Technology is a tool to enhance the human dimension – not replace it

The intelligent use of communications and data tools has enormous benefits, but does not change the nature of our people industry, says Nelson Ogunshakin

Business today is increasingly reliant on technology. The widespread impact of advanced computer and communications technology is comparable to the last great transformation – that of the Industrial Revolution. Yet we cannot forget the vital role of human interactions in creating a sustainable and growing business. Among the benefits of technology seen every day are increased efficiency in data processing, and increased access, both in direct communications and in reaching new markets previously limited by distance. As the implementation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) continues, it is important to contemplate the impact of technology on the future of our sector.

Industry-wide benefits ACE, as the voice of the industry for over 100 years, has adapted to technology as a tool to connect with members in addition to being able to provide quality support to all firms, no matter their size or location. ACE has increased access to its specialist services and expertise by embracing online communication channels, while maintaining access to expertise by email, phone or in person. Tools such as webinars, video insights, and social media discussions provide ACE members with fresh, relevant information. In a world requiring immediate action, timely access to expertise is a fundamental service.

Better mutual understanding

This has also allowed members and stakeholders to become more involved – virtually joining in expertly guided sessions or group meetings, regardless of location; fostering better mutual understanding and communication across the industry as a whole; and developing a way forward that benefits all, not restricted to a set location. Our industry historically has a strong focus on people. While embracing technology is critical, it does not replace the fundamental need for face-to-face interaction.

While Moore’s law of computing predicts exponential increases in capacity and speed, this access to a large quantity of information does not replace the need for intellectual analysis based on human values. Technology enhances the speed of delivery, but cannot yet replace human input in decision-making; a process in which the raw data is only one component, with factors such as trust, cognitive understanding, ethics, or predicting human behaviour weighing heavily on decisions.

ACE values maintaining, developing and fostering these personal connections.

Through collaborating with their peers in seminars, sector interest groups, regional groups and conferences, members develop well-rounded perspectives and make personal connections that last throughout a career. Progress Network, ACE’s network for under 35s, exemplifies the importance of ACE’s technology-enabled offerings as well as the continued need for face-toface interactions.

This age group comprises 40-45% of those using our website. Yet in addition to requests for ACE expertise online, ACE continues to receive requests for further expansion of Progress Network groups that meet throughout the UK as well as in the Middle East.

From informative seminars on topics including legal updates or smart cities, to ideas for collaborations for the future of infrastructure or social events such as pub quizzes, ACE Progress Network groups have active participation on all platforms amid a continual drive to get to know industry peers face-to-face.

No substitute for face-to-face interactions

While technology provides many benefits, the human side of relations in this people-orientated industry can never be replaced. Technology is an enabler: of better ACE service provision, of greater member interaction with industry peers, and of increased access to knowledge or markets. But tools such as BIM, video conferences and webinars do not provide the level of analysis, understanding or trust that is essential for a business to succeed and expand.

ACE is a community our members can trust. The consultancy and engineering sector is one of the UK’s success stories, and its importance to economic growth and prosperity cannot be overestimated.

With a listening ear and watchful eye on industry developments, ACE will keep communications and relations at the forefront of our future activities.

Dr Nelson Ogunshakin is the chief executive of ACE