“We have managed to a relatively zero growth IT budget for the last three years while business growth has been 8 per cent per annum,” says Thomas Hyde, group director – delivery strategy, at Beca.
These metrics spotlight the adept balancing act he and his team achieved between operations and innovative projects, or those involving emerging and disruptive technologies.
Hyde reveals the approach Beca took to achieve this. “There has been a careful renewal of IT supply contracts and a general shift to subscription/opex procurement of services,” he states.
“We have also globalised our IT support model to get economy of scale, and extended the life cycle of end user device hardware. Where possible, we have outsourced support of critical infrastructure – like our global network – so we are able to focus our internal resource on managing IT activities rather than doing all of them.”
His team supports users across Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, Myanmar, Singapore, New Caledonia and Thailand.
We have recently restructured from a geography-based IT structure to a global structure, where the support, and operations teams are virtual global teams, says Hyde.
While they are doing this, members of his team continuously engage with the other business units and raising awareness on technology threat and opportunity, he says.
Transformation was a key theme for his team over the past year.
“We have transformed our approach to collaborative engineering design by leveraging a range of tools from our technology partners, to get back to the forefront of technology leadership in the asset development arena.
This has involved several targeted technology exploration initiatives, in concert with organisational development, and market facing activities, to lift our profile, realise significant efficiency benefits, create better design outcomes for clients, and enhance our brand.
Some of the technologies they trialled and adopted virtual reality model processing and drone video capture to 3D model creation and integration with other model data sets including point clouds and existing 3D models.
“This has allowed us to give clients a new way of interacting with their new facility before it is built and to refine the design to meet operational needs,” he says.
The team also used Beacon to create a seismic event monitoring service. This will inform property portfolio owners which properties require inspection after an earthquake.
They also created a prototype environmental monitoring system using internet of things and Microsoft’s Azure platform. The prototype was developed during a hackfest, and is intended to be applied alongside road infrastructure development projects.
Hyde says the team tracks benefits of their programmes against a targeted investment budget, administered and governed by a new organisational function called the Future Focus Group. The latter, in turn, liaises with various technical discipline groups that represent the multi-discipline technical community within Beca.
“This activity has been deliberately agile, with an experimental aspect, and there was some initial resistance in the organisation given the difficulty of forecasting returns in advance,” he says. “This was overcome by quantifying pay back as we went with each initiative, starting with small high impact ones to generate trust and confidence.”
In terms of automation, this digitisation of engineering is streamlining and automating a number of manual tasks, he adds. This means no more hand mark ups of 3D drawings as these now live in the 3D model environment.
Rendering of models for walkthroughs and to support VR interaction can now be done in under an hour rather than several days.
“The transformation to date has created confidence for more accelerated investment in this area for the next financial year,” he says.
Hyde estimates around 10 per cent of the technology team’s efforts goes towards innovation, versus operational excellence.
An area where we have applied innovation to our operational excellence is in the trial of Microsoft’s Power BI platform, he says.
A team of f IT and finance reporting people worked with one of Microsoft’s financial leaders from Redmond for three days. The group took a number of Beca datasets and see what could be done to transform the way they do management reporting.
This experimental work flowed on to development of an interactive project delivery performance analytics tool that gave new insight into correlations between data and project financial performance, says Hyde.
The project allowed them to identify lead indicators they did not previously have, and to implement new business rules/controls to improve financial performance. The results will aid in the future management reporting framework, he says.
A network of leaders
Hyde has a team of leaders from within his team working across business units and with executive peers around current and future initiatives.
He has, for instance, appointed a global IT Security and Resilience Manager.
It is an an independent role, he says, “to look at how and whether our investment in security and resilience is sufficient to maintain the levels of service needed by the business”.
“We use a number of forums to engage with the business and exercise a number of communication channels,” he says.
In terms of raising awareness and challenging the business to understand and leverage disruptive technologies Hyde created a role for a Group Delivery Technology Strategy.
The job is essentially a “technology evangelist”, engaging with business and technology leadership across Beca, he says. This person also works with the Technical Disciplines Groups (TDGs) to challenge them to identify step change opportunities to leverage technology and to get these into an innovation pipeline. The innovation activity takes place under a Future Focus Group which is an important education and influencing forum for IT.
As well, his division organises an annual internal Delivery and Technical Leadership conference. More than 200 professionals from Beca attend this and we use this as an opportunity to inform and engage with the business, says Hyde.
“We have a network of delivery support champions and IT representatives who are embedded in the business and are ‘go to’ people in business units across our 19 offices,” he adds. “This group is an important resource for us to communicate to the business on what is coming up and to get feedback on performance.”