Top Ten Observations from the AGC IT Forum 16
By Christian Burger
- Let’s start with the obvious: Chicago offered up a beautiful couple of Summer days with the obligatory humidity and a stellar location for this year’s event, held at the architecturally interesting Radisson Blu/Aqua (designed by a local architect Jeanie Gang and built by Chicago local, McHugh).
- The Exhibit hall was jammed with nearly 25 software vendors and service providers, all eager to share more about their products with the participants during breaks. Some of those informal discussions in the hall and with the vendors and other participants are just as valuable as the more formal talks.
- This year’s IT Forum was a joint production with Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering. For those who don’t know, McCormick has two Master’s level degree programs for construction professionals. Professor Ray Krizek, who was instrumental in designing the program, was at the conference to talk up his curriculum. Several alumni and instructors were on hand to answer questions and talk of their experiences…including your humble observer, myself.
- Ken Julien, a senior partner from Plante Moran, took the stage on Friday to talk about the IT Cost budgeting and also shared the results of the Burger Consulting/Plante Moran IT Cost study. Ken concluded with a call to action asking for attendees to participate in the IT Cost and Benchmarking study, and improve the overall database.
- I had the privilege of introducing John Jurwicz, from Walbridge in Detroit, along with two of his colleagues, Mike Halleran and Mario. They talked extensively about the role of Lean processes and how it impacts traditional processes. They made it clear that prefabrication figures prominently in the effort to reduce or eliminate waste. John brought the topic back around to the IT managers in the room to discuss the impact of Lean on IT Infrastructure. I could not help but see the impact on ERP and solutions in general.
- One of the highlights for me was Joe Olecek’s presentation on Cyber Threat and security. He instilled both respect and fear in the audience and myself. Respect, for his awareness of the threats that exist, and fear of what can happen. Joe was able to acquire a password and decrypt it with a super-powered desktop machine in under ten seconds. It really drove home the point that most of the passwords we all use can be defined by one word: LAME.
- I had the opportunity to join The IT Forum Steering Committee, headed by Howie Perisma, at a dinner at the Kitchen: a unique farm-to-table restaurant that focuses on local growers. The food and wine were both outstanding. During dinner, Michael from the Kitchen shared the restaurant’s story concerning how they work with Chicago City school students to help them learn to garden, and teach them where good nutritious food comes from. It was an inspiring tale. Participants got to enjoy a nice skyline view of the city and the river. At the end, Pepper Construction and Burger Consulting Group picked up the tab, making the dinner even sweeter for the rest of the participants ;).
- A perennial favorite was the Fab Four, four of our distinguished Committee members, all CIOs or IT professional talking on a topic of their choosing. This year the focus was on IT Staffing and the changing role of IT within an organization. It was a thought-provoking session that pointed out the way in which the role of IT professionals has evolved over the years, moving from a focus on infrastructure and servers to software and the user community. We got to see a number of different IT organization charts to help clarify.
- Mark Sawyer from Trimble, the other keynote presenter, gave an outstanding overview of IT Trends impacting construction. What I thoroughly appreciated from this talk was the fact that he used McKinsey’s recent publication on the Impact of Technology on Building. It was an outstanding forecast piece (I wished I had written it) and he used a number of trends and statistics from the work. His talk, as intended, got the attendees thinking forward and provided insights into what may be yet to come. Mark was a self-effacing speaker, perfect for the construction audience.
- Burcin Kaplanglu, on loan for the day from Lend Lease, was another Northwestern speaker who gave a compelling talk around Internet of Things (IoT), which will be arriving on our construction shores very soon. Burcin’s talk, technical at times, pointed out that we cannot get to big data and true IoT unless we have the bandwidth to connect devices from the job site and elsewhere. Enter the promise of 5G.
Nice job Fara Francis and AGC. This was one of the best conferences on IT for the construction industry I have attended…and several attendees shared the same sentiment.