Strategies for AI Success from Bluebeam CEO

Laptop computer displaying logo of Bluebeam, Inc., an American software company founded in 2002 and headquartered in Pasadena, California, owned by Nemetschek Group

With all the chatter about AI, it's important to listen up when a real industry expert takes the mic. Usman Shuja is a man who knows what he is talking about. As CEO of construction software provider, Bluebeam, a Nemetschek company, Shuja focuses on technology-led growth and innovation, drawing on years of experience developing AI products, as well as thinking through AI's policy and ethical implications.

"I believe that humans will always find a way to elevate their work," Shuja said in an interview with Authority Magazine. "While the evolution of AI and other digital tools will undoubtedly bring their share of unwanted change and uncertainty, with ethical applications and collaborative government oversight, these tools and others to come will ultimately increase the bottom line and make life better and easier for those who build our world," he added.

Below, we build on Shuja's insights and continue to examine how AI is disrupting the AEC industry, as well as the best ways to adapt.

The Importance of Purpose and Strategy

Shuja emphasizes the need for a clear purpose and strategy when integrating AI. This principle is universally applicable within AEC. AI initiatives must be designed to address specific problems or create new opportunities that align with the company's goals. For instance, AI can be used to predict project timelines, optimize construction schedules, and enhance safety protocols on job sites. Attempting to incorporate AI functions into a business without clear plans and priorities in place is likely to result in wasted efforts.

Right now, AI is a tool to carefully enhance dedicated work. Do not expect the best results from just applying AI haphazardly. Additionally, having a robust data strategy is fundamental to any AI project. Senior decision-makers often find themselves in a hard place. They recognize the need to first have the infrastructure and skills in place for AI development, but also feel significant pressure to adopt AI quickly. While it is important to recognize the potential organizational benefits of AI, without a clear purpose and strategy in place, organizations are likely unable to deliver their expected cost and time savings with this technology.

Keeping It Simple and Achievable

The implementation of AI should start with manageable, achievable goals. Overambitious projects can lead to frustration and failure. AEC businesses should focus on incremental improvements, such as automating routine tasks or enhancing document management systems, and gradually scale their AI initiatives as they gain more insights and experience. This approach reduces risk and builds confidence among stakeholders. Contractors are focusing on specific, narrow tasks to implement AI. This incremental process improves chances to achieve successful outcomes in the short term, while additionally thinking about broader data strategy plans in the long term on a more tactical basis as experience and expertise grows.

Data gathered from a 2023 BuiltWorlds' survey shows the largest segment (37.5%) of respondents using a software that offers AI/ML features are utilizing that solution only on 'a few projects.' This shows that among the 58.8% of contractors that reported implementing a software with AI/ML features aimed at enhancing core business functions, they aren't deploying that technology on a majority of their projects. This selective approach to utilization highlights how contractors are tailoring AI implementation to match their needs without overwhelming current capabilities.

Managing Change and Ensuring Buy-in

Change management is a critical aspect of AI integration. Organizations must prepare their workforce for the new workflows and technologies, providing training and support to ease the transition. In the often change-resistant construction industry, employee buy-in is absolutely crucial. Without employee support, even the most advanced AI solutions can fail to deliver the desired outcomes. This involves clear communication to stakeholders about the benefits and impacts of AI on their roles and the overall business.

Misconceptions About AI

One common misconception is that AI will replace human workers. While AI can automate repetitive tasks, it is not a substitute for human creativity, decision-making, and oversight. AI should be viewed as a tool that enhances human capabilities, allowing employees to focus on higher-value activities. In the AEC industry, as Shuja notes, AI improves efficiency and safety but relies on human expertise for complex problem-solving and project management. Planning and design is a prime example of this. AI implementation is suited for the repetitive tasks, based on prior work, like in detailing. Human creativity and judgement is still essential in the planning and design stage. AI tools are just that, tools to ease the burden of repetitive and burdensome tasks on workers.

The Future of AI in AEC

Looking ahead, the potential of AI in the AEC sector is immense. Generative AI can revolutionize the design phase by creating more efficient and sustainable building plans. Predictive analytics can foresee project delays and cost overruns, enabling proactive management. AI-driven tools can also enhance safety by predicting potential hazards and suggesting preventive measures. The key to further unlocking this potential lies in strategic, ethical, and inclusive approaches to AI integration. As the construction industry cautiously embraces change and carefully implements AI, advancement in the efficiency and sustainability are sure to come.

Below are examples of several companies already implementing AI functionalities in their solutions.


Arup, a multinational professional services firm, uses AI to enhance their design and planning processes. Arup has utilized AI to create tools to design low carbon energy networks and better understand asset performance. Arup's understanding of the intricacies of data and AI allows them to work with clients to develop a customized data strategy.


InEight provides project management software for AECO professionals around the world. Their scheduling & short-interval planning solution uses AI and historical project data stored in the Knowledge Library to create CPM schedules. InEight uses predictive analytics to forecast project outcomes, including schedule delays and budget overruns.


HoloBuilder is a mobile reality capture solution that incorporates AI analysis to enhance site safety. HoloBuilder's ProgressAI leverages their computer vision engine to detect and report on-site progress within the captured 360° photos and videos. The AI technology can detect and reduce safety risks.

AI is reshaping the AEC industry and creating new paradigms of efficiency and innovation. Businesses must have a clear strategy, assemble diverse teams, manage change effectively, and uphold ethical standards to harness the full potential of AI. By addressing these factors, companies can navigate the challenges and leverage AI to create significant competitive advantages and drive sustainable growth in the AEC sector.