A Real-world Guide to Delivering Operational Excellence

A Real-world Guide to Delivering Operational Excellence

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Yeah. You're listening to Autodesk's Digital Builder Podcast, the show that inspires construction professionals to innovate and use technology to improve how they build their world. I'm Eric Thomas and I've been working in construction for nearly a decade and now I have the privilege to sit down with industry trailblazers to hear how they're solving construction's biggest challenges and redefining the future of the built environment. All right. Welcome to another episode of Autodesk, The Digital Builder podcast.

I am your host, Eric Thomas. And today I am joined by Giana Morini, Operations Technology Leader with DPR Construction. And we are sitting in the Autodesk office here in Boston in the technology center. So if you're listening on the audio version of this, you should head over to YouTube because I am surrounded by robots.

There is a geodesic dome that is being built for habitats in outer space to my right. There's a whole bunch of cool stuff here and it's definitely worth getting a quick glimpse at. So the technology centers, for those that aren't super familiar, they provide access to large format fabrication equipment, a whole range of robotics training and then expertise from our Autodesk Tek technology personnel. And they really just bring a bunch of global leaders together in a very interesting space to try and do innovative things for designing and making, as you know, coming from Autodesk. But Giana, again, thank you so much for joining me here today. I am happy to host you in the center. How are you doing? I'm good.

It is my first time here at the Autodesk Center. That's pretty interesting. And thank you for having me today. Yeah, we're going to talk about some really cool technology stuff.

And, you know, you joked when we first connected that focusing on operations technology might be slightly less exciting than I have been historically interested in having on the show. But is it self-possessed technology and data nerd specifically? I firmly disagreed. I still disagree, and I'm excited that we can just really talk about operations because I think it's the foundation of all the other really neat things that are happening. And I'm excited to just learn, you know, what you're working on a bit of your background and what's happening over at DPR. But before we get to deepen, can you set the stage for everybody out there listening? Like, what is an operations technology leader? How do you spend your days? Sure. Sure.

So operations technology at DPR is part of our bigger construction technology group, which kind of falls under our T and I r tech and innovation umbrella. And I think at DPR for being a self performing GC we have a very big TNI group. It is very intentional and it for very valuable to DPR.

So with operations technology, our team focuses on field operations risk, insurance, safety, quality and self perform work. That's it. That's it then that's, that's the only thing that we really focus on. So we really manage the enterprise solutions that we use for those focus groups. How I spend my days is very different every day.

I think that's why I like what I do. It's, it's it's never the same. I would say sometimes we're in vendor calls kind of managing, Like I said, those enterprise tech stack. Sometimes we're meeting with our product teams for feature for class development roadmap conversations.

Sometimes we're really strategizing with the other workgroups. How do we, you know, hit our bigger vision and goal and how do we align all the initiatives that are happening? How are we just supporting our project teams? Sometimes we're answering it tickets, other days we're getting feedback on pilots that are happening. And so we work with a lot of different people throughout the DPR ecosystem and it's never the same. I mean, in the volume of people that you have, especially as a self perform focused company, you have to have that 360 look on everything.

Otherwise you're going to struggle deploying. You're not going to hear the feedback that you need every step in the process for technology deployment and in my perspective at least to be effective, comes with a lot of communication in expectation setting. You can't just show up and say, Look, we're going to use drones on this project.

Now here's the stuff to figure it out. It's not going to go very well. No, you are you are speaking my language. I think part of what's part of what we focus on is really making sure we have established a process.

And with that process and expectation. And so at DPR, we call them best practices. Sometimes we have standards, but those best practices are kind of the proven way to do something. And then without the expectation, we can't just roll out a technology, right? And I think we've seen failed technology because that hasn't been clear. And what's the first thing to get blamed? The technology. Yeah, and to be able to shake those perceptions and have more of an inclusive conversation is is incredibly important.

So drawing a bit from your perspective, you know, as an operations leader, what do you think are are other construction leaders out there listening should care more deeply about delivering operational excellence? So operational excellence is really about consistency and predictability in what you're delivering, kind of like we alluded to before, without a best practice or an expectation or an understanding of how we typically want to do business, moving to a tech stack or an enterprise solution becomes very difficult. Sometimes that can just result in chaos. The other element of this that I find and probably holds true for me, is because we do have a set of best practices. We understand what good looks like. It allows us to also go above and beyond that and kind of explore for ourselves. And so anybody can kind of bring a value added improvement or a different way of doing things.

And I think the ability to, you know, you can have direct impact back to the business because we're kind of that ever improving continuous learning type of culture. I think that really helps people stay. It makes a happier workplace and I think it improves retention. Oh yeah. I mean, you have the Clear North Star and I like how you mentioned, you know, what good looks like because you have to define that for your organization. If you haven't thought about what your achieved outcome is, whether you're picking a piece of technology, you're focusing on a specific project, it's hard to push people in the same direction in a way that has focus and I think the ROI that everybody is anticipating.

And so that's when you feel technology deployment starts to shape up. Yes. Yes. So since tech does play such a big part in your work, can you tell me what key questions you ask yourself for your team when considering adopting new technology or software or new processes? What does that look like? Yes, so there are a lot and we probably don't even have them all covered.

But some basic ones. Well, the very basic one is we we look at their security and compliance, right? Not our team, but we have a a team to go to to say before we even want to start talking to this vendor, do they meet our basic security, minimum requirements and more companies need to be doing that. I don't think it's a conversation that is being had often enough because there are a lot of risks in the security thing, which we can park for a minute because I think that's a big one to unpack, but it's huge. And so it's good to hear that, you know, there's an intentional focus there. There is. And what's really good, we're finding from our vendors is they might not meet it at that day and time, but they're really open to feedback and understanding what they have to do.

And they come back in a couple of months or a couple of years and right. Once they work through that themselves. Yeah. The other one is from a process side. We really need to understand is there a process we're trying, what is the core problem? I think that's become a big conversation lately is understanding the problem you're needing to be solved. What's the gap instead of kind of bringing the solution first, it's, you know, there's a lot of shiny new things. And I, I cringe sometimes because it creates a lot more work on on our side to bring people back kind of baseline what it is we're trying to do, figure out the requirements.

Right. And then find a tech to provide the solution to really what the problem is. So those those are some of the questions, I think who the users are understanding why? Because we have to explain that. I think you said earlier he can't just drop a new tech on somebody and say, go use this because this will make your workflow better.

And they go, How? Yeah, tell me more. Or nobody asked me. Right. Which is a huge problem too, because if you if you don't have that conversation, they don't feel like they're part of the process.

Right? That's a problem and that is a huge problem. And so we try to be really, really deliberate about getting feedback from all of the user groups, the stakeholders doing conference room pilots, real pilots, proof of concept so people feel like they're heard. And it's not just hey, provided feedback and nothing happened, right? We circle back with them. We say, here are the improvements you asked for. And and it is really a repetitive and sometimes tiring process and you can kind of get caught in a bit of a trap here, too, because as is you alluded to a moment ago, more technology keeps coming to market.

It's an exciting time because for so long we were beholden to tools that didn't necessarily serve our industry the way that we expected or want them to. And many of us got caught up in that. I think at a point where we go, Oh my gosh, there's drones, there's all these different things, and then you step back and you go, Oh my gosh, like, how do I make sure that these things connect to these things and what is my end state? And have I introduced a tool to the field that actually is burdensome for them because we didn't think of a workflow like there's so many nuances and so like as we kind of dial in the way everything connects and, you know, the platform approaches, a Autodesk bias is in there, and that's an important one to think about. But regardless of the foundation of your ecosystem, if you're not thinking about that end state, you're still going to have people manually connecting and moving data from system to system.

And it might not map in a way that actually makes sense. Yeah, Yes. And I think that is a struggle we all have. I think even when we say there is a platform, we still have difficulty with connecting data across the different tools or the suite of tools. As an industry, we don't have a data standard.

I think without that, every time you're connecting a new tool, every time my owner wants to see something different or a project team calls something by a different name, but it's the same piece of information, right? We're reconfiguring those integrations, we're remapping the data, and it is a challenge, but it's also why we have the team that we have. why we have the team that we have. And it's interesting comparing what we're doing here in North America to the United Kingdom and parts of Singapore and such, because they do have a more stringent focus on data standards like ISO 19 650 and all these other things where I watch them, I go, please send them over here. And it's hard because like you said, it's project to project and it's owner owner and there's a lot of innovation that can happen When we're thinking at an industry level that isn't siloed and these individual companies, they're only empowered to move the needle so far as one company, regardless of the size. Yeah. So as we think about all these different technology and all this innovative and exciting tools and workflows, how do you ensure that you're meeting the needs of both the field teams who are being equipped with the tools and also the people working back in the office? And I know sometimes there's a disconnect either is perceived or in reality.

