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The Future of American Infrastructure Is Digital or Bust

If the country's infrastructure is to continue supporting its people — and if new federal funding is to be used well — then government officials must digitize, argues the CEO of Aurigo Software Technologies.

Jacksonville bridge
This is a make-or-break moment for American infrastructure. Severe issues across roads, bridges, railroads and utility networks have shown up in the news repeatedly.

In 2007, a bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145 more. In 2018, a pedestrian bridge in Florida collapsed and six people died. Just this past February, Texas experienced power outages across the state, which led to the deaths of more than 200 people.

It’s not just the roads, buildings and facilities that are failing. The capital program management systems needed to plan, build and operate our country’s core infrastructure are failing too. A survey from Deloitte found that most governmental organizations have made little progress toward digital transformation. While funding has long been the primary obstacle to modernization, if the federal government’s proposed $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan passes, capital project stakeholders will have the resources and a clear path forward to innovate.

Here are three imperatives that government leaders can implement to ensure best-in-class construction practices for planning, building and operating capital projects, as we prepare for a massive degree of growth in our core infrastructure.

DIGITIZE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS


The industry has too long relied on grossly inefficient systems. Most capital projects today are still managed using a combination of outdated, manual spreadsheets and even paper documents. These disorganized methods are inefficient and cannot support the complexity of today’s capital programs.

U.S. governmental departments should not waste their time building their own technology systems. Their focus should remain on their expertise — repairing and building roads, highways and other infrastructure. Instead, capital owners should invest in and implement digital-first, cloud-based systems that operate at an enterprise level across the capital management life cycle, allowing them to plan with confidence, build with quality and operate with efficiency.

Working from an enterprisewide platform will help stakeholders manage capital programs and projects with a high degree of safety and efficiency. Capital program owners can quickly identify and address critical issues and ensure that everyone is working from a single source of truth when it comes to project data. Ultimately, this will reduce the time spent correcting errors or reworking aspects of a project — efficiency which equates to driving down projects costs and staying within set budgets and timelines resulting in potentially millions of dollars in savings.

IMPLEMENT ENTERPRISE-LEVEL WORKFLOWS INCLUDING ELECTRONIC APPROVALS


We can prevent disorganization and dangerous errors by using automated workflows that are secure, efficient and audit-ready. This will add an extra layer of accountability and security to every capital project and ensure that everything is achieved within the correct guidelines and expectations for each construction project.

Enterprise-level workflow systems are highly configurable and designed to meet a wide variety of business processes. Electronic approval systems keep projects on track and reduce the time wasted passing a paper document back and forth between departments or agencies. They are also more secure than paper documentation and are easier to access should an issue arise down the line.

INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY WITH MOBILE-READY TECHNOLOGY


Since most work in the capital construction industry is completed outside of the office on a project site, mobile-ready technology is essential. This is especially true for departments that are responsible for highways and roads under construction in more remote areas or occurring at multiple locations. Mobile-ready technology makes it possible for managers to remotely access all necessary project information and complete reviews and approvals on the go, which prevents delays and improves efficiency.

American infrastructure must go digital or be left behind. The success or failure of America’s infrastructure, people and economy are at stake. It’s time to respond to the growing concerns and issues that overwhelm our nation’s infrastructure. Digitization is the way forward.

Balaji Sreenivasan is the founder and CEO of Aurigo Software Technologies. He is an alumnus of the National Institute of Technology, Trichy and the University of Florida, Gainesville.
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