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Embracing Change for IT in the Construction Sector

By Jason R. Kasch, CIO, Structural Group


Jason R. Kasch, CIO, Structural Group

The need to get our hands around data sprawl has proliferated itself more so recently than at any time in the past. Numerous trade magazines I have read, ana­lysts I have talked to, and CIO events I have attended over the past 5 years, have tried to address this notion of data sprawl and how the “cloud” will be the next savior technol­ogy for the CIO. There may be some partial truth to this notion, but the cloud has been around as long as we have had networked computing devices—it is not a revolution­ary solution in and of itself. The real question is not “are you doing cloud”, but instead HOW and WHERE are you using “always on” connectivity to enable access to information.

I work in the Construction/Engineer­ing/Manufacturing sector, which as a whole tends to like trusted means and methods, and well understood specifications. It is gen­erally a risk-averse sector and this at­titude tends to carry over into Information Technology (IT). De­spite this, IT is con­tinually be­ing asked to provide better access to information, support a litany of devices and build systems that are flex­ible, not knowing where the next great technology will plug in.

Without labeling it “the consumerization of IT”, another continuing trend is employees bring­ing personally owned consumer level devices or “apps” into the company, and then questioning why there are not any company standard capa­bilities that address the same challenges they are solving individually. The stock answer is that IT then must tackle securing digital assets, data governance, legal and security consider­ations, risk profiles, em­ployee expectations, training, disaster recovery, busi­ness continu­ity, and more.

I think the question on company standard capabili­ties is a great one. Some IT professionals I have spoken with recently do not seem to understand the problem, do not like change and are fearful of the outcome if they embrace this trend.

Without IT providing a solution that works as well as the consumer product, or is as easy to use, employ­ees will in many cases use what they know works, ir­respective of what the company policy is. Layer on the need for all the IT related requirements I mentioned earlier and the problem gets incrementally harder to solve. Is this not why we all chose the field; to solve really tough business challenges using technology as our artistic canvas? We have more technology tools available to us right now than at any other time in history and that trend does not appear to be slowing down. The CIO needs to understand how to take these tools, weave through the marketing hype, and come up with a strategy to arm people with information. I have been in the IT industry for 20 years and have two teen­age children who have been immersed in technology since they started to walk. Their generation has turned “Google” into a verb and they simply do not accept that information cannot be gathered instantly. You can hide behind the notion that the technol­ogy is too hard to understand, too complex to implement and moves too fast, and if we sim­ply wait the next best thing is right around the corner; or, you can accept that things need to change within your company, embrace the challenge and learn from the approach of today’s teenagers: con­sistently look for a better way and do not accept that things have to stay the way they are!

“One of the roles of IT is to enable an organization to get better access to information, so that people can make decisions faster, using accurate data points”

There are some great public cloud offerings in the construction management space, but each one requires you to then address independently, securing digital as­sets, data governance, legal and security considera­tions, risk profile, employee expectations, training, disaster recovery, and business continuity. Maybe you can leverage everything that you already should have addressed inside your firewall, and simply “WEB’ize” that data where it sits?

I am neither for nor against centralized or decen­tralized computing, private or public cloud solutions. I believe that we all need to address each challenge separately, with an open mind, and not try to put it in a box just because it loosely fits. In our organization we generally build applications to support a specific activity. We have CRM, HR Recruiting and even our unified communication solutions in the public cloud, but the financial system and our email systems are all within and behind the company’s firewall. Each one of these choices was made for pragmatic rea­sons.

In conclusion, one of the roles of IT is to en­able an organization to get better access to information, so that people can make de­cisions faster, using accurate data points. Does cloud inherently solve this?

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