Laura Black
Laura BlackEditor

Infrastructure and Tech: What’s Next?

This one phrase has probably been said more often than any other here at the Specialty Publishing office: the pace of change isn’t going to slow down. Peggy has said it time and time again. The evolution of technology is only going to speed up—and businesses must respond.

CIOs, CTOs, CDOs—pretty much anyone involved in IT—have a tall task ahead of them. They must choose which systems to put in place today that will help differentiate the company and address the skilled labor shortage, while also taking into consideration how technology will change and then futureproofing the business.

This was on my mind quite a bit while working with Peggy on the infrastructure feature that appears inside this issue. The article chronicles the evolution of process, policy, and technology in infrastructure in the past 100 years. It was enlightening to look back to the year 1919 and see how far we have come—and in some ways, how we have also regressed.

In doing the research, the early 1900s was very much the age of infrastructure. New road and rail systems were built across the country, connecting very isolated locations. Cities rose up from virtually nothing. It was the era of great building.

Today, perhaps is the age of innovation. Technology is definitely center stage—both in personal and professional environments. Companies and individuals are willing to pay large amounts of money for constant connectivity in the palms of their hands. And yet, we somehow struggle to fund the basics: the roads, the bridges, the rail systems to connect disparate locations. There was even talk of taking away our planes—but perhaps that is a different conversation for a different day.

The bottomline is we aren’t investing enough in our infrastructure—and it is failing. When I turn on the news, I hear story after story of bridges collapsing. On my drive home, I hit potholes so large my car bounces off the road. This quite frankly is not acceptable, and is downright dangerous.

The really tragic part is the technology is advancing. We have the tools at our disposal to build really intelligent infrastructure, but it just hasn’t happened yet. What will it take to return to that era of infrastructure in 1919—and at the same time take advantage of the technological revolution that is happening today? That is the question that needs to be answered.

… CIOs, CTOs, CDOs—pretty much anyone involved in IT—have a tall task ahead of them. They must choose which systems to put in place today that will help differentiate the company and address the skilled labor shortage …

Peggy Smedley
Peggy SmedleyEditorial Director

Changing the Narrative

There is little doubt that our country’s roads, bridges, pipes, and railroad are in serious need of an overhaul. They are crumbling. Just ask anyone. As we have reported many times before the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) gave this country’s infrastructure an overall grade of a D+. By anyone’s measure that is failing. We’ve all heard it. Frankly, the more we talk about our declining infrastructure, the more tragic this all sounds to any young, ambitious person looking to start his or her career. If all we are doing is complaining about the near-failure, why would any young enthusiastic individual want to start his or her career in this industry?

If we want to encourage the next generation to want to work in this industry, I’m guessing this aforementioned approach just might be flawed, if not outright wrong to motivate. It seems like construction at times is building on the doom-and-gloom rhetoric in Washington for those who do not believe the infrastructure is actually improving and that together we can do so much more when we work together and think about innovating. When we invite our creative thinkers into the discussion and we engage them, we are opening doors for tomorrow and building new pathways, new structures, and new roads.

Recently, I sat down with Mark Rayfield, CEO, Saint-Gobain North America, and he made this amazing point about mentorship. He says, “What better way to end your career than to go out teaching the next generation how to do your job. It is what we should all be striving to do to make ourselves infinitely replaceable by training people to do what we do.”

Just imagine if more individuals and companies were able to think about their future this way and played the long game rather than just bottomline results? Imagine what we can accomplish as an industry. Isn’t it time to change the narrative?