Digital Transformation Tips for Growth-Minded AEC Firms The AEC industry moves fast. Clients have no patience for proposals that are hard to read or even slow to download. They quickly become frustrated with bulky documents and clumsy websites that make them work too hard to accomplish their goals. Such proposals are quickly abandoned and replaced with more user-friendly alternatives. The solution is a frictionless user experience, i.e., the smoothest, bump-free user journey for their customer. As AEC marketers, it’s beneficial to familiarize yourself with the concept of friction, as well as methods that allow you to create frictionless interactions. To better understand the frictionless user experience, we spoke to Akshay Mahajan, General Manager of CRM at Unanet, who told us how AEC firms should start by prioritizing digital transformation. Adopt Technology Solutions that Provide a Frictionless User Experience “From an AEC perspective, you don’t have a lot of time. Technology has lagged for so long that the need [for digital transformation] has increased dramatically, but so has the need to recruit and retain. These things really emphasize the need to accelerate technology adoption, especially in regards to creating a better user experience.” Though the AEC industry made significant strides to digitize workflows during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mahajan believes that most AEC firms are still decades behind their counterparts in other industries. “The AEC industry is technologically lagging behind other industries by ten, fifteen, twenty years. There is certainly a lot of catch up to do, especially in the last two years when the demand for technology has jumped through the roof.” Mahajan’s insight corroborates the latest findings from McKinsey that show the construction industry to be one of the slowest industries to adopt process and technology innovations. Source: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/imagining-constructions-digital-future These findings reveal an AEC industry that is less adaptable to change, and less prone to evolve from analog to digital than other industries – a problem that Mahajan says will only get worse. “The [companies] who do not shift to the frictionless user experience in the next five to ten years are going to become extinct. If we do not consciously think about our user experience every single day, then we are not going to be in the market. It will only get harder for those who don’t.” Though the AEC industry lags behind in terms of digitalization and technological adaptability, Mahajan believes the industry can catch up. “In terms of technology adoption, firms who promote a frictionless user experience can really close the gap.” Use Frictionless Technology To Create a Better Employee Experience “That said, the software companies still have a long way to go to make technology accessible by creating frictionless user experiences. According to Mahajan, there is a disconnect between most SaaS providers, firm leadership and the actual users. “How many of the people who actually develop and test software have met with a real marketer who uses their solution to do their job? In my own experience, I would say there are only 5% that actually have met with the user.” To choose a solution that employees will actually use, says Mahajan, you need to change your perspective. “We talk about our users and how we can make them adopt new software, but we don’t think from the user perspective… A marketer in AEC doesn’t wake up in the morning wondering how they can effectively use software. They wake up in the morning thinking about how they can get their proposals out on time.” Choose A Solution That Employees Will Actually Use According to Mahajan, rate of adoption and the cost of implementation are related to ease of use. “If it’s difficult to use, then you will need training. That means more people involved and more time to implement.” Mahajan’s insight corroborates research originally published in the International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology, which found that perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness will determine the attitude and adoption level of the user. “The biggest reason for that is the people themself. People who are coming out of colleges – the people we’re trying to recruit and retain – they do not have the patience to deal with bad technology.” Prioritize Solutions that Make It Easier to Work and Win More Business “In today’s environment,” says Mahajan, “a great user experience is something that your employees want. It directly impacts the employee experience, which directly impacts your ability to attract and retain talent.” According to Mahajan, a frictionless user experience is a benefit to firms looking to overcome recruitment challenges. “That’s actually one of my pet peeves. Not just in the AEC industry, but every industry. Salary is no longer a differentiator… Employee experience is critical.” “Fortunately,” says Mahajan, “technology can create that differentiator for you and create that great employee experience – to help your team feel more gratified with their jobs rather than fighting with technology all day.” Choose Features That Enable Your Team to Work More Effectively “In regards to accessibility, if you’re talking to [AEC Marketers] about how cool a feature is, that’s not what they resonate with. But, if you tell them how that feature is going to help them do their job better, then they’ll be able to actually relate to it much better and use [the tool] more effectively.” According to Mahajan, that kind of empathy and accessibility are key to growth in 2022. “I am a firm believer that a lot of technologies have made technology inaccessible for normal human beings… I also think the pandemic proved the value of empathy in the user experience…” “If you think about the great resignation, and all the things that people are talking about, discontent with their jobs and all that stuff. I think there is more empathy in people than ever before.” Think From A User Perspective To Make A Better User Experience According to Mahajan, the need for empathy in the user experience has only increased since the pandemic. “We had no other choice but to use technology [during the pandemic] because no one was in the office to do it manually. So, in a way, the pandemic has helped to bring the need for technology adoption to a higher level. That said, the software companies still have a long way to go to make technology accessible by creating frictionless user experiences.” To illustrate his point, Mahajan produced a picture of an old-fashioned glass ketchup bottle, commonly found on restaurant tables across the country. Source: https://www.dhonyportofolio.com “It’s a simple example as it relates to providing a frictionless user experience,” says Mahajan, “but it’s a positive example of thinking from a user perspective to make a better user experience.” Mahajan went on to describe the frictionless user experiences he’s encountered that resonate with him and his team. “One of the things that I actually really enjoyed about OpenAsset is the user experience. I’ve had a lot of people do the demo and talk about the product… It really resonates with me because you understand that your customers are project-centric. They’re searching for projects, not images.” Ultimately, says Mahajan, “OpenAsset is like the plastic, upside down ketchup bottle that everyone likes, compared to the glass bottle that is the source of the frustration… I’d rather use this solution, than bang my head against the wall with some of the other tools out there… and that’s true with any software in today’s age that thinks about the user experience in that manner.” Implement a Digital Asset Management System Marahan’s insight corroborates the results of a Construction Industry Survey conducted by OpenAsset, which found that 89% of respondents believe DAM solution would increase the overall efficiency of their staff and reduce their level of stress. Fortunately, digital asset management is now top of mind for AEC industry executives looking to grow their firm and secure new business opportunities in 2022. Moreover, digital technologies like OpenAsset are now considered essential to the promotion of AEC brands. Why? Because, unlike traditional systems, OpenAsset is designed exclusively for the AEC firms that build our world and shape our society. With seamless functionality, a user-focused experience and project-based workflows, OpenAsset is the only DAM with the power to: automate your marketing efforts, improve brand consistency, optimize the proposal writing process, and enable your team to do their best work. And at the end of the day, there is no better way to grow your business, than to empower your team. Follow the link for more expert insight or to schedule a demo of OpenAsset with one of our solution experts. Don’t forget to follow OpenAsset on social media for exclusive offers and valuable insight for AEC and Real Estate firms.