Artificial Intelligence (AI), and its various subsets are well and truly making an impact on businesses across engineering and infrastructure businesses regardless of size.

AI applications are growing at a phenomenal rate, with annual growth estimates varying from anywhere between 15-50%!

AI and the jargons associated with it has become a trending conversation within organisations. In my experience, these topics are being discussed quiet regularly but how many organisations are truly assessing their business for the opportunities and challenges of AI? Is your business, your CxOs (if you have one) and senior leadership thinking about Artificial Intelligence in truly practical business sense? Or is it not on your radar and you are falling behind?

So, the first to point make is, don’t be afraid. The jargon can be navigated, and the potential AI offers is so great that I encourage all business leaders to start thinking about how their business might start to leverage this technology. And to get that process underway, let’s consider the following big questions.

What can you see AI doing in the industry?

There are likely to be market leaders, or indeed new entrants, that are already applying this technology. And in thinking about this, also think about the subsets. For example, machine learning (ML), uses algorithms that improve automatically through their experience using data. This might be as simple as basic chatbots on websites providing basic answers, to computer vision being used in retail to lower theft. Machine learning also applies to higher-value activity such as decision support, where, for example, an agricultural company is processing a wide range of variable to make decisions about crop planting and harvesting. A quick scan of your industry can help you start to frame your thinking.

Where are the pain-points in your business?

You probably know well the areas of your business that cause frustration. Try and look at these through a new lens. The lens of automation. In many cases, the pain-point involves intensive or time-consuming human processing. The related question then is; can you see patterns in the problems? If you can then you should flag that area as one that could potentially be transformed by AI.

There number of ways AI can be harnessed is really only limited by our imagination. This cross section of applications suggests the possibilities that are open to you:

  • Fraud prevention, by having AI study transaction data.
  • Project schedule optimisation can see countless variables analysed to produce the ideal delivery schedule.
  • Image recognition systems can play a critical role in workplace safety by identifying unsafe practices on site.
  • Logistics, where AI is optimising peaks and troughs, and also identifying trends in client behaviour or project lifecycles.
  • And finally, studying individual engagement behaviour, from business development to project completion, to make meaningful, non-irritating, service recommendations.

These examples should help bring your thinking to life in the next piece of analysis that I’m recommending.

Have you got a 360-degree view of your capabilities?

Once you’ve identified pain-points, you need to think about the rest of your business. Think through the following five core areas of business capability, again with a lens that seeks to imagine what AI could do:

  1. Performance management: the big decisions you make and the levers you pull
  2. Business technology: all your systems and processes, in both the head office and on site
  3. Business development: the practices you use to engage and transact with clients
  4. Engagement: how you motivate and equip our people to perform well
  5. Development: the new, value-adding initiatives you have underway

This analysis will give you an excellent sense of where the potential for transformation, better integration, and competitive advantages may be.

Can you envisage an AI strategy?

For many businesses, the answer, up until now, would be no. However, the analysis you should produce by asking the questions above will give you an excellent starting point for developing an AI strategy.

The two important things in AI strategy are related to scale and sequence. How big, and in what order? The answers will vary greatly depending on the current state of your business, so it is important to think this through well. You may find it helpful to imagine some different future scenarios for your business. Or, you might consider thinking in terms of three horizons[1]:

  1. How can AI help maintain and defend the business you have now?
  2. How can AI nurture our emerging business?
  3. How might AI help us create a totally new business?

I know there are lots of questions in the above but I’m confident that you will find answering them interesting, provocative and, above all, helpful.

This technology is coming to engineering and construction no matter what, so it is best to grab the bull by the horns.

[1] McKinsey & Co’s Three Horizons of Growth.


By Ashish Kumar CEO of Nvoke Partners, a technology and growth advisory firm.

Ash is the CEO of Nvoke Partners and co-founder of MuraConnect and is Harvard Alumni. Nvoke has delivered multiple business transformation projects for Bluechip companies and Nvoke under his leadership has won multiple innovation and service awards including leadership awards. (In case you need it) the company web addresss: