Jacobs: Embracing the Digital Revolution

Q&A with Darren Kraabel, senior vice president of mission systems


Why did Jacobs elect to become a USGIF Strategic Partner in 2018?

Darren Kraabel

Jacobs has long utilized GIS data and technologies to enhance intelligence operations for our clients. We decided to become a USGIF Strategic Partner due to the importance of GIS solutions in the digital revolution we are experiencing in every industry Jacobs serves. As a global company providing solutions across oil and gas, transportation, buildings and infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, mining, construction, and other industries, we help clients unlock new value with smart technology solutions that increase productivity, improve reliability and availability, extend service life, and enhance safety and sustainability. We’re doing this through our Jacobs Connected Enterprise (JCE) solutions strategy. And GIS technologies and data analytics are at the core of many JCE solutions.

What is Jacobs’ role in this “digital revolution”?

We deliver transformative solutions for diverse clients, combining industry experience and technology-agnostic digital savvy to unlock big data analytics, predictive operating intelligence, and security insights for a more connected, sustainable world. As with every industrial revolution in the past, market leaders today face a choice: to embrace the revolution and be a disrupter in their industry or ignore the revolution and wait to be disrupted. Market leaders who choose the latter will inevitably be pushed out of the marketplace. Many of the industries we serve are risk averse and are slow to adopt new technologies. Yet our clients recognize they must harness the power of digital technologies to avoid being disrupted. We’re helping them understand and deploy digital technologies that are mature enough to be implemented without introducing unacceptable risk to their operations.

What kind of GIS solutions does Jacobs offer?

In many cases, our clients simply want to know where their assets are located so they can optimize their operations. This is particularly true in the construction industry where we are tagging and tracking people, equipment, and materials to optimize productivity and reduce project risk. In other cases, our clients are leveraging geo-tagged asset management solutions to reduce the cost of ownership of their heavy process and manufacturing facilities. Our infrastructure clients are considering cities of the future and intelligent transportation networks. And our petrochemical clients are seeking to analyze large GIS data sets to optimize production processes and enhance capital expenditure investment decisions. These types of solutions are pretty novel in industries like construction. Bringing those technologies to bear shows our clients how to do things in new ways, and they love it.

Can you share more about Jacobs Connected Enterprise (JCE)?

It’s important to note that JCE is not a specific product or platform. JCE is our answer to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). It’s the way we harness the power of digital technologies to solve global challenges in every industry we serve, and then deliver those solutions as a systems integrator. JCE solutions incorporate digital technologies to collect data from a wide variety of sensors or sources, move that data across a network to a central repository where it can be analyzed to derive insight, and protect the data and the infrastructure that is now network-connected. We refer to that as: “Connect to Collect, Analyze, and Protect.” While there is often a hardware component to our JCE solutions, the real value is derived from the data analytics.

How has Jacobs transformed internally to help clients embrace the digital revolution?

Jacobs has spent the past few years transforming our culture to change the way we think about our role in helping clients improve their performance. If we’re telling clients to use particular GIS tagging and tracking tools, then when we’re doing construction projects ourselves, we need to be using those tools. We’ve also shifted our mindset from being a services company toward being a solutions company. That may sound like a subtle change, but it has had a profound impact on how we serve our clients. It changes the way we look at our talent. Perhaps most importantly, it changes the way our clients value Jacobs as their partner.

How has this transformation changed the way you hire new geospatial talent?

Perhaps the most fundamental change has been our focus on attracting, developing, and retaining data analytics talent. Where Jacobs may have historically focused on finding the best engineering and project delivery personnel, we are now equally focused on finding people who can analyze data. And GIS data analysts are at the forefront of that focus. We need people who can analyze data in the context of the problems our clients face. We need analysts who understand the transportation industry and the petrochemical industry and the pharmaceutical industry. It goes back to the fundamental differentiator for Jacobs: We are blending digital technology expertise with industry domain expertise to collect and analyze data faster and in the right context.


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