Ten Ways to Innovate AEC Services – Part 1

Every company, big or small, can innovate. Companies that don’t innovate end up competing with their peers for the lowest profit. Here are five of the ten ways to start innovating your next service.

1. Redefine your customer

We tend to think that our customer is the organization that pays our bill. This thinking can lead to poor service experiences for those who are the actual beneficiaries of our work.

We wrote about Fira Palvelut, a company that renovates pipelines in apartment buildings. Its service innovation was to define the inhabitant of an apartment as the customer, not the owner of the building. “The unique part about us is that we don’t see pipeline renovation as a B2B business. We see it as a B2C business,” as CEO Sami Kokkonen revealed.

2. Find unserved functional needs and solve them

Anthony W. Ulwick, Founder of Strategyn, says that customers typically have 50 to 150 needs in of which 50 to 80 percent are unserved. Ulwick’s outcome-driven innovation model (ODI) is based on the outcomes that the customer expects to get (needs) from performing a certain job (a series of tasks). Innovation happens when you identify the unmet needs and create a solution for them.

Ali Hariri, Co-Founder and CEO of BulldozAIR, said in his interview how he found a poorly served need in a construction process. The software used was designed for the main contractor, and it did not help the dozens of subcontractors that are responsible for most of the construction. This insight led to the development of BulldozAIR, a mobile collaboration service.

3. Integrate the user in the process

Most AEC firms operate with other organizations, not the users of their products. In fact, the input of the user is often seen as a disturbance, and they are not an equal partner in the process. There’s a lot of business potential in giving the user access to the construction process.

Tocoman has a long history in quantity surveying and cost calculation. It developed Moor, a service that lets home buyers configure their future apartment online. Like car sales, the consumer can now see the effect of their choices on the price of the apartment. Traditionally, a home buyer’s involvement in the construction process has been a source of costly changes and delays.

4. Re-engineer the way a service is sold

Service productization is about systematizing the service in a way that is beneficial for both the customer and the provider. A recurring concern in buying professional or construction services is the budget. That is as true in large-scale projects as in home improvement. Productization of services leads to an easier buying and selling experience.

Many online freelancers have started selling service packages with an easy-to-understand pricing model. Likewise, contractors can offer clearly structured services with fixed pricing. ServiceWhale is an online business platform allowing contractors to sell their services as products. ServiceWhale wants to make buying home improvement services similar to how we now shop for most things online. Customers get upfront, customized quotes, and they can order services with ease, avoiding the stress typically associated with shopping for home-improvement services.

5. Partner up to create a new offering

A single company or team does not always have the complete palette of knowledge and skills to offer a breakthrough service. Some of my clients have found that a joint offering with one or two partners creates the competitive edge.

Four companies, Granlund, Rapal, Scudo Solutions, and Gravicon joined forces to create a unique integrated workplace management system (IWMS), first implemented for the city of Vantaa. The partners work in the real estate and construction industries and all of them have developed software. The customer’s benefits derive from the integration of information, processes, and systems, which are typically managed separately.

Read the second part.