The built industry ranks a lowly 18 out of 19, beating only agriculture as the least digitally transformed industry in South Africa. This is the second part of a two-part article.

Consistently using digital workflows captures best practices, provides better management and reduces waste.Photo by Jean-Paul Jandrain | Pixabaywaste.Photo byJean-Paul Jandrain | Pixabay

Consistently using digital workflows captures best practices, provides better management and reduces waste.Photo by Jean-Paul Jandrain | Pixabay

Digital transformation in the built environment is about how all players integrate their roles across the construction process and preserve data, so that when people have a job to do, the data they require to do the job arrives on time, can be trusted and can live on beyond the project to support what comes next – the maintenance of the asset. The end-user then has access to information about how the infrastructure was built, the materials used, the names of sub-contractors and the warrantees that apply.

So, how can everyone working on construction projects sing from the same hymn sheet and, importantly, how can all of the data come together in one common environment in support of all roles

Instead of site managers working from 2D drawings taped to their site office walls, they should be able to access digital versions (and their updates) in real-time in a common data environment, dramatically reducing the 30% rework that occurs in the industry.

RIB CCS enterprise sales manager, Quimby Bunce, says while time and cost are easy metrics to sink one’s teeth into, creating a common data environment requires investment. “In South Africa, not many people are willing to stick their heads above the parapet. In Europe, on the other hand, the end customers – especially large, public-sector customers – have begun to drive change in this area. They are looking for better information and more predictability around timelines and cost when it comes to their projects.”

This, in turn, has driven the adoption of the emerging ISO standard, ISO 19650, which provides an industry standard around the adoption of building information modelling (BIM), the most prevalent common data environment, which is centred around the 3D models that emerge from the design phase.

Bunce says 3D models can be detailed or somewhat detailed. “In South Africa, these models are mostly somewhat detailed, with the aim of selling the architectural vision – it’s what I call ‘Hollywood BIM’. With a standard like ISO 19650, the models become much richer and form the core of the data that is preserved around a project.”

Once other people start looking at the model – quantity surveyors, estimators – additional information can be linked back to the model, resulting in the accumulation of metadata in relation to the project. In addition, users can simulate the building process and run scenarios without getting into a situation where they are learning while they build.

“This scenario allows for better planning and project control. All of the associated trades information is linked back to the model. This is how technology can be used in a concerted way to support digital transformation and enhance the way construction companies operate,” notes Bunce.

He uses the analogy of a three-legged stool. “The important part of the stool is the surface that is supported by the three legs. A good digital platform brings the three pillars – people, process and associated data – together in a way that adds value for everyone involved.”

Bunce points to BCG’s Performance and Innovation Are the Rewards of Digital Transformation, which underlines six key factors that underpin successful digital transformation journeys, where companies achieve an average operating profit increase of about 21%. They include:


  • An integrated strategy with clear transformation goals. This involves strategy formulation that moves out of the boardroom to embrace large-scale, participative processes to draw insights from all roles in the organisation.
  • Leadership commitment. There needs to be strong leadership involvement at senior levels to ensure that whatever innovation is adopted by the business gets integrated into one cohesive framework for the organisation.
  • The deployment of high-calibre talent. This refers specifically to people with high technological proficiency.
  • An agile governance mindset. The opposite of the bureaucratic mindset, which is still prevalent in most construction companies. The preoccupation with innovating and delivering increasingly more customer value.
  • Effective monitoring of progress. Setting targets around processes and outcomes – and making sure sufficient data is taken into account to be able to measure whether or not improvements have been made.
  • Business-led modular technology and data platform. Adopting technologies that play well in the sandbox with other technologies.


Bunce says a transformative approach is evidenced by collaborative teams, well-defined workflows and centralised accountable data. “A unified platform will provide the vertical capabilities to support the needs of a diverse set of roles, support collaboration across roles and drive consistency using digital workflows that capture best practice.”