Part 4: Digital Practice Leadership – Applying Core Leadership Skills in a New Context

by ConcertVDC

In part three of this series, we discussed the opportunities that come with digital delivery, empowered by the AIA 2022 Digital Practice Documents.  Now it’s time to get real about the leadership and strategic changes that digital delivery will drive!

Some would argue that the profession has been operating digitally for years and digital delivery is not that big of a change. The reality is leadership, strategy, negotiation, and your value proposition all change in a fully realized digital practice. Here we dig into why digital is a different mindset that requires different leadership responses and a much different approach to the marketplace.

I. Digital Literacy sets you apart – Technology is no longer just the responsibility of the CIO; it is the basis for delivering value in the practice. As such, design leaders must understand digital tools and the opportunities they create. This doesn’t mean that design leaders must be proficient or even capable of using the tools, but it does require that you understand at least their basic functionality, limitations, and utility. The more time you take to learn and understand, the better you will be at assessing opportunities and risks that drive value in your practice.

II. Data is your value and your differentiator – Every business looks to differentiate itself. Practice leaders expound on how different they are from their peers, but with little tangible proof. A digital practice is different. Some digital practices will know how to pass data direct to fabricators and others won’t. Some practices will prep their design to inform robotic applications like bricklaying or floor stenciling robots, others won’t. Some will understand how to coordinate a digital twin. In short, we used to deliver drawings. Now we will be the front line of digital construction, and there will be clear, obvious differences in our capabilities and aptitude. Digital delivery will optimize the design response to deliver outcomes that create higher value than traditional design processes. Digital design strategies focus on the data, how it is created, and how it is communicated throughout the life of a project.

III. Negotiation is a skill, don’t approach it lightly – A successful negotiation results in beneficial outcomes for both parties. In a digital-centric world, that outcome will revolve around the value of the data. Negotiating a strong system of data management will be critical to creating valuable data. Part of the value and strength of the AIA 2022 Digital Practice Documents are the tools they provide to establish and negotiate how digital design data will be used in the project. However, it is the responsibility of firm principals to negotiate with their clients and contractors before the design starts to define the exact processes, limitations, and uses for the digital design data. This is where it is critical for digital practice leaders to have knowledge and understanding of how the digital tools work, what they produce, and how that information can be used. The architect is the creator of the genesis data; therefore, they have the responsibility to establish, early in the project, what data will and won’t be used. When properly aligned, the data sharing systems, records, and chain of custody create something wonderful!

IV. Live, learn, and grow – Digital delivery is a new way of practice, so there is much to learn. It is also different for every project type and market. Now is the time to start your transition. Within the next three years, this will be the primary method of communication and construction delivery. For most practices, this transition will take at least three years, so the incentive to start now is clear. Mistakes will be made, and there is much to learn. Working with your client early in the process builds trust and confidence. Using the tools more frequently builds capacity. Adapting and changing based on previous experience builds competency. Firms that are confident, competent, and capable will be successful in the transition. So, start now and grow along with the market.

Leadership and growth come from doing, making mistakes, and adapting to do it better the next time. Digital delivery will require a lot of growth and learning and the sooner you start, the faster you’ll grow, and your leadership will be rewarded.

Concert is the single source of truth that coordinates your data between yourself and the rest of the construction team. Our Blockchain-based platform provides everyone in the design and construction process with the tools to trust, protect, and share the right digital information at the right time with the right people. We look forward to working with all digital practice leaders.

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