The cost of not going digital is something the rail and construction sectors in particular need to take seriously. It’s a bit alarmist to say that not going digital could put you out of business, but how much of a genuine risk is it? 

Hesitancy to digitise business processes is still commonplace within the rail and construction industries. These workforces are used to their traditional paper-based formats that in their minds have served them well. The prospect of shifting to digital generally sparks widespread concern over price, and time that could be spent on projects used instead for implementing these new systems. 

For a busy, time-strapped manager, this seems to be an upheaval they can’t afford. However, this short-sighted approach and resistance to moving with the times can have a detrimental long-term impact on a business in so many different ways.

So what are these damaging knock-on effects of delaying digital transformation? We explore the immediate and not-so-obvious factors to take into consideration before you dismiss digitising. Or you may prefer to download our special report in full to learn how you can counteract this impact today.

Pricey paper processes

The most obvious cost that springs to mind is that of damaged or lost forms. The disposable nature of paper makes it all too easy to misplace on a large worksite. This is accompanied by the risk of being spoiled due to the adverse weather conditions workers are exposed to. Paper isn’t designed to withstand wind and rain. 

Then there’s the infuriating amount of incomplete or incorrect data. Paper doesn’t empower managers to enforce standardised formats as there’s no way of controlling how well a form is filled out at the time of completion; it has to be chased up once submitted and checked by administrative staff. This adds up to a drain on time for both admin workers and managers. A digital form can prevent an employee from submitting if there are any discrepancies or missing information detected.

Nutshell Apps CMS Case Study

Read our case study to find out how Nutshell boosted back-office staff productivity by 25% at CMS UK by eliminating paper-based processes.

Not only is this a time-wasting process, but it’s also a risk to safety. Site or shift reports that are incomplete or incorrect could be missing key information that the incoming shift workers need to work safely. Likewise, if an audit trail is incomplete or incorrect, it’s effectively impossible to prove that RAMS/SSoW were issued, understood and followed to the letter by staff on-site, leaving the business open to litigation should an accident occur. 

On top of all this, reports often arrive late to admin staff, so aren’t authorised on time. These forms must be collected by someone driving in between sites, which can take a considerable amount of time due to the sheer size and disparate nature of the sites being worked on. This can have a major impact on project timescales, affecting line blocks and other time-sensitive planning processes that eat into company profits.

So the cost of using paper is not to be brushed off. However it’s not only business expenditure that’s affected by not digitising; there’s a whole host of wider business areas that can be negatively impacted. 

3 main areas that will be impacted by not going digital

Along with all the usual challenges of saving lives, reducing injuries and getting your employees to work smarter rather than harder, there are a few other somewhat camouflaged threats to your business. These threats are those caused by not taking your business digital, which if not taken seriously can have a detrimental impact on your success. 

Staying relevant in the supply chain 

Even if you decide to stay loyal to your trusty old photocopier, your clients won’t hang around with you. According to IDG, 89% of companies have already adopted a digital strategy, which means they’ve probably already swapped their stapler for a mobile app, along with most of the supply chain around you. 

If you’re looking for ways of improving procurement, digitising is the best tactic for a modern business to take. Clients are actively looking for this in the rail and construction sector, agreeing tender bids based on evidence of operational excellence and pioneering spirit, which implies digitisation even if it doesn’t explicitly demand it. And while it’s unlikely that clients will start ruling out suppliers who aren’t digital, they are almost certainly more likely to favour those who are. Those in the supply chain who fall behind will quickly become obsolete, comparing poorly alongside far more efficient, forward-thinking operations, who can live up to the industry’s growing expectations.

Attracting and retaining the best staff 

The next generation of site workers will expect to be using the very best technology to make their lives easier. As digital natives, they’ve been raised on apps, video games and social media in an age of instant access to information. Clipboards and carbon paper are as alien to them as scratching words on a wax tablet. According to a study by software giant Adobe, 91% of employees want digital solutions as part of their day-to-day work, while 88% think that technology is a vital part of their employee experience. 

Even the current generation of on-site talent is seeing other suppliers (your competitors, partners and customers) on-site, using the latest technologies to make themselves more efficient, more productive and more profitable, and are feeling left behind. Employees are becoming increasingly savvy to the safety and efficiency benefits of going digital, and they want a piece of the action. Take your processes digital and you immediately stand a significantly better chance of attracting and retaining staff, safeguarding the future of the construction and rail sectors.

Avoiding unnecessary litigation, insurance claims and penalties

Business functions like Health & Safety and Human Resources are increasingly under pressure to meet strict compliance goals in heavily regulated industries such as rail, construction, facilities, energy and renewables. With a distributed and often splintered workforce, made up of in-house, agency and contracted staff spread across dozens of sites, this is a monumental task. 

Whilst it’s true that tracking competencies, site inductions, safety briefings and work procedures saves lives and prevents injuries on-site, it can also play a part in avoiding litigation too. Accidents do happen, and the ability to provide indisputable evidence that proper standards, processes and policies were communicated, understood and adhered to can be an organisation’s only protection from the law when something does go wrong.

Having a digital audit trail is the best way to ensure every step is tracked and saved robustly to the cloud, eliminating the risk of loss or damage to these vital forms. A small cost for digitising in the short term could just save you a huge financial penalty if paper-based processes are maintained. 

Our industry-standard Site Briefing app ensures your workers are kept safe and fully aware of any risks on-site at all times — check it out in our app library

How to start your digital journey

Once you’ve assessed how big of an impact not going digital has and could potentially have on your business, you may want to look into some solutions. But where to start your digital journey? 

First of all, you need to look at the various options available to you and their cost implications. This may take a bit of research, and it’s best to book demos with the companies you’re interested in to see their products in action. You’ll likely want something relatively simple to us that the whole team can grasp easily. Nutshell’s library of apps is a good place to start, as they’re off the shelf options, however there’s also the option of creating something bespoke for your exact needs. No-code is often the best route to go down as it’s quick, simple, and cost-effective.

Once the ideal digital platform has been decided on, it’s time to build a compelling business case to present to whoever holds the purse strings. If done effectively, the benefits of digitising will be clear to see and will greatly outweigh any short-term implementation costs.  

By using no-code solutions, digitising your business can be far quicker and easier than you ever thought possible. Better than that, it can be done effectively for free, simply by understanding the wider implications of not digitising.


The impact of delaying digital transformation is far-reaching and spans through all the different areas of a business. Time, money, and safety is jeopardised by maintaining manual processes. There is a common problem of short-sightedness within construction and rail businesses when presented with the prospect of going digital – many decision-makers can only see cost and upheaval. However it’s clear this doesn’t have to be the case, and the long-term consequences of sticking with paper forms could be catastrophic.

With the technological advancements available to us, it’s inevitable for all industries to turn to digital in order to stay competitive; rail and construction is no different. The success of these sectors relies on attracting future generations — make sure your business keeps up with their expectations. 

Nutshell Apps eBook - Hidden cost of analogue

Looking for information on how to get started with digitising your business? Download our e-book ‘The Hidden Cost of Analogue’ here for expert advice.