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Procore roundtable helps construction industry adapt and thrive

Procore roundtable helps construction industry adapt and thrive

Late last year, Procore held a roundtable discussion spotlighting the strategic prowess and resilience displayed by construction and property leaders in New South Wales throughout 2023. This yielded a plethora of innovative solutions poised to help propel construction projects to success.

In a constantly evolving landscape of technological breakthroughs, unique challenges and economic fluctuations, proficient project management is a critical linchpin for construction businesses vying to sustain a competitive edge. Procore, standing at the forefront of effective solutions as one of the leading construction management software providers globally, is dedicated to empowering contractors to achieve project success and raise their operations to new heights.

With a robust pipeline of projects on the horizon in New South Wales, Procore recently convened a roundtable discussion that brought together some of the state’s prominent construction and property leaders. The aim was to explore current and emerging opportunities for construction businesses to take their operations and project delivery to the next level.

In collaboration with The Property Council of Australia, the roundtable underscored how these leaders navigated 2023 with vision and resilience, imparting valuable insights that contractors can leverage for their own projects and businesses.

The attendees included:

  • John Carter, joint chief executive officer at Aspen Group;
  • Duncan Challen, general manager – business development at Celestino;
  • Saumya Menon, director health, safety and environment at Landcom;
  • Hide Seguchi, chief executive officer, apartment and mixed-use developments at Sekisui House Australia;
  • David Hopper, joint managing director at Kaipara Property Group;
  • Adrian McLay, director at Turner & Townsend;
  • Peter Brown, senior director, sales at Procore;
  • Matthew Hoskin, enterprise account executive at Procore;
  • Jeremie Henry, industry partnerships manager at Procore;
  • Katie Stevenson, NSW executive director at The Property Council of Australia; and
  • Catherine Maude, NSW/ACT commercial director at The Property Council of Australia.

Held in Sydney on 5 September 2023, the roundtable facilitated discussions centred around the potential of data in optimising construction workflows, exploring the benefits of integrating technology to improve construction speed, safety and cost efficiency, and understanding how leaders in the NSW construction and property sector are tackling longstanding challenges.

Igniting insights with data

According to Katie Stevenson, executive director of The Property Council of Australia’s NSW chapter, driving technology innovation and cultivating a global community of ground breakers is imperative across the property and construction landscape.

“Controlling costs, mitigating risks and identifying opportunities for efficiencies in construction has never been more critical than it is today given the economic challenges that we’re all facing in our businesses,” Stevenson told attendees.

Stevenson’s insights resonated strongly at the roundtable, with attendees unanimously echoing her views. They collectively affirmed the value of embracing technology, not merely as a survival tactic, but as the key to thriving in an industry on the cusp of substantial transformation. This shared perspective underscores the industry’s recognition that data and innovation are vital for navigating the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Participants agreed that data plays a crucial role in informing strategic decisions, enhancing project efficiency and leading to timely completion, cost-effectiveness and improved quality of construction projects.

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Roundtable attendees: Catherine Maude, Duncan Challen, Jeremie Henry and Hide Seguchi. (Image: Procore)
Roundtable attendees: Catherine Maude, Duncan Challen, Jeremie Henry and Hide Seguchi. (Image: Procore)

It was acknowledged that harnessing data analytics in the construction industry holds the potential to mitigate risks, elevate project performance and enhance overall operational efficiency. Beyond these primary advantages, incorporating data-driven approaches brings forth several additional benefits. It enables precise project cost estimations, facilitates better resource allocation, promotes proactive issue identification, streamlines communication among project stakeholders and ultimately contributes to the development of more sustainable and resilient structures. Embracing data in construction not only optimises decision-making but also paves the way for innovation, allowing for the exploration of advanced technologies and methodologies for continued industry advancement.

While data analytics plays a crucial role in decision-making, it is essential to align advanced technologies with well-defined strategies and performance metrics to effectively measure return on investment, as highlighted by the roundtable attendees.

