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The Changing Dynamics of Engineering Industry

By Daniel M. Horton, CIO, Michael Baker International, LLC

The Changing Dynamics of Engineering IndustryDaniel M. Horton, CIO, Michael Baker International, LLC

Cloud for Backup, Disaster Recovery and Data Storage

Our 2014 wish list involves several different cloud solutions, which is part of a huge effort for us at Michael Baker International this year. We’ll be using cloud services for a majority of our backup and archiving needs, disaster recovery, data storage and more. Overall, we expect cloud technologies to provide better access for our employees via smartphones, laptops, and computers. We also hope that 2014 brings easier, more unified security in global IT environments. We want to get the most out of mobile devices as a force multiplier, remote management tool, and at the job site.

With Google Glass, we can send one person to a remote location and then use video teleconferencing to tell that person to “look left, right, up, down…” to get an interactive view of what’s going on

Google Glass Creating a Buzz

We’re really excited to be implementing Google Glass for some of our field activities, such as scoping projects with the client, during construction, viewing field conditions, inspecting bridges, and training. With Google Glass, we can send one person—rather than a whole team—to a remote location and then use video teleconferencing to tell that person to “look left, right, up, down…” to get an interactive view of what’s going on. We’ll get more comprehensive audio, photographic, and video coverage of remote sites for a lot less overhead.

We’ve also become a very “Big Data” player with our investment in our in-house Mobile Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) capabilities. We’re collecting terabytes of precision engineering and design quality data per day for our project sites. In the engineering and construction markets we’re able to stand apart with our products derived from our LiDAR systems and workflows. We’re into full 3D immersion from in situ point clouds that facilitate our rapid design, engineering and visualization.

My Role as a CIO

The construction and engineering industry has certainly changed in recent years. Market conditions drove consolidation of firms. Thus, I’ve overseen a lot of postmerger integration of IT systems. With the mergers, our organizational structure has expanded, and my role changed as we found great talent from the new companies. The significant expansion of our company as we became a part of Michael Baker International also meant I came to rely on my leadership team for a lot more of the day-to-day operations. Now, as the market stabilizes, my focus has moved towards implementing innovative technologies to give us a more competitive advantage.

Advice to Fellow CIOs

Integrating multiple companies taught me three valuable lessons that I can offer as advice. First, integrations may be a challenge, but it’s also a huge opportunity to find the best technology and best practices that improve the whole company. Every time we do an acquisition, we reanalyze all systems and processes to determine what the best fit is. Second, the key to successful integration is to have a good team and a good plan. Those two pieces—and communicating properly—make it go as smoothly as possible. Third, mergers and acquisitions bring in new talent, which allow you to delegate more. By learning which areas different personnel are best at, you can put them in the right roles to excel.

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