And it's it's always interesting hearing more about how leaders are considering both options in a in a fair way. Yeah. So I think when you ask me what I did during my day, one piece that I left out in which which I love is we make an effort to go out to our project teams and we hear a lot from in the office, right? We sit in the office. It's kind of who we are on the phone with day to day. But and so you get out into the field, you really don't understand what it is they're thinking and doing in their perception because they don't have anybody to tell it to.

Sometimes that brings it back to me or my team. And so we're out there, we're talking, and sometimes it's just a conversation to say, Tell me, tell me what your gaps are. What do you hate The most and what do you love the most? And it doesn't have to be technology. Give me anything. Yeah, right. Let's just have a conversation. And it those have been really beneficial.

I think the the office has a different set of criteria that the admin side than maybe our project sites have. One of the biggest differences I see is connectivity. And so platforms work well.

Sometimes when we're in an office with a really powerful network and a lot of our project teams don't have that same connectivity. And so the whole do I have it on an app, can I do the work is a big question that we're completely blind to until we get out there on the site and you have to try to like log on to your laptop and do some work in the office trailer and you're like, Oh yeah, the whole system just went down. And then that leads to a different conversation around the ability to sync back. And I think we have a lot of challenges with, okay, now here's an app. Now how are we going to sync that data back to our to, to our database? And we've just lost two days worth of data.

And so to answer your question, you know, how do we make sure the field has a lens there? We are very intentional about going out, talking to our site, and also understanding the differences of being at home and working or being in an office and being boots on the ground. Yeah, I think those expectations all change. And as you alluded to, without the opportunity to really unpack what they are, you're just kind of, you know, a Hail Mary. You're just thrown, you know, footballs in the end zone hoping somebody grabs it.

And that's at the scale that we're building it at the speed that our owners are expecting us to be building at. There's really very little room to do that today. No. And there's interesting this is like just one little small thing that came up.

And I had never really thought about it. I was on site and we were talking about going more digital with some of our processes right around safety. And one of the feedback from the site was, I like people to write it down because it makes them think about what it is they're doing for that day. And if I turn it into a form, how do I make sure they're having that activity of really going through the exercise in engaging everybody? It's like a depth of the thought process and common. Yeah, like people walking boxes. Exactly.

And it's like it took you to see that for like a little light to know we can't just make everything digital. Maybe I shouldn't be saying that on a digital podcast, but it's like it all has its place, though, and it's, it's the human element that's important too. We have to consider that in how we can if we can make that digital, we need that feedback to be able to make it something that works on an iPad where it has the same feeling that you're alluding to instead of being built off in a silo where somebody's built technology for people that have never actually talked to those people before, which with a checklist like you have to help them go through the exercise phase of putting the information together.

A few minutes ago about your point about the vendors in the security, compliance and such and the the evolution of that. And that's where it really comes back to being very smart about who you choose to partner with and work with. Because some technology, they are a vendor of software or they are a vendor of a piece of hardware and that is the extent of it. It's a one way situation. They go, Here's the thing, go use it regardless of the size. Some of it, it's a relationship.

And the good companies out there, they're the ones that want to hear what you're talking about right now. They want to understand because it allows them to build software that's flexible to the needs of the customers in a way that, you know, a one stop shop simply isn't going to be empowered to do so. It's all it all comes together and it takes a lot of pre-planning to make those right choices.

But I think the ROI in the end is is very impactful. Yeah. And those are the relationships that our team looks for. You know, we want to be in those vendor calls, we want to be in those feature requests, we want to be in those product meetings. We want to be at the conferences and road mapping together. It's that's really about building that relationship.

So what advice would you have for somebody out there leading attempts, the team similar to yours that wants to build out that world class technology stack? Like where should they start if they're uncertain of where the focus point should be? I think listening, I think our team spends a lot of time maybe just listening and seeing if they can pull out threads. I think understanding the business strategies and goals so we can start to understand the problems and how to map those to how do they align with our business long term vision, and then making sure I think we brought it up. The relationship with the vendors is there. It's not just throw it over the fence and go use it and we're not going to change anything. I have a lot of advice.

