#Architecture#Middle-East construction

SSH: driving technological innovation within building and design

Catherine Sturman
|Jun 3|magazine15 min read

From a small, local company, to one which has grown to five times its original size within five years is no easy feat for any business. With significant revenue growth and an aggressive transformation strategy, SSH has implemented cloud services and embedded innovative technologies, with an aim to continually expand its presence within the Middle East.

“You need to build efficiency into everything,” explains Change and IT Director Sean Dewhurst. Upon joining the company in 2015, SSH was in need of a complete overhaul of its IT operations and processes. The company is keeping up with upcoming trends and keeping an eye on what will prove advantageous within construction and design.

Through utilising cloud services, SSH has built effective strategies to cater to clients and operations, and continues to evaluate more and more options, such as Microsoft’s Azure Rendering for 3D modelling. SSH continually looks at how virtual, augmented and mixed reality will provide a multitude of benefits, enabling the company to collaborate with prospective clients to develop built models and concepts. “We haven’t found the sweet spot yet for us, so we’re still exploring all of them. It’s a very interesting space at the moment,” adds Dewhurst.

Increased collaboration

With Microsoft providing SSH’s main platform, SSH also work with local partner Diyar, who have become instrumental to the company’s delivery and development of the company’s Microsoft Azure capabilities. This has been augmented with cloud-managed solutions like Cisco Meraki which has provided greater visibility and simpler, consistent configuration across offices in all geographies. SSH’s main ERP platform (Deltek Vision) and HR platforms are being moved, so that they will be based on Software as a Service (SaaS), rather than maintained as applications in SSH’s own technical domain. “We’re moving all the things that don’t really provide competitive advantage but can take up a lot of time, energy and money to manage and maintain, and then buy them back as services,” explains Dewhurst. “The economies of scale of the service provider outweigh the benefit of retaining them in house.”

In order to stay abreast of technological innovations, SSH has created a number of internal strategic groups to discuss new ideas to increasingly drive the business. Externally, the company uses any channel available to stay abreast of new products and services that might be of interest. “A lot of technologies emerge in in the consumer market, there aren’t many apart from augmented reality or mixed reality that aren’t really in the consumer market yet, and are only in the enterprise space,” comments Dewhurst. “We try to pick up the innovations that are out there and bring them together to bring advantages to what we do. That’s where we have to be, especially in the technology space.”

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We try to pick up the innovations that are out there and bring them together to bring advantages to what we do. That’s where we have to be, especially in the technology space

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To further increase collaboration, SSH is specific about calling vendors partners, especially as the company increasingly works with them to innovate. For example, the company works collaboratively on the technology design for all its offices with BIOSME who provide quality technology infrastructure management, to high standards and strong service levels agreed prior to an outsourcing agreement which both parties signed in December last year. SSH has also developed its partnership with Autodesk, which was historically a transactional relationship, in order to increase collaboration and find potential uses of augmented, mixed and virtual reality technologies and other areas of innovation that Autodesk are bringing to the market.

Explaining that transactional relationships no longer hold any real value, Dewhurst adds that there are mutual benefits to explore different technologies and work together on practical applications. “We’re not one of the big players in the industry globally, but nonetheless we are trying to work with them at the leading edge. We try to work with all our vendors more strategically, who then become partners. I think it’s very important and the industry understands that these value-add relationships are far superior for both parties.”

Continual challenges

Whilst SSH is perhaps less likely to be subject to a cyber-attack than some, it is always something the company keeps in mind. Upon joining SSH in 2015, Dewhurst immediately appointed an Information Security Manager, and has been behind the significant investment the company has undertaken in placing essential controls to mitigate potential risks. Dewhurst explains, “We continually evaluate risks and controls to try and strike the right balance. You can spend millions of dollars on cyber security and still get it wrong – nothing is ever totally secure – but you have to invest, and invest wisely.” The intellectual property the company has also does not hold the same attraction to cyber criminals as other corporations, such as banks, but the company remains aware that it would have significant issues with delivering on its commitments to clients if an attack occurred.

Transforming into a regionalised company has not been without its challenges. US products, such as Autodesk’s and Microsoft’s have been built with a western environment in mind, which have quick, easy and scalable access to the internet, incorporating big pipes and low latency. “Simple things like latency, and the fact these products aren’t designed for low latency, alongside increasing bandwidth requirements means that they are not optimised for us in the Middle East,” explains Dewhurst. “One of the things that’s going to hold us back in this part of the world is the internet connectivity. It’s just not as good and it’s more expensive in comparison to the US and Europe and it introduces an extra challenge.”

Disruptive technologies have also become an increased focus. Dewhurst discusses the creeping rise of 3D printing and modulisation, where these technologies will ultimately transform the entire industry. However, he notes that “on the creative side with concepts and design, this still requires human creativity to drive, although computing technology can enhance it. The computer is doing the heavy lifting on generating options on the parameters given, but it’s not driving the creativity yet.”

Moving forward

The move to cloud has enabled SSH to undergo a cost-effective transformation, outsourcing operations to increase value and provide high quality services to clients. Aligned with the company’s cloud strategy, operations will become simpler and easier and collaborative partner relationships will enable SSH to become a leader in the Middle East. This will allow the company to further explore new and innovative technologies which will shape the future of construction and design.

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