- Digital processes are making quality work faster and more efficient
- AOG employees are positioned to do better work with digital tools
- A cloud-based platform is improving client service
Alpha-Omega Geotech is moving from paper to digital processes and it’s transforming the way we work. One powerful tool we’ve started using is MetaField®, a subscription-based software platform by Agile Frameworks. AOG President Allan Bush talked about the impact in a webinar hosted by Agile’s Chief Customer Officer, Adam Jones. Here are a few takeaways from that conversation. Comments have been edited for brevity.
A Significant Improvement In Operations.
The gritty, hands-on work Geotechnical professionals perform to get construction projects out of the ground seems a million miles away from the world of sophisticated productivity software, but the two realms are merging with exciting results. These days, more work of all kinds is going digital, and Allan Bush knows Geotech should not be an exception.
“The construction marketplace demands it,” said Bush, speaking via video from his desk to an audience of construction specialists. “Geotech is legacy and we’re facing a challenge to modernize and respond to a new climate. There’s no other way forward.”
The flow of complex data, precise measurements, and complicated calculations has always been at the center of Geotechnical and Special Inspections work, but Bush said effectively coordinating all of the information hasn’t been easy. Even the most detailed paper trails are riddled with problems and pitfalls, opening the door to digital’s potential.
“Our work revolves around science, so data acquisition technologies are nothing new to us. But the question is: how do you operationalize around it? You have to take a hard look at how to integrate information into processes and communication. It’s something we’re very focused on internally and externally because we know there are better ways to deliver for both our employees and our clients. The way forward is no longer about paper. It’s about pioneering digital paths.”
MetaField represents a major step for AOG. We adopted the software solution in 2019 to break down traditional barriers and tighten up workflows, for better, faster results. MetaField pulls together data from our business office, in-house laboratory, and field operations into a focused cloud stream across tablets, smartphones and desktops. Bush said switching to the platform immediately presented a valuable opportunity.
“We had been doing things in a very specific way for a very long time, so switching made us rethink just about every step of our approach to our work. Preparing for implementation of the software required careful analysis of how we do things and a close look at how we could do things better. It’s been well worth it.”
Charting a smarter flow of key data through our firm boosted efficiency right off the bat. We recognized that we could do more with less and be more productive at the same time. For example, we didn’t need the robust business office staff we once depended on.
“We used to have more office staff to process all the paperwork,” said Bush. “But now our staff is more streamlined and technology-centered to take advantage of the connectivity and transparency we enjoy through our reliance on MetaField. It’s improving everything from reports to billing.”
MetaField is a bonus for our laboratory too. We’re known for our understanding of local soils, and we’re one of few Geotechnical Engineering firms in the region with a state-of-the-art Geotech lab within our own walls. Equipping and operating the lab is a big, complicated responsibility. In addition to streamlining the flow of project data, MetaField helps us keep better track of certification data and other information our lab experts use, generate, and value. We no longer have to dread digging through file cabinets as a way of life.
“Overall, it’s giving us a clearer view of the big picture at AOG” said Bush. “The tracking benefit alone is extremely valuable. Plus, we’re shaping more meaningful key performance indicators, and making improvements by intent and measurement. It’s very exciting. There’s a lot of potential.”
Employees Empowered To Do Their Best Work.
When you have detailed, timely data at your fingertips, you’re in a better position to apply your skills and apply them quicker. You spend more time putting your knowledge and judgment to work, and less time running around retrieving and relaying information. Bush said MetaField allows our employees to funnel information from the tools they use into a single solution, rather than bouncing around between separate data streams.
“There’s far less reliance on institutional knowledge. More effective and efficient communication increases the flow of knowledge, makes it more accessible, and spreads it out. Everything from dispatching the work to reporting. The software breaks down silos and brings everyone onto the same platform. It is its own reward and very motivating.”
Workers at AOG are largely experienced and seasoned in technology culture already, so transitioning to software like MetaField feels natural. Our staff is wide-ranging in age but we all use mobile devices just like everyone else. Extending the capabilities of our devices to do better Geotechnical and Special Inspections work makes perfect sense, and you can see the difference in the quality and amount of work we do.
“The value of digital solutions is very clear to all of us. And for younger workers especially, it’s as simple as you’re either with the program or you’re not. They don’t see any other way of doing things.”
What used to be a labor shortage in construction is nothing short of a crisis these days, and top talent find themselves in a strong position to choose among many options. Transitioning from archaic paper processes to powerful digital solutions is essential for attracting the best and brightest.
“Digital processes like those enabled by MetaField are becoming the new standard and we’ve seen the value first-hand,” Bush said. “Our employees are more confident and enthusiastic about their work, and they want to do more. They like being part of a future-thinking firm and watching it grow and develop. Digital appeal definitely helps with both recruitment and retention.”
A Much Better Client Experience.
To say MetaField has simply improved the client experience AOG provides is an understatement. According to Bush, it’s been a game-changer. “I think it’s affected every aspect of delivery and the overall client experience.”
Bush said speed is probably the biggest client benefit. Take reporting for example. AOG’s Geotechnical Engineers pour their expertise into Geotechnical Reports that become cornerstones for construction projects. The Reports are key touch-points in our engineers’ relationships with clients.
MetaField can allow an engineer to provide a Report right from a job site and set it up for easy review. No driving back to the office, churning through paper forms and sending them back and forth the old way. “Everyone in construction wants everything right now,” Bush emphasized. “MetaField is a level leap in that direction.”
Bush said AOG has seen improvements in consistency, too. “If you want to build repeat business, the consistent quality of your work is going to matter more than even the cost. Now, that can vary depending on the circumstances, but generally speaking, high quality work is at the top of the priority list. Geotechnical Engineering and Special Inspections project contributions have a lot to do with safety and stability, so sending a clear message of consistent quality is especially critical for us.”
MetaField also gives AOG’s work more transparency to help clients and partners drill deeper for more informed decision-making. Transparency is part of an overall boost in communication that digital processes provide, and that’s a key ingredient for improved service, according to Bush. “The construction industry wants access to results and answers to underlying questions. Clients want to know the details behind your thinking and giving them access builds their confidence.”
Confidence paves the way for strong client relationships that sustain a firm’s success. A client that trusts your firm and puts confidence in your work will likely come back. Ultimately, that’s the big prize offered to firms who embrace digital systems. “If you want better projects and repeat business, digital solutions should be part of your plan.” Bush said.
Dive In Without Fear.
Digital data streams, cloud computing, wireless communications. Sounds complicated, right? Don’t be intimidated. It’s not nearly as difficult to implement something like MetaField as you might assume. AOG hasn’t needed much additional IT help and we’ve only added a little extra hardware. Mainly a few mobile tablets. Before you pull the trigger, Bush offers some food for thought.
“It starts with leadership developing a clear understanding of what you want MetaField to do and then fully committing to getting it done. When you change from paper to software, there’s no going half-way and there’s no going back. It’s also very important to dig in deep with the people within your firm who are actually going to be working with the technology from the business office to the field.”
And a final tip from Bush, “Be bold in your digital transformation. Don’t layer on a little solution here and a little solution there. You’re risking a big mess. Take the leap and bring technology into the center of your world and really put data to work. It can be the key to unlocking your future as a company.”