I think one thing that we've learned is you only have one. I think one thing that we've learned is you only have one. You only have one time for a first impression with a technology.

And so training, change management and implementation and how you approach implementation is a make or break, right? And once somebody has a bad taste in their mouth for what they think is the technology, when it might not be right, it might be because you didn't train enough, you didn't you didn't configure it to how your field wants to see it, but you got to set them up for success, right? They go back and blame technology. And then as much as the technology may be improved in a year or you learn from your mistakes, you're too far in and it's really hard to recover. I remember when in VR and with the headsets started coming out, I remember when in VR and with the headsets started coming out, you know, five, six, seven years ago and the capability in the way that those felt to use, I most often saw as far as like, you know, proposal reviews where you're showing the owner, this is what your building's going to look like.

And they model a room or two and then they just go up, no big deal. And the the ROI wasn't there. And a lot of people have based their opinions based on that seven year old.

Look at the technology. And I always tell people I'm like, go put a VR headset on at a conference tomorrow. Yeah, because the cost of those has come down so much in the capability and ability to apply that to your process has changed so dramatically that it's worth a second look. And I think it's all of us.

It's worth our due diligence to take another peek under the hood on occasion just to see what's strange. Yes, things do get better. Yeah, and I think somebody just shared a fact with me and I haven't fact checked it, but like we should be planning to change technologies every three years because that's how quickly technology's improving.

Yeah, again, I have a fact checked it, but what that says to me is, like, we have to do our due diligence, but we can also do it very slowly because by the time we're ready to move forward, when you think it's going to be, hey, the next thing, the next bigger and better thing that actually meets your need is now out. And I had somebody tell me years ago, construction companies are excited to be second to the finish line. They want somebody else to prove out.

More often than not that the thing works. And then very quickly they go, It did cool, done. We're going to buy it and then bring it onto our site. So it's not everybody's like that. I say that a little, you know, lightheartedly, but I understand the hesitation because there's risk and construction is all about risk management. But if we're not able to consider the technology appropriately, we definitely do put ourselves at risk.

Yeah. So in one of our earlier conversations, you mentioned capturing data with intent versus capturing data just to capture it. And anybody who's an active listener, digital builder, I should have a swear jar on my desk just because I say intentionality all the time.

But it applies to so many aspects of technology deployment, process improvement, people management. There's a lot there. And so I'm curious to hear how can our industry can do better at capturing data deliberately? Yeah, So I think this is a challenging question and I think it really thing you said intentional. I think it really comes down you said intentional. I think it really comes down to understanding what it is we're trying to achieve. And what do you what do you need to achieve that right? And then that gives you an understanding of the pieces of information you probably need to collect along the way.

I think for a long time construction has been very siloed, right? It's pursue, it's friction, it's schedule, its estimate, it's operations. And I think what we need to do is get better at understanding the the, the, the cycle of information through that flow. So we're not throwing things away and restarting over. There's so much waste there. There's so much waste there. Oh, yeah.

I mean we've we've had this model that is bespoke projects every time and it's hard and there's, there's a lot of requirements that make it difficult to say we're going to prefab everything and build it in a factory, but we are empowered to do a heck of a lot more than we ever have historically. And so it's there's so many ways that we can be deliberate as we kind of build that that data gathering together. And a friend of mine, Nathan Wood, he from Spectrum is AC. I'm stealing a quote from him. He says that we have this data lake or a data sewer.

And without capturing data with intent, we trend towards the data sewer because we shouldn't stop capturing data. We need to. But it's before you start, you think about what do I want? What dashboards do I need? What does my field team need in real time to make better choices? Or what does the office need to be able to understand the process? Or what does the owner need to feel, you know, involved in See visibility on progress? And if if you don't have that intent, it's a lot harder to reconcile your data afterwards and then these final little gaps and you go, we can get 70% of the way. There are 80% of the way there. If we had done this one thing or tech this little box in the thing differently, we'd be there. And you have to think through that out.

And it's obviously not just a simple, quick, we're going to capture everything. Now we have our digital twin, but you know, it's iterative and there's that saying like start with the end in mind and that is hard. And I think part of why that's hard is construction moves so fast. Right? And I think planning is one of the hardest things to sit down and take the time to do. But if you do it well, right, you can execute more consistently. You can capture the right data, you can reduce the waste that all these different silos are creating.

