Can the Construction Industry be more Data-driven?

We live in a data-driven world, but when it comes to the construction industry, the sentiment seems to be that construction has been left behind. Though there are some firms now investing in data solutions, the fact is that the construction industry as a whole is lagging.

Health and education are two industries that have benefited from the growth in smart data investments. In the healthcare industry, for example, efficiency has been increased by investment in analytical tools to help parse the immense amount of data that comes out of the complex business of saving lives. Education around the world is investing in ways to teach people in a more personalized way, targeting specific communities’ needs. Both are using data solutions to capture and analyze large amounts of data in order to discover how best to allocate resources and drive improvements.

Construction involves complex processes, bringing together professionals from diverse trades in order to build structures with even more complex specifications. There is naturally a lot of potential data that can be isolated from such a complex system, and yet many companies continue to rely on old methods for collecting and disseminating that data. This lack of real-time data can, at worst, put employees at risk and, at best, lead to poor, or malinformed decision making.

No one can blame the construction industry for focusing on construction--it’s an industry that has thrived on the experience of its people. But as challenges in demographics start to take hold, the availability of skilled employees continues to decrease. In the past few years, we’ve seen city, state, and federal allocation for construction decrease because of shrinking budgets, as well as a demand for higher productivity from stakeholders.

Partly to blame was the lack of data solutions available, maybe because construction simply wasn’t a focus of the tech industry. Perhaps there was also a bit of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. But that’s changing now. Some firms have started building homegrown solutions to help capture and report data in a way relevant to construction-specific problems. The firms that invest in or have invested in technological solutions are primed to leave those that don’t far behind. According to a 2016 survey by Sage, the number of companies investing or planning to invest at least 1% of their revenue in technology increased in one year from 32% to 42%. It’s clear that more companies are noticing the potential for data-driven solutions. Competition based on improved productivity is about to get fierce.

Will the other 58% of respondents to that survey be left in the dust? Improved data strategy has a direct impact on increased profitability, which can make the difference between life and death, especially with smaller enterprises. All firms need to start looking towards a long term data strategy in order to improve their productivity. Some may strive to create home-grown solutions, while others could choose to outsource to software packages that have become more affordable. Whatever the choice, those that invest intelligently in technology soon will be the ones driving data standards for the rest of the industry to follow.


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