Mobility is today’s key enabler of collaboration among South Africa’s engineering and construction firms
While mobility is not yet widely used, E&C companies “are generally on the right track with their emphasis on the use of mobility”.
Johannesburg, 1 February 2016 - Results of a survey among engineering and construction (E&C) companies suggests that while the transition to use mobility may not always be easy considering the tough locations such companies often work in, E&C companies “are generally on the right track with their emphasis on the use of mobility”. The report was undertaken globally late 2015 by Deloitte’s Centre for Financial Services.
The report suggests that the next evolution for E&C companies should now be to focus on making smart and intelligent investment in mobility as it already is and will continue to be a significant competitive differentiator among them.
Mobility offers a number of benefits to E&C companies, some of which were highlighted by the surveyed respondents themselves. According to the report, 96% of the 49 international SMEs through to large company respondents noted greater productivity; 83% experienced ‘data timeliness’; while 67% reported greater employee satisfaction.
These perceived benefits were noted notwithstanding the fact that approximately half the respondents were not yet leveraging all the demonstrable benefits of mobility. This may change in time, as the report also found mobility technology to be receiving a high level of strategic focus: 71% of respondent companies have a director or above responsible for implementation of mobile strategy; and 67% of respondents believed that mobility “is an important or the most important part of their technology strategy”.
In the meantime, the report identified that more than half the surveyed companies were not yet using the more advanced features of mobile technology: only 48% use video call; 40% use social media; 35% use GPS tracking; and less than 20% use either social collaboration and project management tools, or Internet of Things.
“E&C companies in Southern Africa also see their set of challenges, when it comes to adopting mobile solutions”, said Dave van der Merwe, Deloitte Africa Manufacturing Construction leader. “Typically E&C companies in the region are lagging the use of technology in basic systems. Legacy systems have limited integration and the general technology infrastructure is lacking. There are of course some companies that are using mobility, E&C related apps, GPS tracking and project management tools, but there is significant scope for growth in mobility.”
The report continues to show that in spite of the management focus and high priority attached to mobility, there is likely significant opportunity for E&C companies to increase their usage for better information flow and collaboration. Perhaps companies can increase their use of mobility for procurement (supplies and resources), logistics, and supply/equipment management,” the report stated.
There are admitted infrastructure challenges to companies increasing their mobile adoption, the report found, particularly in South Africa. “Forty-two percent of our survey responded that acknowledge limitations in mobility adoption have issues with low network speed and bandwidth. This can be particularly true for difficult and distant construction sites or sensitive areas such as prisons or government facilities.” Van der Merwe added that access to data connectivity remains a significant challenge, with numerous project sites struggling with even basic internet access.
E&C companies could therefore potentially benefit from offering offline mobile capability to onsite employees, through various mobile apps, “to increase the ubiquity of mobile functionalities”.
Another challenge reported by 65% of respondents was that of security: “E&C companies often remain concerned that, with the increased use of mobility, data breaches could become more frequent, resulting in financial, legal and reputational risks. Security and privacy issues pose the second most important challenge, cited by 65% of our survey respondents that face limitations in mobility adoption.” Van der Merwe says this is the case also for the local E&C community, who are still reliant on traditional and manual project management interventions, which offer a sense of increased control. “Education could thus greatly accelerate uptake. Fortunately a new, more mobile savvy generation of E&C recruits are starting to make the changes to improved mobility usage & data analytics.”
Solutions preferred by respondents include the automatic disablement of stolen devices (85% approval rating) and companies allowing only company-owned and approved devices (80% approval).
As to why mobility is such a key focus for E&C forms, the report stated that global statistics pointing to the ubiquity of mobile connections are compelling. Global mobile connections, including mobile phones and mobile hotspots, are likely to reach 9.5 billion in 2019, compared to around 6.9 billion in 2014.
It found that 44% of the survey’s respondents allocate 1–5% of their technology spend on mobility, although 10% surveyed spend above 15%.