And there's an owner relationship that builds into that too. So as a formal proposal, manager like RFP is a swearword for me at this point, I'm like, keep it away. I don't I don't want to do that dance anymore.

But I have seen so many bad reps, whether they were just very simplistic and didn't qualify the full expectations or if the owner didn't necessarily understand what's possible within the realm of the GCS, they're asking to bid on that project. There's a relationship you can cultivate where you can upwardly say, We have all this expertise and here's some perspective on, you know, data and dashboard thing. And do you want a digital twin? Because if you do, you should tell us now and not in six months because we're going to we can get there, but it's harder. And so it's it's exciting right now because we have all the visibility on all of these ideal states.

But there are a lot of steps that we have to think about in, you know, the planning part. Like you said, it's huge. And I think it starts at the RFP and then onward from there. I agree.

And we actually have a team in DPR that helps owners do that. And so we can early engage and help define what the owner what is your end result? Do you want a full facility management system? Do you just want a really good asbel? And then we have a facility management system, right, that we can offer at the end of the year. Yeah, which is better than a pile of binders and CDs. And you go here ten years from now, you're, you know, facility manager is going to go, what on earth is in this wall? And everybody's going to shrug. So like, we're in a better state today, which I'm very thankful for.

And we mentioned data standards a minute ago, but I'd like to come back to that. I still think there's a lot we can learn from our friends and, you know, APAC and AMEA on some of the formalization that's coming from the government level because it it pushes everybody to have the same conversation. And I think it it allows for growth in our industry. But it's a state the United States is right now, obviously, we're not there, so we're more organizational data standards. And so I'd like to hear a bit more about the standards and how you think about that at DPR. I agree with you that I think a lot of times it starts with a government setting some type of standards that the American society of whatever, setting those, setting those standards and kind of the the commercial residential side following through. Yeah.

And I came from the federal world, so I'm biased in that painful RFP dance of you didn't dot that I and now that goes in the trash but it goes beyond that obviously. Yeah. And so with DPR, we're working right now on really setting up a data schema in understanding what that looks like for our needs, for our clients needs to successfully execute a project. And in doing so, right when we understand how to connect data through that lifecycle and we have a standard and a schema and also remove some of our attachment to a certain technology or what technology the project has to use because we now understand the information can go into the normal structure, right? And we're not going to be interrupting the dashboards that we know we need to run our projects. Like you build that baseline and then you can kind of iterate from there. And it's it's also the conversation that I like here.

We did a research report with FMI a couple of years ago that I had the privilege of co-leading with Jay Bowman, who's a very good friend of mine. Wonderful. If you don't know Jay Bowman, you're listening out there. Go look him up because he's sharing some really wonderful stuff for our industry. But the the state of decision paralysis that many leaders have, especially at mid and smaller sized companies when it comes to data standards and capture. It's challenging because when you have an implement to that and you've gotten so deep into the technology deployment, it's hard to say, okay, what do I do to start standardizing this and cleaning up our data captures? But I always tell people we learned it's pick a focus area.

What is the most advanced at your company in technology? Is it safety? Is it some other element of operations standardized that build that proof case? So help people understand why you're doing it and why you're asking them to capture that data in a certain way? Then you can show everybody else, Look at how good the safety team's doing. They can look at the entire company at an aggregate level with a dashboard where you can't if everything is disparate and captured differently. And then he sort of playing that into different aspects of the business. And then, you know, maybe it's a year, maybe it's two years. Then you have the iterative scenario where, you know, everything looks so much better. So I think as long as we're focusing in the right areas and at the right scale at the right moment, we're still in power to make change.

It doesn't have to be the entire company at one moment, especially an organization the size of DPR. That would be chaos. You know, we're going to apply all these standards here tomorrow and here we go.

Ever is going to panic. Yeah, and we've started, right? It's not like, hey, we're a blank slate. Safety. There are standard.

Yeah, of course. How we capture safety. And that's one of the easiest places to start because everybody is, you know, for good reason. First thing you think about on a project, the last thing is going to be safety. No, we talked about dashboards for a minute, and I'd like to go a little bit deeper into, you know, what you're seeing and what your team is deploying. Are your teams out in the field using dashboards and data to make real time decisions with data.

