Companies throughout the construction sector in Australia and New Zealand are leading their counterparts elsewhere in the Asia Pacific out of COVID recovery when it comes to technology spending and focus, a new survey has found.

In its latest announcement, design and construction software provider Autodesk has released the results of a survey which it commissioned IDC to conduct in which 283 construction firms from Australia and New Zealand, India, Singapore and Japan were surveyed between July and October last year.

The survey asked respondent companies about their responses to the COVID health and economic crisis from a technology viewpoint.

All up, it found that 18.7 percent of firms surveyed had reached ‘new normal’ – the most advanced of the five stages which it says are associated with the COVID recovery cycle (see chart).

At this stage, companies have stabilised their businesses, have adapted to a ‘new normal’ and have successfully modified their operations.

From a technology viewpoint, their investments are focused not just on core expenditure which is needed to run the business but also on projects which help to introduce new business models and innovation as well as to grow market share.

Meanwhile, 17 percent of firms remained in the stages of undertaking actions to build resiliency through recession-like conditions whilst a further 30.7 percent were making targeted investments to focus on a return to growth – the second most advanced stage of the cycle.

At the bottom end of the scale, around one-third of all construction firms were operating in the economic slowdown and ‘COVID Crisis’ phases.

For companies in these phases, technology investment remained focused on cost cutting and business continuity and survival.

Out of each of the five aforementioned countries, the report found that those in Australia and New Zealand are the furthest along in their COVID recovery efforts.

Throughout Australia and New Zealand, 30 percent of construction firms were at the most advanced out of five stages associated with the COVID recovery cycle.\

This is followed by Japan, where 20 percent of firms are in the most advanced stage whilst a further 28 percent of firms are making targeted investments with a view of returning to growth.

Behind that, firms in Singapore are focusing on investments which help to support the resilience of their business and are moving toward targeted investments which foster a return to growth.

Finally, almost half of the firms in India remain focused around cost cutting and immediate survival business survival and continuity.

Largely speaking, the results suggest that the stage at which construction firms are operating varies according to the success or otherwise of their country of operation in containing COVID spread.

Throughout Australia and New Zealand, COVID has been contained and the economies have mostly remained open following initial lockdowns.

India, by contrast, currently has around 40,000 new daily infections and has been under various form of restriction for the past year.

With the survey having been conducted in July to October last year, meanwhile, it is likely that the performance of Australia and New Zealand companies has improved since then amid the arrival of vaccines (albeit with delays) and ongoing success in COVID containment.

Nevertheless, the infographic also indicates that construction firms throughout Australia and New Zealand firms were trailing Japan in their digital maturity prior to COVID.

Prior to COVID, digital strategies of 40 percent of construction firms in Japan were focused on long-term business transformation and customer service experience.

By contrast, those of more than eight in ten ANZ firms (81 percent) were mostly focused on tactical initiatives which were shorter term or lower level in nature and are not often tied to long-term strategies.

Furthermore, room for improvement remains.

Across ANZ construction firms, 41 percent still use paper drawings for projects whilst only 5 percent use a specific software drawing solution.

Tomy Praveen, managing director, Asia Pacific operations, Autodesk Construction Solutions, said the ANZ sector had began to advance toward greater digital maturity but added that potential remained for gains to be delivered.

“There’s still a way to go before we see the full digital transformation we anticipate in the industry,” Praveen said.

“However, this is accelerating.”

Despite the shift toward a growth focus, Praveen said companies remained conscious about efficiency and cost.

He says solutions are available such as his own firm’s Autodesk Construction Cloud to streamline workflows through an integrated portfolio of products to manage projects.

In terms of specific investment areas, the InfoBrief found that the top three technology investments in ANZ to support the COVID-19 response and recovery phase include electronic forms (34 percent), video conferencing applications (32 percent), and PC/laptop/module devices management and security (27 percent).

One of the top three tech investments across APIJ included dedicated health and security applications for employee communications and contact tracing.