The industry’s future success hinges significantly on the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics. Insights from the McKinsey Global Institute’s 2017 report, Reinventing construction: A route to higher productivity, suggest that leveraging data could potentially boost onsite productivity by as much as 50 per cent.

According to Jeremie Henry, Procore’s APAC industry alliances leader, there is still a need for further advancement in data strategy, as indicated by insights from Procore’s benchmark report, How We Build Now 2023. Shockingly, the report reveals that only 11 per cent of companies in NSW have a formalised data strategy in place. This glaring statistic prompts crucial questions about the industry’s preparedness to leverage the full potential of data. The roundtable discussion firmly reinforced not only the vital importance of data-driven decision-making but also the transformative capacity of data to reshape processes and outcomes in the construction sector.

The consensus among the roundtable participants was clear: the adoption of a data-driven approach is not just a necessity; it’s an imperative step for construction businesses to consistently achieve positive project results and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving industry.

Riding the ‘tech wave’

The construction industry is experiencing a surge in technology adoption, with construction management platforms and payment technologies taking the lead. “Look beneath the headlines – cost escalations, cash flow worries, high interest rates and supply chain issues – and there’s a much more optimistic story to share,” Henry said.

Beneath the surface challenges, there’s a wave of optimism sweeping through the construction industry. Procore’s report indicates that businesses within the sector are gearing up to embrace the power of construction intelligence and management platforms, along with advanced payment technologies, over the next 12 months. Their goal? To improve efficiency and generate cost savings.

This proactive approach involves tapping into the advanced capabilities and intelligence embedded in construction management platforms to elevate daily productivity among teams and streamline both internal and external operations.

According to the Procore report, businesses in NSW are increasingly investing in technology that improves sustainability, productivity and efficiency. National statistics underscore this momentum, with 47 per cent anticipating an increase in spending on construction technologies in the next 12 months.

“NSW businesses are slightly more confident than other states,” Henry said, explaining this can largely be attributed to their financial stability and a well-managed supply chain.

“Concurrently, investments in infrastructure and a robust economy have significantly bolstered businesses operating in risk-prone sectors.”

Duncan Challen, general manager of business development at Celestino, emphasised the need for the construction industry to continue to invest further in technology, implement effective data strategies and actively develop the talent pipeline by directly contributing to industry-led science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. He highlighted that these measures are essential for businesses to maintain their competitiveness, relevance and sustainability in the modern era.

“For our organisation, a key priority is driving purposeful transformation, particularly considering the abundant opportunities presented by the current era of extensive technological disruption and advancements,” said Challen. “To me, it’s all about embracing technological transformation and exploring the boundless possibilities.”

Accelerating the cultural shift

However, despite the evident benefits, the resistance to technology adoption often stems from a cultural reluctance to change. Criticism is frequently directed at the technology itself rather than addressing the need to alter work and lifestyle paradigms.

This sentiment, expressed during the roundtable discussion and reflected in the Procore report, points to the significant challenge posed by the intersection of established practices and the integration of innovative technology.

Overcoming this resistance requires more than simply adopting new tools; it demands a concerted effort to cultivate a cultural shift towards a technology-enabled, forward-thinking construction landscape.

This transformative shift is indispensable for unlocking unparalleled potential, enhancing productivity and ensuring sustainable growth, said John Carter, Aspen Group’s joint CEO and director. Navigating cultural transformation can pose challenges, especially for Aspen Group’s comparatively compact business which faces considerable complexity.

“We’re a relatively small business, but we have reasonable complexity because we essentially buy properties that need fixing, so we can see lots of gaps in technology,” said Carter. “And we are a small team and a small head office; therefore, technology needs to be simple to run because we don’t have our own IT department.”

“We’re working towards advancing our technological infrastructure as part of an ongoing improvement journey.”

As technology evolves and younger generations enter the workforce, organisations must undergo a cultural shift to embrace new ways of working, ensuring that technology not only complements but also enhances existing practices.