And the real time is kind of the important qualifier for me is is somebody in power to have an iPad and go, I need to make this decision to kind of find the data or where does that set? Yeah, So I wish I could say yes. But the way it is right now, yes, our project teams, they have a lot of dashboards. They are making decisions using those dashboards. It is the real time. That's the challenge. Yeah, I think we already talked about connectivity of the field and sinking.

I think until we fix that, we're not really going to get real time data for a lot of information. I think there's also an element that a lot of people still say it's easier for me to go out there and write it down and come back to my computer and turn it right. And so we're already losing real time data. And so it might be the same day data, but is it instantaneous? Absolutely not.

And that's an important nuance to to think about because like you said, it's very easy for me to think, oh, I want real time data as we're sitting in this technology center surrounded by fiber internets. And the connectivity issue is is not even a concern. I had a really wonderful and interesting conversation with a couple gentlemen from Rosenman and Hermansen Construction recently where they were talking about just that.

In things like StarLink and different levels of access to broadband in rural areas is a real concern. I feel like we're starting to get a little bit closer, but it's not 100% reliable. And if your technology can't work offline, if the Internet goes down, you're dead in the water. And so it's not even a real time death for data thing. It's more of a we can't use any of our technology right now until, you know, we fix, you know, Comcast is being a good friend today or whatever. Yes.

Yeah. So as we do think about those dashboards that are being used out in the field and, you know, project trailers or somebody doing a sidewalk, what does that look like? What are people empowered to do today and how are you helping support them with data to the best of your abilities? Yeah. So our product teams do use a lot of our dashboards and some of it is just surfacing. What's the most critical to take care of today? So, right, we have submittal laws, we have RFI logs, we have open issues.

It's not any more just there's 200. It's hey, these ones are connected to this activity and these aren't answered or we need to follow up here. And so it's helping people prioritize, which I think lets them spend their day really getting done what needs to get done to not impact the work that was planned and move those other lower priorities out a week or two. And really focus on them when when the time is right. I think safety dashboards are huge at DPR. Safety is a value of ours and so we have a lot of dashboards around how we're doing with safety inspections and observations and who's doing well and who went through orientation and who did it, what equipment have we actually gone through and inspected and it should have been inspected.

Are the PS Dorn, are the JJ submitted? Right. And and because we have a database and a program for all that, we can surface that information and help the project teams know I better go talk to that trade. They only have three people through orientation and we need six for tomorrow's work.

Right? And so it's kind of more we're getting better at just in time information and focused information, but we still have a ways to go. Yeah, in that visibility within tools that are made for this is I think that differentiator too. I just remember most of this didn't really exist when I was still working at GCS, and so we were managing labor and spreadsheets and, you know, handling our fires in our outlook inboxes. And that will work to a degree, but it doesn't scale and it also doesn't meet the, you know, the rapid pace of construction schedules. Now, if you look 25 years ago compared to today, as far as the expectations from you have won the project and been handed the completed or mostly completed design documents to project completion, it just keeps getting shorter and shorter.

And some of that's driven by technology. We're empowered to be faster and build better. But also part of it is just, you know, market conditions and higher owner expectations. And that's a hard, you know, letter to answer. Yeah. And I think just with that example of how things used to be on spreadsheets, I think we talk a lot about project level data versus enterprise level data.

And the project might be able to do some really good insights because they had that spreadsheet. You know, who's never going to get insights is the business because there's a different Excel spreadsheet on everybody's desktop and there's no way to aggregate that. I think I wanted to cry every time I was submitting a new bid or a contract modification and you'd enter the SharePoint shared file folder Nightmare, you click seven deep to get the spreadsheet you needed. There'd be V1, v2, V3, final V4, and you're like, Which one of these has the data that I actually need and just eliminating that uncertainty and, you know, making so you don't have to hunt for it.

There's an equitable access to data that is important to whether it was a deliberate or somebody says, I'm going to keep this data because it gives me authority in the situation. Or if it wasn't equitable, just because nobody could find it, because they didn't have the resources or the visibility to do so. Yeah, interesting point, because we're going through a process right now in development and more on the risk side where we're setting gates up. And so you can't actually get the real the full contract negotiation without putting that information someplace in a central location. So our risk team or access or our next project that has similar things can go find it right and learn from it.

