The Technological Revolution in AEC TCS Edits

Adoption Resistance


A Little History


The technological revolution in the AEC industry dates back to 1963 when Ivan Edward Sutherland, an American computer scientist and Internet pioneer, developed “Sketchpad”, the first computer-aided design (CAD) with a graphical user interface. Sketchpad led to human-computer interaction, breaking new ground in modeling programs in the construction industry. During the ’70s and ’80s, Sketchpad further established the computational representation of geometry in construction that enabled display and recording of shape information.


Technology Today


From that beginning, technology innovations have snowballed in the AEC industry.


  • Building Information Modeling (BIM) is now the common language shared between the software of all firms working on a single project.
  • Cloud Technology has helped reduce software and infrastructure expenses and has allowed architecture, construction, and engineering to handshake each other in communication.
  • Drones are now commonly used for progress reporting and health and safety inspections by capturing accurate data across large locations in a short time on construction sites.
  • 3D Modeling and Printing enables project teams to visualize a full structure in 3D space compared to the archaic 2D models used in the past.
  • Mobile technology, scanning technology, sensor technology, virtual reality, augmented reality, safety monitoring, remote-controlled construction equipment, and the internet of things all join BIM, Drones, and 3D to fill out the current technological revolution in AEC.


It is almost like we won’t need draftsmen, engineers, architects, project managers, or superintendents to build things. It feels like technology is making people obsolete.


Resisting Change


Ahhh… and there’s the rub.


The AEC industry tends to resist innovation. Why? Studies of technology adoption in the AEC industry have consistently identified ingrained resistance to change in middle managers who see their skills being replaced by technology. Adopting a new technology is considered an organizational change for key personnel since the adoption will affect the traditional processes and protocols in the organization. (Ahn et al. 2016, Lee and Yu 2016).


Technology Adoption and Organizational Change Management


It is time for the AEC industry to establish practices for managing technology adoption in the context of organizational change, so that implementation barriers can be overcome.


A new study by the Simplar research group, CHANGE MANAGEMENT PRACTICES FOR ADOPTING NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY (Omar Maali, Brian Lines, Jake Smithwick, Kristen Hurtado, Kenneth Sullivan) is the first to focus on organizational change management practices in relation to adopting technology across the AEC industry as a whole. Using 167 technology-adoption cases, the objective of this study was to identify the relationships between specific change management practices and organizational adoption of new technology solutions in the AEC industry.


The Headlines


In this study, organizational change management is defined as the steps to implement practices that are different from the organization’s current practices, with the intent to achieve organization-wide goals (Burnes, 2009).


Results include a rank-order of specific change management practices most associated with successful technology adoption.


  1. Senior-leadership commitment –The organization’s senior leaders were committed to making the change a success.
  2. Training resources – Employees had a clear understanding of the action steps for how to implement the change in their job functions.
  3. Communicating the Benefits of Change – Employees had a clear understanding of how the change would benefit them in their job functions.
  4. Establishment of a realistic timeframe for change adoption – The speed at which the organization implemented the change was appropriate.
  5. Change agent effectiveness – The change agents (transition team) responsible for managing the change in the organization were effective.
  6. Establish clear and measured benchmarks of change progress – The organization established clear benchmarks to measure the success of the change.
  7. Workload adjustments to support the adoption – The organization’s leaders appropriately adjusted staff members’ workloads so they could focus on implementing the change.


(Change-agent effectiveness, measured benchmarks, realistic timeframe, and communicated benefits are the four change management practices that had the strongest association strength with successful change adoption.)


Final Thoughts


Relative to other organizational change initiatives common in the AEC industry (such as managerial changes, business process realignment and leadership transitions), successful adoption of new technologies was more strongly associated with the OCM practices of measured benchmarks and realistic timeframe.


Lastly, only organization type and job position were correlated with levels of change-adoption success; the other five factors (technology function, technology characteristics, sector type, years of professional experience, and generational affiliation) did not have a significant correlation with the level of adoption.


Find the complete study here on the Simplar site. Read More: Jeff, Link to the research paper mentioned in this post.