Workshops focus on AEC tech pain points

Workshops focus on AEC tech pain points

by ROB McMANAMY | June 4, 2015

This spring, BuiltWorlds has launched an informative, interactive series of informal workshops that we hope will raise the level of collaboration and understanding among members of our growing AEC community. After all, "best practices" and "lessons learned" are only valuable if they are shared with others before they make the same mistakes or encounter similar difficulties. This, we feel, is part of our role in striving to be a force for good in this still-contentious industry of ours.

With that in mind, we are inviting representatives from contractors, architects, engineering firms, suppliers, tech vendors, and other AEC actors, into our offices for structured discussions of compelling issues such as connectivity, data security, supply chain management, site safety, and more. To ensure openness in the dialogue, we have assured participants that no one will be quoted by name, but their insights (and war stories) may be shared with our broader audience. 

Last week, focused on Project Data Security, in a session sponsored by SWC Technology Partners, we welcomed participation from Power Construction, Pepper Construction, Walsh Construction, Bulley & Andrews, EngageCivil, Patrick Engineering, DIRTT, Canon Consulting Services, NuCurrent, R^2 Companies. Below are some of the comments from the 90-minute forum.

Employee security drills

Acknowledging well-known data breaches at retailers such as Target, one participant shared how a recent phishing virus disguised as an email bid solicitation had fooled 30 employees in just 30 minutes at just one of the firm's remote offices before the IT personnel at headquarters could reach them. As a result, all corporate communications had to be shut down for at least 24 hours. This prompted others to note:

  • One very large, multinational engineering firm that previously employed one of the participants conducts drills every six months, where employees would receive e-mails asking them to click to open a slightly disguised file (i.e. perhaps a familiar email address with just one extra letter added). If the recipient clicked on the link, the message on the screen would inform them that they had just failed a corporate security test. "I failed every time," admitted the workshop attendee, who reassured everyone that he/she had left that previous job voluntarily;
  • "We do tests, as well, not that elaborate, but our people fail all the time," added the IT manager at one local contractor. "So, we try to make our systems as idiot-proof as possible, and we limit access in certain areas, to not let people do too much damage."
  • "The human factor is still the thing that gets most people into trouble. So, we issue cell phones to our people in the field with no cameras and no personal e-mail."

Generational 'patience'

  • "One problem we have with that among our older workers is that there are still no real consequences for messing up. So, they will make the same mistake over and over again, because they know we will always bail them out. It is a problem."
  •  "You just have to wait them out, to be honest. They won't be there forever."

Project team sharing

  • "We have hired an outside consultant as part of a nine-month review of all our tech practices. In part, this comes from our recent experience on a joint venture where for the first time, we have run into the issue of who controls the data. We are actually having a struggle now with one of our partners over this. That had never happened before."
  • "We also are undergoing our own review, establishing protocols and policies based on what our toughest owners would want. We do considerable work for the federal government, so we want to make sure that we are in compliance across the team."
  • "To be honest, we are much more worried about internal goofs when it comes to data security than we are about competitor espionage from our project partners."


  • "Our firm has started using Defendpoint from Avecto, which bills itself as being much more aggressive than typical business antivirus software. So far, we've been impressed with it."
  • "We have banned the use of Dropbox in our company for anything project-related. It is just too vulnerable to outsiders."
  • "Everyone needs to read their contracts closely to make sure they are all on the same page about who has access to what data." 

Just a sampling of the wide-ranging conversation, which seemed much appreciated by all on hand.

"These workshops are a great way for us to see where the rubber meets the road in our industry and to hear what sorts of concerns and needs tech users are encountering in the field," says SWC engagement manager Will D. Robinson. "They can really help us to serve them better."

For more info on the BW Workshops Series, including our schedule of upcoming events and how you may participate, contact program coordinator Mohamed El said at

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