And so and there's so much time waste, even if they find the right data that they were looking for, if it took them a half an hour to go find that they're going to go home a half an hour later that day, because there is very little room for, you know, making those time wasting, you know, moments. So, like, I just it was part of why I stopped being a proposal manager, if I'm being very honest, as I would have two, three, four, 200 or $400 million proposals due to expand. And I was under resourced and I was working like a beast because there were no tools at that point that were created to manage those bids, that they were created to manage the proposals. Everyone was different. And so now is technology is helping our, you know, our estimating team, American team take and get apples to apples bids. It's not 2 minutes before it's due that I'm trying to shove an Excel sheet off into the Internet and hope it's, you know, on time for the bid in that process is changing and I think it's allowing us one to do better because we're able to really have visibility into those, you know, opportunities. But also it's fairer for the people that are putting those projects together because it's a grind. Yeah, Yeah.

So what do the dashboards look like for your office team in comparison? What we're looking at in the in the field? Give me a typical either request or what kind of data or types of data people are taking a look at right now. Yeah, I think our our office teams and when you say office, I'm thinking maybe region or business unit, right. There's different levels of those dashboards. Product teams, again, really focus on the projects our business units are focused on how are we doing collectively. A big DPR Yeah, And so it's, you know, really agreeing all the information and understanding kind of where the smoke is so we can lean in a little bit there or maybe even around, Hey, I have ten different projects doing high risk activities. And so our safety professionals that are shared resources need quickly to see on a dashboard, where do I need to be? Because that's the most critical thing for me today, right? And so it's kind of it's really aggregating the information that already exists and all these projects and pulling it up to the viewer that needs to take an action on them.

And there's so much more impactful than just doing that based on gut feel. I mean, there's a lot to be said for experience. You can go through and evaluate, you know, ten projects and say, Here's where the fire is more, I need to pay attention. But if you've got more accessible data to back that decision up as far as where you need to, you know, support your team in a different way, it saves time and it also ensures that you're not accidentally, you know, missing a fire that was, you know, over here that you just didn't notice because this one came to top of mind first or hit your inbox first. Yeah. So I know DPR has a strong focus on self performing work that you mentioned earlier today, and you're doing a meaningful percentage of the work that you're doing.

So for Forum, which I'm seeing more commonly in the market, can you share any insight on why DPR has adopted this approach, Like what moved the organization to bring more of these trades in-house in kind of the landscape they have today? Yeah. So DPR for the last 30 years, since really the beginning of DPR has always been a builder and not a broker. And so Self perform has always been a huge part of who we are. And so I would say we maybe we're more scopes on or we're growing, but we didn't start without them. So they've always been core to DPR.

Why we do it. I think it helps us reduce risk, right? We we talked about construction being a risk at first and it is a risky I mean, construction companies are risk management companies and now they are technology management companies too. Like it's an interesting paradigm shift. Yeah.

And so right when we have when we have control of the labor, we can plan better. We can actually bring in the experts of that skill upfront and to help us plan and really figure out how we're going to go build this successfully. We know that they're incredibly skilled at what they do, and so we have confidence in making those commitments to the owner. And so I think in now, right in in a labor shortage, we're not seeing as big an impact because we're all one where we're under one roof.

And I love that 360 conversation two that you alluded to where, you know, you're in the design phase and you're working with your owner, but you have that skilled tradesperson who could come in and say, I don't think we can build it that way. And this is my experience versus other organizations where they might learn, might not find that out until they're actually onsite and they bring the specialty contractor in who owns that scope of work, and they go, I have the design documents as sitting today. Aren't going to be successful. This is why.

And then you're in change over land and and introduce risks, schedule, slippage, all kinds of other things that it sounds like you can mitigate more successfully, too. And I've seen both sides of I work at contractors who had more of a self perform focus. I have had ones that were more project project focused and it just felt better, not not being one that was personally tied to the ebbs and flows of how many projects we have at that moment. Because I was more on the proposal on contract side. Obviously. So we're always obviously going to be keep chasing, changing work.

But as I built relationships, the staff and spoke with our different operations leaders, the ability to confidently say we have this staff, we have these 400 or six or 800 people or whatever it is that you have for your skilled trades, and they can be confident that the company is going to keep them until the next project comes because they value their experience so much. In a market where we're at today, the loyalty that commands is tremendous, but also the the knowledge retention for your company is tremendous as well. I've read statistics and we did some research with FEMA at different ports from the one I mentioned earlier on trust, and it's like 70% of somebody's salary or something like that is the cost of bringing a new person in. I'm I might not be perfect on that step, but it's a large portion, maybe 40 or something of somebody's annual compensation. If you have to replace somebody and train a new person up.

