Past research has identified the AEC industry (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) as being extremely resistant to new IT adoption. Why is that? Culture. As organizations do business, they quickly learn what works and what does not. This learning is assimilated into the company’s culture. The big mistakes of the past are remembered anytime an employee has an idea that sounds similar to the old one, and the idea is immediately squashed. A few bad experiences can quickly lead to a lot of assumptions that are not necessarily true, eliminating profitable strategies and greatly hurting the company’s ability to earn above normal profits. While this means that most AEC companies will be late adopters, it also provides a great opportunity for those who are willing to challenge incorrect assumptions that have prevented the industry from embracing new technologies.
Here are three assumptions that I believe are preventing AEC companies from adopting new IT solutions such as Managed File Transfer, and more importantly, why these assumptions are no longer absolute.
1. Employees do not have the necessary technical expertise
A quick look around you will immediately prove that technology is not as difficult to use as it was just a few years ago; even many very complicated applications have now been made so simple that your grandmother could use them. Anytime an MFT vendor is being considered, however, this aspect should be carefully considered. Tight integration with the most common business applications should be a very high priority. For most companies, this means that the MFT solution should seamlessly integrate with Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, and SharePoint. The right MFT solution will be no more difficult to use than sending a regular email.
2. It will be difficult to get company employees motivated to use the technology
One of the great obstacles in implementing an IT solution is to get employees to embrace the new technology and desire to use it, rather than out of obligation. Historically, there have been many large failures in this aspect of implementation across all industries. This often occurs because the everyday users are forced to adopt the solution without ever having been considered during the decision making process. The CIO or Director of IT decides what to use in conjunction with other executives and the others must follow suit. Problems like this can be avoided through trials which allow the users to see what the technology is like and test how they will likely respond to the technology, before it is rolled out to the entire company. This assumption is also tied to the first one. If the technology is too difficult to learn and use quickly, it will be rejected. When the technology is easy to use and fulfills a needed gap in functionality, however, it will be rapidly embraced. Since MFT fulfills a great number of gaps in needed functionality — such as secure file transfers of any size and file type, access control of files and folders, the ability to share files with external partners, auditing, and much more — this technology tends to be very well received.
3. Untested technology will often lead to big failures
This assumption is still true, however, Managed File Transfer is no longer an untested and unproven technology. Having been embraced by many of the most successful and larges AEC companies, MFT solutions have proven to have a great ROI by those who have taken the step to embrace it. This is proven by the fact that year after year, they continue to renew contracts and integrate MFT solutions into more and more applications. AEC companies that choose the best solutions and implement them now still have an opportunity to gain some competitive advantage over the traditionally late adopting AEC industry. However, before long, the majority will adopt and MFT will be a technology that is required to remain competitive, rather than one that can help to gain a competitive advantage.
So what is the conclusion?
Any AEC company that wishes to earn above average financial returns will have to break out of its own culture and challenge these incorrect assumptions, adopting the technology that can enable it to do business more efficiently than competitors. This means throwing out the old assumptions that employees are not capable or willing to use technology, and recognizing that other industries and even leaders within the AEC industry have embraced MFT with much success. Those companies that ignore this will be left behind in this fast moving age of technology.