Projects are built on thousands of decisions. The quality of every decision depends on data: having accurate, timely and complete information that you can use when you need it.
But right now, data management is an area where many European construction companies are struggling.
We might be generating more information than ever before. But whether that’s producing actionable insights – and better outcomes for the business – is another question.
We’ve surveyed 1,115 construction professionals and interviewed four contractors across Europe to understand their challenges in using data, as well as where they see the biggest opportunities for the future.
It’s clear that using data can seem overwhelming. So how can companies overcome their data management hurdles – and start making better decisions?
Read the full report, Harnessing the Data Advantage in Construction, from Autodesk and FMI.
Is more data always better?
Most construction professionals (82%) agree their organisations are collecting more data from construction technology today than three years ago.
There’s a clear resource implication, with 49% of project management and field supervision staff’s time spent collecting, managing and analysing project data each week.
However, 39% of professionals say that less than half of that data is usable. Worse still, 40% of the average organisation’s data is bad – meaning inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent or untimely.
There seem to be challenges with the whole process, from knowing what data to collect (51%) to understanding how to manage project data effectively (52%), and firms are unsure how to fix the situation.
Bad data, bad decisions
Project managers have always been tasked with making decisions quickly. But with the Covid-19 pandemic disruption, there’s more pressure on schedules than ever before.
Professionals say that time constraints represent the single biggest risk to project decisions (38%).
Information is one of the best ways to manage risks, especially when decisions are needed at speed. But crucially, professionals often lack the data to make project decisions effectively. Only 9% always incorporate project data into their decision making – while 64% do this sometimes, rarely or never.
In fact, data that’s inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent or untimely actually compromises decisions. On average, bad project data results in poor decisions 41% of the time.
Formal data strategies: the benefits and barriers
Many construction companies have measures in place to get more from their data – from a common data environment (37%) to creating a formal position to oversee their data (33%).
But European companies are divided when it comes to having a formal data strategy: a plan to collate insights from different projects and drive business-level improvements.
While 58% of organisations have a formal data plan in place, a third (33%) don’t. A further one in ten professionals (9%) don’t know either way – suggesting that if strategies do exist, they aren’t being well-communicated in the business.
Companies with a data strategy say the biggest benefits are fewer safety incidents, a reduction in change orders, fewer missed schedules and less rework.
But there are barriers to creating a data strategy. A lack of applicability (39%), cost and resources (37%) and not knowing where to start (35%) are the most common reasons for companies not to have a strategy in place.
Success with data isn’t only about the digital tools; construction companies need the right company culture – and people who are comfortable and confident with technology.
Many businesses acknowledge the growing importance of digital skills; 36% of companies are providing formal training in data analysis, while 44% say data management and analysis skills will be important for project management staff to do their jobs effectively in the future.
However, there are signs that company culture could be a key hurdle. At 34% of companies, a lack of leadership and organisational support is the main reason there isn’t a formal data strategy.
Communication and leadership will be a crucial part of encouraging technology adoption, and making data strategies a success.
Using bad data can have far reaching consequences. A contractor performing €1 billion in work annually could avoid €7.1 million of waste could have been avoided by making decisions using accurate data, according to our research.
But every construction business can take incremental steps to improve their data management.
Start small and begin with data selection before data collection
Focus on the place where your organisation could most benefit from data-driven insights. Once you’ve refined your process and can show clear results, you can take lessons from this onto the next data management area.
Focus on buy-in to gain organisational support
Articulating why changes are happening, encouraging open discussion and providing continual reinforcement will help to achieve buy-in over time. Ensure that your team has ongoing support with using these new technologies and processes.
Poor data equals poor results, so put quality first
Define clear processes for capturing good data – and ensure that this is a foundation of your overall strategy. A common data environment and either a single technology platform or integrated technology platforms are needed to support the flow of data, and to form the basis for long-term data ambitions.
To find out more about creating a robust data strategy, read the full report: Harnessing the Data Advantage in Construction: Why adopting a data strategy can give firms in Europe a competitive edge.