The power of face-to-face innovation

At Arcadis, we’re focused on embracing new technologies that unlock better solutions for our clients. While digital tools and technology can supplement human actions, they do not replace human interactions. In the process of transforming your organization it’s essential to understand when meeting in person will generate more momentum than meeting virtually.

Recently, myself and a team of digital experts from Arcadis North America had the opportunity to travel to India to meet with more than 75 data analysts, scientists and engineers who have been instrumental in transforming our organization and the value we bring to clients. Despite regular calls and Skype meetings this opportunity to meet face-to-face proved invaluable.

With more than 300 offices in over 70 countries, Arcadians can work from anywhere and regularly work with other employees located around the globe. As we have grown our digital capabilities, having a dedicated team of professionals who are well-versed in digital transformation located 12 hours ahead has allowed us to process data, generate insights and deliver results to our clients faster. While our digital team members in North America are off the clock, the day shift has only just started in India, enabling a comprehensive One Team approach.

Despite regular phone calls, continuous collaboration on key projects and a shared passion for better, smarter solutions, this trip to India generated new momentum. Smaller groups made it easier for everyone to speak up and voice their opinions. One-on-one conversations allowed the opportunity to dive deeper into client challenges and brainstorm new resolutions.

“From the very first day we arrived, the discussion and resulting questions around our strategy were a huge breath of fresh air for everyone. There’s just no way to get that kind of natural engagement over the phone,” said Shawn Burnell, Principal Engineer.

As we walked around the office and each team member shared what they were working on or what they were excited about, we were able to clearly connect people to new projects and opportunities. In-person passion about specific technologies, solutions or challenges is hard to communicate over the phone or through email. To see it first hand gave everyone the opportunity to start new conversations and work on projects we hadn’t thought to work together on before.

“People often need to define how they collaborate or innovate into regimented, linear processes. In reality, background information, open dialogue and energy are just as important in sparking collaboration, whether you’re meeting in the same office or joining a Skype call hundreds of miles away,” said Ryan Miller, GIS Analyst.

While this trip certainly shed light on our own opportunities to fine-tune global relationships and interactions, it also made us question how we managed projects with clients who had a similar structure. During the course of these discussions and exploring how our own structure reflected that of our clients, we agreed that there was an opportunity to centralize and streamline client data. For example, instead of 24/7 data support and resources available for two sites in a major Oil & Gas client’s portfolio, this same client now has access to 24/7 support and faster processing for all 200 sites.

“In 2018, we rolled out our FieldNow™ program. Because it is designed to capture 100% of data digitally, we know that the program needs to be maintained and improved over time. Being able to actually sit down with so many of the team members who brought the program to life was instrumental in setting a trajectory for 2019,” said Monica Dupre, Digital & Analytics Solutions Lead.

From specific project management improvements, to a better understanding of individual skill sets and interests, this trip was a welcome reminder that a digital transformation is dependent on the people who make it possible. Tools and technologies may drive speed and efficiency, but it is talented people meeting face-to-face who generate new ideas and truly drive momentum.