Wilco Kaijim is lead partner for the engineering & construction industry in IBM Europe.
An engineer by profession, Wilco has worked almost his entire career in the Engineering, Construction and Operations (EC&O) industry with a variety of roles including project management, supply chain management and consulting prior to joining IBM.
As lead partner for the EC&O industry, Wilco is responsible for the business development, solution development and growth of IBM’s presence in this industry across Europe. He is based in the Netherlands.

How did you become involved in the Smart Buildings industry?
I’ve been lucky enough to work for close to 30 years in the EC&O industry. For me the focus is on technology, innovation and how technology can improve specific business processes in engineering & construction. That was one of the reasons I got involved in the Smart Buildings industry. I worked as an engineer for 14 years in the industry on different projects, creating big assets, learning a lot about the processes and what is needed. We had quality assurance audits on site, all on paper and we thought about getting people to work in a different way. I thought using IT would help improve these processes and using the power of the two industries could get us so much farther. And then I moved to IBM.
What excites you about the Smart Buildings industry?
The capacity for this industry to be transformed by new digital innovations is incredible. In the past, this was a very traditional industry, by its own admission some 5 to 10 years behind other industries. A lot is still paper based - sending papers, sharing papers with others and then putting them back into your systems manually. What we have now are capabilities that not only improve processes but can create new business models. The way organisations work together in this industry is really going to change.
Are there any particular technologies that we should be aware of, but are currently under the radar?
I think we’re talking about a journey.
The first step is to become a digital construction company and ask what does this mean for my processes as well as what does it mean for my role? Am I still the builder or am I more of a platform where I use my capabilities to create something? This is a different way to think.
The next step is becoming cognitive. If we look at how things stand now, it’s commonplace to see people onsite like a project leader or a welder working with drawings or a printed specification of what they need to do. In the future they’ll be able to ask for advice via an app with cognitive capabilities. Perhaps they could instantly ask colleagues what to do in a certain situation via a collaborative platform. It’s not only about business models but new technology that can help create more knowledge and ways in which that knowledge can be shared.
What services does your company offer?
We want to be a digital and cognitive partner for EC&O companies. That means we can help them with their digital strategy and cognitive transformation journey.
We can support them with things like the designing and building of how they appear to their customers since we have creatively-skilled people as well as technology and systems integration staff. We can deliver a platform or what we call a “platform as a service” specific to the market. By a platform I mean a technology-based application or capability that many users can access and use as part of their day-to-day responsibilities.
IBM has moved a long way from being a company that sells hardware, software and services.
Are people aware of the regulations that they will need to comply with in the near future?
There are two regulations close to the heart of the industry that will have influence in the near future: BIM and Circularity.
The levels of BIM provide a framework for a different way of creating, operating and maintaining an asset with a digital twin of the asset. Circularity, making better use of our world’s limited resources, will become more and more important with the growing focus on environmental profit as part of creating value in the EC&O industry.
People are aware of these regulations but there are certain differences in adoption from one country to another.
What are the benefits of a smart building?
There are 3 types of benefits: financial, environmental and user experience.
User experience will be the most important driver for smarter buildings. It will change the way buildings are brought into the market. The most important aspect will no longer be how many square meters they have but what kind of experience they are offering. With all the new technology in the building they could have higher rental or selling prices. They will also have environmental benefits in terms of material reuse. If the material passport will go live, it will have a great environmental impact.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
The biggest influence in my career has been my father. He taught me to be pragmatic and have respect for everyone. If you look at the industry, it has a very pragmatic way of working and people of many different levels of seniority must work together. My father taught me that I could work with a Managing Director or CEO just as I could with a welder. People in the EC&O industry are specialists who love their work and are proud of it. To really understand the industry, you need to work with them and the people who are leading them.
What is the question you are most often asked in your business life?
What is the value proposition? It’s always about the value that you can bring to your client. What does it mean for them? If it doesn’t have value then why create something. When I say this I don’t necessarily mean financial value. It could be environmental value or a better user experience. Innovation is important but the value-add is critical.
What are the best/worst things about your job?
The best thing about my job is the freedom to be an entrepreneur within a global company, to create something vital. With IBM I have the opportunity to use the power of technology and innovation, with the help of my colleagues around the world, to create something new and exciting. The worst part for me is that sometimes change is slow. Working with so much innovation as I do, it’s easy to get excited about the possibilities but you need to be patient and take small steps before you can help create real change in the EC&O industry.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

My first piece of advice would be to be pragmatic in such a complex industry. The second is to realize the value of data. Data can give you more insights which could translate into lower costs or more profit. Data lets you make faster and more informed decisions. If you are starting out in the industry, you need to be data-centric.
What living person do you admire and why?
This question is now hard to answer, as the person I admired most passed away last year. Wayne Dyer was an author and motivational speaker who talked about the power of being positive. I always try to be positive. Let me share just one of his quotes: “How people treat you is their karma, how you react is yours.”
Where would you most like to live?
Near the seaside. I enjoy living and walking along the coast. The wind, fresh air and just clear your mind attitude works for me. I have two special places I visit many times a year: the beautiful village of Domburg in the Netherlands and the Spanish coast of Playa Serana near Almeria.
What is your favorite book?
My favorite genre of books are thrillers, I read almost everything written by David Baldacci. My favorite book is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
How do you relax?
I exercise twice a week and as I mentioned before, I like walking on the beach and listening to the waves.
What sports team do you support?
I support a local Dutch football team from Breda, NAC, and together with my son Ralph we closely follow the British and Spanish premier leagues.
What is your desert island disk?
It would have to be Babylon by Bus by Bob Marley. I like relaxing lyrics like "Don't worry about a thing, 'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.” … the Three little birds song
What is your ideal holiday?
It has to be either relaxing by the sea or skiing in the mountains. I especially enjoy skiing in Sierra Nevada.