Digital transformation was never more glaringly visible than in architecture and design. I witnessed first-hand as my architect father gradually (and reluctantly) transitioned from the drawing board, T-Square and mechanical pencil to the PC and mouse. Computer-Aided Design evolved into Building Information Modelling and now means technology delivers an incredibly rich and immersive design experience for the modern architect.
We recently talked to some of our customers in the sector, and discussed how digital transformation is positively impacting their businesses and customers.
The digital transformation experience in Architecture can be mirrored across many other creative design sectors, who share similar challenges and increasingly demanding clients, alongside a rapidly evolving workplace environment. We have been discussing these technological advancements with a number of our customers in the sector, who believe that the location, age, and skill set of the workforce have all played a part in shaping modern creative industries and their adoption of digital technology.
There’s no doubt that technological change is driving a much closer and more efficient relationship between the design and production processes. Design change is becoming a dynamic experience across disciplines, communication and collaboration tools driving cost savings and shortening timescales. All of this on a global scale.
Dunedin IT has been working for a number of years with Stallan-Brand, to help develop their digital strategy. Founder and Design Director, Paul Stallan, is clear on how digital transformation has brought huge benefits across the business.
“Embracing digitalisation has helped Stallan-Brand promote more efficient ways of delivering our design practice. At an aspirational level, technology has aided architects visualise and create spaces and environments that hitherto were unimaginable. New technologies have also helped our practice transform communities, and seriously address climate emergency. BIM has been key to this revolution, being one of the largest technological innovations of the architectural community this century. The three-dimensional perspective provided by BIM has helped us visualise our projects and radically improve our management and coordination of their construction. Digital capability also means that our skilled architects spend less time dealing with construction ‘conflict', are more confident in their production information and can recycle critical information from previous work. In short technology is an indispensable art of our new world.”
So, more specifically, what does all this mean for…
The digital nature of the modern design process means that as the data builds, experience from previous projects, can be harvested for future projects, helping to speed up the costing and design processes, as well as the actual delivery of the project. This is great for the client with designers able to put forward a multitude of options quickly and easily during the design process, meaning more choice for the client and an increase in creativity.
Dunedin IT has been supporting Guy and Co in doing this for some years now.
David Guy of Edinburgh-based Guy and Co believes strongly in service excellence.
“Recent events have accelerated the need for agility and adaptability, placing a greater strain on our technology assets, whilst continuing to try and delight our customers. The modern workplace is diverse –geographically, emotionally, and technically and we want to maintain the off-beat culture that feeds fresh ideas. We’ve invested heavily in the tools that ensure our team can be “together” no matter where they are located, with consistent access to the data and design toolsrequired for the high levels of innovation that are at the heart of our success.”
3D modelling, hybrid reality and inter-agency collaboration allow huge benefits for clients, including structured execution and handover data being maintained throughout, and full visualisation when making design changes.
However, delivering a personal and bespoke project remains very important to Heather McLean and the team at Form Design Consultants, one of Scotland’s leading interior commercial design consultancies.
“We use technology to develop and deliver the creativity of our designers, who still take a very humanistic approach to the initial stages of the process, often using hand-drawn sketches and on-site workshops to achieve an overall concept the client likes. Tools like 3D rendering then allow us to be very precise in delivering that vision in a controlled and secure manner and we’ve had to ensure our infrastructure supports the business in doing that, wherever our staff work.”
Technology is enabling the creation of virtual teams, saving time, reducing cost, and vastly speeding up the process of design choice. Location is no barrier to being a team member and the time and cost associated with travel diminishes significantly. Whether you need to just exchange a few messages, or a multi-person video conference, collaborative tools such as Microsoft Teams mean the staff can connect with clients and colleagues in just a few clicks. And digital platforms mean the education and training required to lift skill levels, can be delivered easily and regularly.
Ross Wilkie, Managing Director of Brindley Associates, one of the UK’s leading creative environmental consultancies, believes he has found a balance between tech and team –
“There is no substitute for the skills and experience of our people, but complimented by the capability of the digital tools available to them, it allows us to really excel. For example, drone technology has taken our imaging and mapping to another level, whilst collaborative project tools ensure we can deliver high quality, transparent projects to our clients. We were able to maintain our standards throughout the recent challenges of the pandemic, largely due to the technology already embedded in our organisation. Smart and efficient working was already crucial to our success, with fast effective communication between team and client at the heart of that”
The modern hybrid working model has resulted in a huge focus on the security and accessibility of business data. It is critical that organisations know where their data is located and who has access to it. Contagious has been a design specialist for global drinks brands since 2001, and a Dunedin IT customer with whom we work closely. IT Director Paul Rooney understands the critical nature of securely managing their data….
“Finding a balance between governance and security, and the need to create and thrivethrough collaboration has been a real priority for Contagious. We want to grow by leveraging the intelligence that sits within our data, but also apply clear policies and processes to ensure the business remains protected. Balancing flexibility and accessibility with provenance is a key objective for us as we try and ensure maximum benefit for our clients from the tools that digital transformation is bringing”
Cyber security has become a critical area of business strategy across every sector, with threats emerging at an alarming rate and many organisations still struggling to keep up. Tenders require designers to demonstrate high levels of competency in this area, and many may not have the in-house skills to ensure the appropriate strategy is in place to match the threats. In particular, Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly common, and Data Loss Protection (DLP) solutions should be at the core of any robust IT strategy.
The expectation of customers and staff alike, is of always-on technology, available wherever and whenever it’s required, with a consistent user experience. That means ensuring that networks and connectivity are resilient and protecting the business from component failure. As a Director at Haus Collective, Murray Henderson understands the critical nature of their technology.
“Every staff member relies on the various business systems that allow them to deliver cutting-edge projects to our clients. What they don’t necessarily have visibility of is the infrastructure behind that, which protects our data and ensures we have the bandwidth required to support a large design team. And when things break, we need a network that continues to function and minimises downtime and impact on our clients. There is no doubt that business continuity is an important conversation to have with your IT service provider–don’t wait until it breaks !”
It is clear that a huge dependency on technology now exists in most industry sectors, driving huge growth in the development of applications, devices, and skillsets, as well as connectivity methods and bandwidth. Organisations need their user experience to be consistent, secure and reliable, no matter the location.
A recent RIBA study revealed that 76% of those surveyed felt their organisations still had some distance to go to complete their digital transformation journey –you could argue it’s a journey that may never end.
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