Industry trends and risks associated with an inability to successfully seize the opportunities of going digital.

The goals of engineering firms have changed relatively little during the last decade. Winning new contracts — and retaining existing clientele — are still the most critical objectives. Therefore, design and engineering firms try to continually improve efficiency and meet every deadline. However, accessing information quickly is only half of the solution. Firms must dramatically improve how they manage their data and collaborate across projects to work smarter, work faster, and be more competitive.

Facing the deluge of data

By some estimates, the digital universe will double every two years, showing a 50-fold growth from 2010 to 2020 (The Exponential Growth of Big Data,, February 2017). Due to the nature of the work, this surge in data profoundly affects how firms design, build, and execute on projects. Given that engineers often deal with multiple projects at a time, the sheer amount of information flowing in and out for a project can be overwhelming. It can be a stumbling block on a company’s path to win new work, especially considering all the steps in any given project.

Designing, reviewing, and approving plans generates a high volume of data and introduces many potential points of error along the way. New technologies, including BIM processes, laser scan point clouds, and reality modeling meshes, mean that big data is now an important factor in the engineering world. However, big data can be a double-edged sword, requiring more hours and effort to usher in its benefits, if not managed properly.

Improve productivity

These changes are amplifying the amount of information that firms need to store, share, and manipulate. Firms face two distinct information-related challenges: finding the necessary information and confirming that the information is correct. By some estimates, 40 percent of an engineer’s day is spent looking for data. This problem can be exacerbated if information is spread throughout the company in email chains, hard drives, or generic file-sharing solutions such as Microsoft SharePoint or Dropbox.

With no single, central repository of data, teams run the risk of overwriting files, using out-of-date information, and slowing down the reviews and approvals and supply chain communications. A siloed approach to data management can also have long-term negative effects, including errors, delays, budget overruns, and an inability to take on more work due to inefficiencies.

Twenty-five percent of engineering firms said that inaccurate project paperwork or too many versions of documents contribute to a construction delay (AEC Survey Calls for Industry-Specific Cloud-Base Document Management, Construction Executive, February 2015).

Accelerate collaboration

Despite the challenges, firms can improve their ability to avoid risk and stay competitive by managing engineering information, automating business processes, and accelerating collaboration across all disciplines and locations for effective project delivery.

As the digital transformation reshapes how projects are designed and managed in the industry, firms need to embrace innovation as they evolve and grow. By aligning design teams with a connected data environment for improved collaboration, firms can work smarter, work faster, and be more competitive in the industry.

Information provided by Bentley Systems (