and disciplines were in their silos, collaboration was not easy, and quality risks loomed.
Those experiences inspired Per-Erik to start digitalizing engineering tasks. Eventually, he became responsible for developing the company’s Virtual Design and Construction, VDC, practice.
Moving to tech
The success of SWECO did not go unnoticed. Autodesk contacted Per-Erik, and soon, he started working at the company in Sweden.
During his seven years at Autodesk, Per-Erik helped large Nordic AEC enterprises in their digital transition. Cloud technology was critical but not the only crucial element in the change.
During his Autodesk years, Per-Erik experienced how a successful transition was more about people than technology. Working directly with employees and building consensus about a change is essential in the Nordic work culture.
Consequently, Per-Erik and his colleagues devised a change management framework that became a pivotal method for years to come. The concept is centered around so-called discovery workshops. During the workshops, employees get onboard and feel engaged and part of the process.
The results were encouraging. “We actually managed to move these enterprises to a new way of working that really made them more efficient,” Per-Erik states.
Continuing his chosen path
Less than a year ago, Per-Erik started at SoftwareONE. He continues his mission of making AEC companies future-proof. Cloud computing has remained the principal concept in that pursuit.
Per-Erik sees the industry’s evolution as incremental changes rather than radical, disruptive occurrences. But to lead those changes in the right direction, companies need a C-level vision, strategy, and mandate from that level to act.
Construction industry firms often have low visibility in their business. Per-Erik mentions his recent conversation as an example.
“A couple of weeks ago, I talked to a large construction company. They were doing well. But they were like; we don’t really know why we’re doing well!”
Digitalization provides AEC firms with data on where change needs to happen and feedback on how it impacts their KPIs.
Getting everyone on board
Construction projects involve dozens of companies with varying levels of technological maturity. How to collaborate with someone who’s not at the same level of digitalization as your company?
If you’re doing a joint venture, you can prepare and educate the partners at the outset. When that’s not the case, you need change management and commitment-building. The important thing is to demonstrate the benefits each party receives from more intelligent collaboration as concretely as possible.
Construction companies are risk-averse; therefore, the best way to get approval for adopting new technologies is to show how they reduce business risks. One of the most potent arguments is improved cost control and predictability. If a company can be confident about the money and time they need to spend on a project, they gain a competitive advantage.
Managing future challenges
Sustainability is a growing concern of both clients and AEC firms. Nordic governments are creating environmental regulations affecting the construction and the use of built assets.
Digitalization and data equip companies with better knowledge and understanding of the sustainability of their choices.
“Use use data smarter. I think that is the key message,” Per-Erik sums up and adds, “Find a partner you trust and want to work with on this journey.”
You can connect with Per-Erik on LinkedIn and meet him at WDBE, where he will give his keynote speech on September 29, 2022.
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Listen to the whole interview on WDBE Talks.