And so it's a huge gap. So there's a financial side to it. There's a people side to it. And I think there's a quality of work delivery aspect to it for the owners they work with.

Absolutely. Yes. It's a it's a challenging thing in some markets. I think for organizations to consider. But I'm encouraged by the step towards more self perform work, to be honest.

And I feel like it's going to be a trend that we're going to be seeing a whole lot more in the market as everybody tries to find new and innovative, innovative ways to manage the challenges we have with labor, the shortage we have, and the ever increasing growth and expectations for building in the world. Like it's it's not linear. It's going to continue going up as the population grows and our existing facilities start to wear out. So I've got a couple final questions for you. This is one that I ask all of our guests. What is one tool that you'll always bring to every project you work on, no matter what project you're you're touching at that particular time.

So I'm going to give you two inserts because right now when I go out to a project not specifically working on that project, I need my laptop because what I'm doing, I'm collecting information. But when I'm out at project, I think I think I would go with a with one of those digital tape measures. I have both a pull tape and the laser because I can't imagine trying to build something like tolerances and locations and clashes. Like, I feel like I'd be pulling a tape all day and shrug and go good enough.

And if I want to add a tape, I'd be everybody's. Yeah, I've I've heard that answer a couple times. I think I personally have four tape measures at home. I have one on my desk in my office, I have one in my garage and I have a couple of my workshop because I'm also inclined to loose things. So it's good to say, okay, I have one right here, and if it's magically vanished, I know exactly where it other one is going to be as well.

So it's great answer and the precision is obviously important. There's so many tools that can help us do that today, too. I mean, even some of the newer iPhones have the lighter in them and it's not perfect.

So you've got to pick and choose when you would use that tool versus a more, you know, purpose built tool for, you know, your laser scanning or whatever. But like, that's a cool answer. I like it. I am interested though, what is yours? What is my tool? Yeah, I've never had that one turned around on me again.

I think I'd have to say it's my ability to listen because in my role is what I'm doing right here. Obviously, I have the questions in front of me, so I know what we're going to talk about and we've we've aligned on that. So there's an understanding of our our narrative arc. But as you've just learned, going through a, you know, an episode of the show, like it's very freeform, we're having a discussion, we're having a conversation, and if I'm not able to listen and understand the things that you're saying and apply them to my understanding of the industry for my experience or what else we're trying to talk about and things you told me in the past, I'm not going to be a very great host because instead of being a conversation which I very much want these these to be, it's a bit more of an interrogation because I'm just giving you my list of questions. And when you've answered, I move on to the next.

And so I think listening skills are the thing that empower me to do that successfully. Ask you to answer. Yeah. I've never had anybody turn a question around on me like that, so I like it, actually. I like being in the hot seat. I've been a guest on a couple other podcasts.

It's a very different perspective and you're not the one, you know, pushing buttons. So always a conversation. I like to ask questions. It's good to know. It's indicative of what your experience is on the site and making sure that your teams are comfortable and you know, they have all the things that they need. So I love it. So what's the best way for your listener or for our listener, your listeners? See, I'm tied up into it's your podcast now.

That's great. What's the best way for everybody out there listening to reach out to you, or is there anything you'd like to share with them? You know, I have the opportunity today. You can find me at LinkedIn, Gianna Morini and then if you are interested in learning more about DPR, you can find them and Broadcom. Perfect. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. And for everybody out there listening, of course, this is another episode of Autodesk Digital Builder podcast. You've heard me say this before, but please, please, please take a moment to go out and rate our show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

It all has a huge impact for us on the back end. And also, as we've been alluding to, the beautiful space that we're sitting in right now, if you're listening on those platform guys, make sure you head over to YouTube as well. If you look at Autodesk Construction Cloud, you'll find the Digital Builder playlist.

And every episode that we've released is there in everything that's been in video format, is also there as well. So it's worth checking out. And if you want to find me, I'm not hard to find LinkedIn, Eric Thomas or on Twitter at Builder underscore digital and until next time, goodbye.

2023-08-02 16:58

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