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DCW: What support do SMEs actually need to help with digital transformation?

  • 3 Nov 2021

Saffron Grant, Managing Director of Digital Construction Skills, is talking about the How to overcome the barriers to engaging with SMEs on digital enablement at the People & Change Theatre at 4pm on Wednesday 24 November at this year’s Digital Construction Week. In this article, she talks about what support SMEs need to help with digital transformation…

“When we launched our CITB funded project ‘Digital Transformation through Leaders’ in November 2019 we set out thinking that supporting SMEs with selecting and implementing digital tools would be a job we would be able to dive right into.

We had done the research into dozens of digital tools, lined up a dazzling array of expert partners and tried and tested a structured process for helping businesses to identify the tools which would have the most benefits for them.

But what we hadn’t anticipated was that what we had prepared to help businesses with was not the start of the journey, but at least half way through it.

Our process was designed for businesses who were ready to explore digital tools and ways of working but weren’t sure where to start. What we quickly identified was that most businesses are still a long way from this point and there is a whole education and awareness raising process which needs to take place before a company will take the first proactive step of engaging with support or even doing basic desktop research to determine what the possible options are and finding out about costs.

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We didn’t have our own ready-made audience but had lots of offers of support from other organisations who did, but we soon learned that when it comes to digital adoption, a one-size fits all policy does not work for the construction industry.

Messages

Rather than having one message (digital tools can benefit your business) to get out to one audience (construction SMEs) we discovered that there are dozens of different sections of the audience, each requiring its own unique language and its own intricate path to reach the right people.  In fact, the audience we most need to reach are the ones who are not even in the audience yet.

So as the pandemic unfolded, we found ourselves in the middle of a paradox of trying to support business with adopting digital tools at a time when improved efficiency and productivity were desperately needed, but competing with the ever increasing real and pressing need for the day-to-day business survival of construction companies who were coping with the practicalities of social distancing, isolating, the skills shortage and the materials crisis.

We have taken a systematic approach to understanding what support SMEs would like to receive and in what form, what is accessible and appealing to them and what is not and most importantly, understanding the range of access points to suit the needs of each individual company.

I’ll be sharing more about what we have learnt so far at the People and Change Theatre at Digital Construction Week at London Excel, 4pm on Wednesday 24th November.”

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