Rapid Tech Adoption Post-Pandemic: A Q+A with Ignite Associate & Group BIM Manager Jeremey Benseman

Innovation in tech is like any other business objective: once you have the vision for where you want to go, it is the users and the culture they create that will drive the change.

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Ignite’s Group BIM Manager Jeremy Benseman recently spoke at Autodesk University’s 2020 online conference, which explored post-Covid-19 resiliency in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction. We sat down with Jeremy to chat about how Covid-19 bolstered rapid tech adoption within our large architectural practice – and the interesting effects this had on our workflow and culture.

"Innovation in tech is like any other business objective" Once you have the vision for where you want to go, it is the users and the culture they create that will drive the change"

Q: What was the tech ecosystem at Ignite like before Covid-19?

Ignite is a large practice with six studios across Australasia. Before Covid-19, our people already had the tools to connect to colleagues, clients, and project data when and where they needed. We provided high-spec laptops, VPN connections, Microsoft Office 365, Autodesk AEC Collection licenses, and access to BIM 360 – to name a few.  

But we’d found that uptake of our more advanced technologies was a bit mixed. For example, we were early adopters of A360 and BIM360 Teams—and we’d had some very successful projects running in these platforms both locally and internationally—but we also still had projects operating in a traditional local server environment. BIM360 was mainly used for hosting, sharing files, and as file storage.

When Covid-19 hit, the transition to total company-wide remote working was a relatively smooth one for us. We were already on the right track; the tech was in place, so our people collected their equipment, went home, and… well, they just got on with it.

Then we saw a very real cultural-driven shift.

Q: Tell us about this shift.

Well, two of Ignite’s core values are ‘boundaryless’ and ‘together we’re great’, and these really came to the fore in our remote working environment. We saw the technological uptake explode and our people started collaborating like never before. The lockdowns heightened our people’s desire to try new ways of working and use the tech tools available to them.

Once the early adopters and super-users began using the full range of tech tools, everything organically found its place. Company-wide meetings moved online, where they are better received and create more engagement. Training sessions, which were often repeated in-person multiple times to different groups, are now recorded for staff to watch when and where it suits them. The uptake of BIM360 specifically allowed us to seamlessly continue working with Revit across 145+ individual collaborator sites, while also improving the way in which we worked. Designing, documenting, modelling, sharing, consuming, collaborating, and communicating with all stakeholders improved with speed and efficiency – even for those with poor internet connections.

Our people moved well away from using BIM360 just as cloud storage; it became embedded as the project solution for delivery.

Q:  In your view, what has been the most exciting change to come out of this rapid tech adoption?

It’s great to see our people continue to find new ways of working with the available technology and add value to how we deliver, collaborate, and share our clients’ projects. We’re seeing individuals seek solutions and bring them to the table for consideration. Instead of us—the implementers of the technology—driving the change, our people are driving the innovation, research, and development across our tech platforms.

We’ve also seen our non-Revit users and senior staff request training and access to BIM360 – they feel more confident with the models and can see the benefits of the available data. They’re now digesting live information and providing feedback and instruction to their peers like never before.  

We also saw a much higher demand for video conferencing spaces. In our Auckland studio on the first week out of lockdown, we installed additional VC rigs.

Q:  Have there been any challenges?

Like everyone else, we suffer elements of Teams / Zoom fatigue, and still do. But the positives far outweigh the negatives. The feedback and learning loops are really busy – our people are excited about where the tech can take them and they’re eager to learn more.

Q: What would you say has been the biggest learning from the last year?

Covid-19 proved to us at Ignite that our investment in mobility and flexibility for our people was a massive win, and we’ve seen some exciting workflows come out of the rapid tech uptake.  

My advice to any other tech leaders in the industry is don’t wait for external forces to come into play. Get the tech in place and give your people the space to experiment. Innovation in tech is like any other business objective: once you have the vision for where you want to go, it is the users and the culture they create that will drive the change.

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