Five Technology Trends That Demand the A/E Leader’s Attention

Brian Burnett, P.E., F.ASCE
Posted on: 09/12/19
Written by: Brian Burnett, P.E., F.ASCE

tech-thinkerThe changes today in technology are exponential and their implications on the architecture/engineering (A/E) industry in the future are elusive, at best.  To navigate what will surely be choppy waters when it comes to how technology impacts our personal and workplace lives in the future, A/E leaders must contemplate this new environment and create ways to better understand how technology can support peak performance. 

Here are five trends that A/E leaders may want to consider when creating a new, or updated, strategic plan:

  1. The rapid evolution of new technology – The pace of change in technology is staggering. CISCO, a worldwide leader in technology, estimates that by 2030, 500 billion devices will be connected by the Internet.  The different software and tools to perform various functions are growing exponentially, as well.  Benefits, of course, will follow this expansion; however, leaders will need to employ proactive strategies to fully understand how technology benefits the firm’s direction.

  2. Technology’s enhancement of the client relationship – The A/E industry will remain a relationship-based one far into the future. However, important relationships are now being secured and strengthened through technology.  Whether it is how communication occurs, products are created, or how solutions are integrated directly with the client’s work, leaders and staff are finding better ways to enhance the client relationship and experience with technology.

  3. Technology’s growing impact on recruitment and retention – A firm’s technology is having much more impact on the recruitment and retention of talent. As the search for excellent employees remains extremely challenging, the “younger” generations are taking jobs where technology is embraced, invested in, and maintained modern in scope.  A/E leaders can no longer ignore this reality if they expect to hire and keep the best people.

  4. “Seeing is believing” – Frank Stasiowski states in his book, Impact 2030 – Disruptions in the Design Industry for the Next 10 Years, that, “Eventually it will be difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is reality.” A firm’s staff, its clients, and the public served are wanting to “see” what the final project looks like, while it’s being created!  Placing a person “in the solution” with Virtual Reality will become mainstream in the relatively near future.  Leaders must find ways to address this growing demand to “see.”

  5. “Disruptive technology” becomes more mainstream and the corresponding increase in data volume – Technologies that are deemed “disruptive” in nature to the A/E industry, like BIM 2.0 and Voice “Assistants” (the office and field version of “Alexa”), will take additional time to mature. However, some technologies like drones and 3D printing have already sunk some deep roots into how data is collected and how environments are visualized.

    Similarly, IBM reports that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years, at 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day!  How data is collected, how it is stored and managed, and then finally how it is utilized for corporate decision making, design solutions, and solving problems are important considerations for the A/E leader today. Whether it is disruptive technologies or big data, the demands will increase for the A/E leader to be vigilant regarding how technology can benefit the operation of a firm.

A major question for the A/E leader is how to stay in touch with the current technology trends, and new ones that will join them in the future.  There is no easy answer, but one thing is certain, no longer can a firm’s technology strategy be pushed aside.  Instead, leaders must make technology an integral part of a firm’s long-term strategies.


About the Author: PSMJ consultant Brian Burnett, P.E., F.ASCE, is an expert in strategic planning and ownership and leadership transition.


2019 Strategic Planning ManualThe Most Successful A/E Firms Think of “Plan” as a Verb—Something They Do All the Time. Position Your Firm for Success in the Future with the Ultimate A/E Strategic Planning Manual. At the heart of this 424-page manual is PSMJ’s Strategic Planning Wheel©, a model that identifies the key arenas that should be addressed in a strategic plan. New to this edition is an updated chapter on information technology that tackles the ongoing challenge of keeping up with the pace of technological change, and how firms can address it in their strategic planning.

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