During the roundtable, Saumya Menon, director of health, safety and environment at Landcom, emphasised that the true potential of technology lies in revolutionising how people work, enhancing their efficiency and productivity.

Roundtable attendees: Peter Brown, Duncan Challen, Mathew Hosking and Catherine Maude. (Image: Procore)
Roundtable attendees: Peter Brown, Duncan Challen, Mathew Hosking and Catherine Maude. (Image: Procore)

Navigating transformation

As the industry undergoes this transformative shift, there is a growing acknowledgment of the need to engage with stakeholders responsible for project delivery. However, challenges like infrastructure and compliance costs pose significant obstacles, particularly in Western Sydney, where escalating costs continue to impact development prospects, as highlighted by Challen.

In Western Sydney, despite abundant potential and promise, seizing these opportunities proves financially demanding. Utilising analytics and data to showcase to the government that there are cost-effective alternatives for policy implementation is crucial, explained Challen. It might also necessitate a re-evaluation of their planning controls.

“From our standpoint, it’s about harnessing smart technologies that can generate valuable data to enhance productivity and experiences,” Challen said. “Moving forward, it’s about more than just utilising data and employing sophisticated tools and infrastructure.”

“The real essence lies in deriving meaningful insights through effective data utilisation.”

Another formidable roadblock to transformative change and a bottleneck for innovation lies in the persistent skills shortage, as revealed by attendees. According to BCI Central’s 2023 construction outlook, Analysing Australia’s Construction Pipeline, 90 per cent of surveyed builders consider labour shortages a prominent challenge for their businesses.

An effective strategy involves striking a balance between harnessing the innate tech-savviness of the younger generation and embracing the established practices deeply rooted in the construction industry. This endeavour is crucial, serving not only to draw in fresh talent but also to seamlessly integrate state-of-the-art technologies and digital fluency into the construction landscape.

According to Adrian McLay, director of Turner & Townsend, “being future-ready and getting better at understanding risk and calculating risk” is important. He said that a key part of the company’s global purpose is to help transform the industry towards innovation.

“The biggest challenge for us is implementing that in the industry: bringing new ideas, and mobilising and engaging with those who are responsible for the delivery of these major projects to adopt those new ideas and make change,” said McLay.

McLay emphasised that the real catalyst for change lies in leveraging data rather than relying solely on elaborate tools and flashy innovations. He asked, “How can we maximise efficiency by harnessing the potential of data?”

Looking to the future

Attendees conveyed optimism regarding the future of the construction and property industry, recognising opportunities for expanding operations, acquiring distressed assets and addressing the housing crisis.

The dialogue underscored the vital need for the construction sector to embrace technological advancements, implement robust data strategies and prioritise education to ensure competitiveness and sustainability in today’s dynamic landscape. The emphasis was on adaptability, collaboration and innovation as key drivers for navigating the rapid changes within the industry.

Despite facing challenges, the construction sector continues to demonstrate resilience and ingenuity. It appears well-positioned to overcome obstacles through collaborative efforts and proactive approaches.

Henry’s perspective on crisis-driven innovation in construction was echoed, emphasising the importance of seizing opportunities during challenging times. “Make the most of a crisis,” he said.

David Hopper, joint managing director of Kaipara Property Group, highlighted the market’s current challenges as a chance for a significant reset. “The current market is challenging, but we see this as an opportunity,” said Hopper. “There’s a significant reset happening, especially in capital markets and property valuations.”

“I believe that for those astute groups able to identify value and secure advantageous deals, there’s a strong opportunity to position themselves well for the upcoming wave.”

The invaluable insights and experiences exchanged during Procore and The Property Council of Australia’s roundtable prove essential for construction businesses and leaders committed to achieving success in their projects and operations. Thriving amidst advancements in technology, processes and culture requires adaptation and evolution, qualities that set the path for enduring success.

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