A few years ago, The Economist referred to data as the new oil. In 2021, more data will be produced than in the history of the internet. That paints quite the picture of the exponential growth in data across the globe. The construction industry, as most of us are aware, hasn’t fully adopted data as a key business driver and is lagging the rest of the economy in terms of productivity and efficiency. I don’t want to bash on about this because I’m sure you’ve already heard that many times before. What I would like to do is illustrate WHY data is so important for your construction team and how it will give you a clear competitive edge in 2021 and beyond. Let’s have a look at the 5 key reasons data should be a focus for your construction project, team, and company.
1. Clarity and decision making
How do construction teams currently make decisions on projects? Chances are it’s based on data in some way. If decisions are made based on past mistakes, those mistakes are a form of data. Whether they are in the format of data as we are used to it (numbers in a spreadsheet) or not, it’s still considered data. If decisions are made based on experience, that experience is a data set used as a point of reference. The only problem with this is that the human brain can only store so much data before it gets too saturated. At that point, data becomes useless because we can’t detect any patterns in it. Machines however, are able to process orders of magnitude more data and can detect patterns in this data that were previously unknown. If utilised correctly, a data strategy reliant on tools widely available on the market can dramatically increase clarity in decision making for project teams. With added clarity, decisions can be made with greater confidence and result in more efficient outcomes.
2. Resolving disputes and claims
If you work in construction you have most likely encountered a painful dispute with a supplier or partner that caused problems or delays to your project and made your job much more difficult. As construction projects become increasingly complex, such situations can arise at the most unpredictable moment and weeks, or months, of legal disputes can ensue. This is one of the most unnecessary ways to waste time and resources.
With the help of construction software, data can be the unbiased judge of such disputes and significantly reduce the time and resources spent trying to resolve them. There are several tools on the market that offer this functionality and can act as an evidence log of everything taking place on site, thus substantially mitigating risks posed by potential disputes.
3. Predict future project outcomes
Arguably one of the most powerful capabilities of modern technology is to accurately predict future outcomes. Using technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, these tools are powering the construction sites of the future and generating higher profit margins for the businesses that use them. The only way these tools function is using large, granular data sets. By rapidly analysing large quantities of data, these technologies can map out clear inefficiencies and predict how these will impact projects in the future. Additionally, such tools use the same data and insights to help build future project plans.
The beauty of using data in this way is that it can be reused, replicated, and optimised for every project moving forward. This will constantly reduce the time of completion, reduce wasted resources, and ultimately make for a more profitable and sustainable project.
4. Revitalised workforce
With the rise of data-centric construction projects comes an increased demand for skilled workers to maximise the value of data. As construction matures into a technology driven industry, ambitious talent from around the world will realise that they can build a successful technology career within the construction sector and start to flood into the industry. The companies that have taken the time to develop a data strategy, and built a rich data set, at the early stages of this revolution will have first dibs on the most talented workforce that enter the industry. For those that lack the data-driven infrastructure, it will be increasingly difficult to attract top talent and thus to maximise the value of the data.
5. Compound interest
Okay so data doesn’t actually generate compound interest. But the concept is the same. The earlier construction companies begin to collect granular data on projects, the more value they will get from it. Over time, as construction technology continues to develop, the same data can be applied to multiple facets of an organisation and generate value months, or even years, after it was initially captured. The long-term, compounding value of data for construction businesses is too great to overlook. Now is the time for companies to invest in a data strategy and start creating more value for their organisation and the industry.
Data is the oil of the 21st century. Picture the explosive wealth generated by those organisations and individuals who owned oil wells as the combustion engine grew in popularity. We are in the same situation now, with data as our resource. Its value is only going to grow from here. In 2021, there will be more data created than in the history of the internet. However, the sheer volume of data makes understanding it a complex task which can render it useless. We need to connect our different sources and create a single thread of data that we can rely on. A golden thread. Only then will be be able to harness real value from our data.