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The construction industry is one of the world economy’s largest sectors, yet according to McKinsey Research, it struggles with an “intractable” productivity problem that other industries have successfully addressed with digital transformation. The McKinsey study underscores a huge opportunity for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms to take more innovative approaches to design and construction processes that can improve productivity across the value chain of a project.

For IT and business leaders, innovation is founded in selecting the right technology solutions that reduce complexity, empower users and enable the organization’s resources to be allocated optimally. The AEC industry is overdue for transformation, and the possibilities for growth—for individual firms and for the industry as a whole—are exciting.

Three of the biggest challenges that AEC firms face have to do with the difficulty of real-time collaboration, the complexity of joint venture partnerships and the availability of talent. Cloud virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), a turnkey service that delivers virtual desktops and workstations from a public cloud, can uniquely address all three of these challenges and serve as a primary change agent that drives AEC firm growth.

Many traditional VDI solutions have been available for well more than a decade, but so far, VDI has failed AEC firms. Even if they could afford these expensive solutions, poor performance has been a non-starter for most users of graphics-intensive applications.

However, cloud VDI completely changes the game. Implementing a cloud VDI service that features high-performance cloud workstations can boost productivity and efficiency and drive overall business growth. Because firms can hire anywhere and pursue business regardless of location, prior location barriers become irrelevant and pursuing opportunities in new geographies becomes a valuable growth tactic. 

Improving real-time collaboration

Real-time collaboration across disparate teams is a significant issue. Whether employees and contractors work from home, the firm’s headquarters location, a branch office or a project site, the reality is that people are more mobile. They need to be able to work anywhere and collaborate effectively with project teams. The old-school way of replicating multi-terabytes of data across multiple branch offices for geographically dispersed teams is prohibitively expensive and unsustainable. There’s also the high risk of making costly mistakes as a result of design overwrites.

To mitigate such risks and accelerate project delivery, AEC firms need a way to bring these people together to collaborate effectively in a common data environment. When firms place project data in the cloud and deploy cloud workstations in the cloud region closest to users, doing work and collaborating with team members happens in real time. Large amounts of data can be transferred quickly and with higher fidelity. Designs are rendered faster and complex data, such as images collected by drones, can be processed quickly.

Making joint venture partnerships easier and more effective

If AEC firms find internal collaboration hard, collaborating with multiple firms on a project is exponentially more difficult. But in a partnership, operational complexity goes well beyond challenges with collaboration.

Partnering on large projects in the AEC industry is quite common, and they provide access to larger project opportunities and expansion into new geographic areas. While the opportunities are vast, the complexity of these partnerships can be daunting. Each partner comes to the table with its own processes, application licenses, data stores and physical workstations.

With such disparate IT systems in play, the time to project launch and partnership productivity can be weeks, if not months. Once up and running, the partners then worry about application access, data access, accurate division of costs and more. Collaboration among project teams spanning partners is cumbersome at best. All of these factors can delay project deliverables and compromise the primary goal of the partnership: producing superior outcomes for clients.

Cloud VDI services make it possible to eliminate much of the operational complexity that slows productivity in a partnership. What if a pool of cloud workstations dedicated to the joint venture could be spun up in minutes? What if each firm in the partnership could access its own application license servers? What if every project team had a single source for the latest designs? What if project teams could work from any location? And what if collaboration happened in real time, with power users enjoying app performance that was better than their physical workstations? That could change everything and improve overall ROI for joint ventures. 

Lean integrated project delivery (IPD) describes an approach to complex construction projects that integrates and aligns people, systems, business structures and practices with the aim of optimizing project results. Now, IPD is more than a concept or a framework; cloud VDI is a primary enabler that makes it an actionable industry best practice.

Hiring the best talent available regardless of location

Much as cloud VDI can help AEC partners collaborate no matter where they are in the world, it can also help organizations hire the best talent anywhere. Location has been a limiting factor when it comes to trying to find individuals with just the right skills. With the ability to provide the same work experience from anywhere, firms have the ability to hire talent for many aspects of the design-build process regardless of location. This provides a huge competitive advantage by enabling firms to engage the best talent globally and onboard them quickly without the need to open new branch offices. 

Change is good

 Moving to a new way of doing things does not have to be painful. For the AEC industry, adopting cloud desktops and workstations is a high-return move, bringing new levels of efficiency, productivity and agility to individual firms and to joint venture partnerships. This move helps to hire and retain valuable employees and expand into new geographies as a key growth driver. AEC firms and the entire industry have never been so free to grow.

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