Remote working webinar highlights pace of digital change

05 May 2020

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The seventh in FIDIC’s market-leading series of Covid-19 webinars took place on Tuesday 5 May 2020 with an event exploring how the industry can best use and collaborate with digital tools in the light of the increased incidence of remote working during the Covid-19 lockdown, writes FIDIC communications advisor Andy Walker.

“Covid-19: How lockdown is enabling more digital and remote working” was attended by 500 attendees and highlighted just how rapidly infrastructure businesses were having to adapt to a new digital reality during the current pandemic and the opportunities for greater efficiencies and more permanent change in the industry going forward.

The event was moderated by FIDIC CEO Nelson Ogunshakin and the speakers included FIDIC diversity and inclusion task force chair Michele Kruger,  Richard Shennan, group digital business development director at Mott MacDonald, Adam Bialachowski, chief executive officer, B-Act Sp. z o. o. + Vintage, Dustin Parkman, vice president for project delivery at Bentley Systems and Nick Tune, digital director for Atkins UK and Europe. As ever, FIDIC president Bill Howard was present at the webinar and FIDIC’s head of economic and strategic policy Graham Pontin also joined the line-up.

Kicking off the event, FIDIC diversity and inclusion task force chair Michele Kruger reported that digital was playing a key role in the current FIDIC Future Leaders Management Certificate training course for young professionals. “I’m delighted to say that despite the current crisis, the training has not been adversely affected and all those taking part have been able to make their submissions online using digital tools,” she said. This was a big plus as was digital enabling people to work smarter and in a way that improved their health and wellbeing and work-life balance.

Richard Shennan, group digital business development director at Mott MacDonald, said that more than ever digital was fundamental to the industry’s future as it moved to a more ‘information-centric’ approach. Information strategies would be crucial for firms going forward and this would be accelerated by the current move to more digital working, he said. Organisations will need to reconsider how they are structured from an information-centric standpoint because “information was the common thread for the future and digital was the way to deliver it,” said Shennan.

Adam Bialachowski, chief executive officer, B-Act Sp. z o. o. + Vintage, gave an update on the situation in Poland and reported that the government was well prepared for digital working with contracts and tenders all being delivered electronically. His firm had given its clients access to their cloud-based project management platform to improve collaboration and this has been very well received. “Tasks that would have required four or five business trips to do in the past are now all being delivered from home instead, said Bialachowski. “Working remotely has gone fantastically, staff are more productive and the digital tools we have been using have been a great success,” he said.

Bentley Systems vice president for project delivery Dustin Parkman said that his company were already well prepared as a digital company for remote working. “Users that already had a good ‘going digital’ strategy have done better and haven’t skipped a beat during the current crisis,” he said. The appetite for digital collaboration tools had gone through the roof in the recent period and a lot of organisations had ‘re-tooled’ as a result to become more effective, he said. Bentley was also working closely with its clients to support them through the current situation, said Parkman.

Nick Tune, digital director for Atkins UK and Europe, said that the current crisis had “made rock stars of digital professionals” given the thirst for technology across business and society more generally. Tune said that it was important to ensure that less digitally experienced staff were supported in a practical way so that they become more familiar and comfortable with the new digital reality. Some clients have been a challenge where they have had less digital knowledge and Atkins has had to work closely with them to bring them up to speed, changing the way the firm works. “Now is the time for the digital community, the pace of implementation has speeded up rapidly and we need to grasp the opportunities presented by this,” said Tune.

A wide range of questions issues were raised by participants during the webinar discussion including information security, digital twins, common data environments, the pace of digital change, productivity while working remotely, drone technology, change management and wider access to technology and the new digital tools. A recurring issue was the sheer pace of digital change during the current crisis, with technology decisions that used to take months being taken in days and this was having a massive effect on the industry’s ability to get things done.

Summing up the webinar, FIDIC CEO Nelson Ogunshakin said that with the world speeding up more than ever before, there was a real opportnity for infrastructure professionals and the industry to come to the fore and make a real difference. Businesses needed to grasp that opportunity, he said.
The next FIDIC webinar in the series is Covid-19: Managing employment relationships, employees and health and safety requirements, which takes place on Thursday 7 May at 12 noon CET. We expect a high number of registrations for this event so please sign up as soon as possible.

Click here to book your place on the event on managing employment relationships.

Please click below to review a recording of the remote working webinar.

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