TOM NOCTOR, Strategic Product Consultant, Procore Technologies, writes that big data is at once the biggest opportunity and greatest challenge facing the construction industry.
From cost-cutting to future planning, we are well aware of all that data can enable and empower. Yet, according to research from FMI, 95% of data collected in construction goes unused, and managers spend 13% of their time wading through a practically never-ending pit of information to find what they’re looking for.
The data we need most certainly exists, and we have the means of collecting it. But this is only half the battle – the rest is using it to its full potential. Because what’s being missed in this race to unlock all that data can offer construction is visibility. And that can only be enabled by one thing: the right technology.
Using the right tools for the job
The ambitious nature of construction means that the projects and practices it undertakes will forever grow in scale and complexity. And we now find ourselves at our time when the unprecedented pace of digitisation has accelerated this rate of change. For instance, according to research Procore Technologies conducted in June 2020, over two thirds (68%) believed the ability to work remotely would be crucial for post-Covid operations, with working remotely being one of the top reasons managers implemented online collaboration and productivity tools.
Construction is an industry deeply rooted in technology and innovation, and it, therefore, has, by and large, a strong track record of adopting the right tools for the job. However, there is also a long history of inefficient practices leading to suppressed profitability.
When speaking to managers of UK&I construction companies, we found that nearly half (43%) have seen an increase in their overall efficiency and productivity, thanks to real-time insights. When it comes to implementing these data-driven insights across projects, construction companies are limited by a collection of small but common issues. Poor communication between all stakeholders, ineffectively scaling operations to meet the project’s requirements, inaccurate cost and project planning, and a very significant lack of performance-based reporting all form sizable hurdles to any forward progress.
And it’s that final issue, poor visibility into performance metrics, that is arguably the most damaging. Performance metrics and the insights they form provide vital readings on the health and success of any given project. Without them, you’re unable to identify issues in ongoing projects and miss the concrete evidence that determines what exactly is going wrong. Data provide learnings, and without those learnings, our ability to improve is very limited.
Quality, relevancy, technology
There are three key best practices that must be prioritised by any business looking to get the most out of its data.
Firstly, data quality. Simply put, if your data is not of high quality, your people will already know this and the confidence they place in it will be minimal. And low-quality data doesn’t only mean inaccurate, but incomplete and badly organised, too.
Secondly, real-time measurement. Your data may be high quality, but if it’s outdated, it’s not worth a great deal to you, especially in this ever-changing sector. Yet many within the sector seem determined to retain paper-based processes in this digital age, which is a huge blocker to the relevancy and accuracy of your data.
Lastly, but by no means least, recognising the value of a single platform. Construction projects are made possible by a huge array of stakeholders, yet this often comes at the high cost of duplicated communications, inaccurate information and limited transparency. Single data platforms act as a centralised collaboration hub for all to input and access data and information, regardless of location or hardware.
Of course, in a post-pandemic world dominated by remote working, the benefits of such a solution have only become more critical. We found that 29% of Procore users surveyed experienced improved communication for a remote workforce – a vital ingredient to keeping hybrid working a possibility.
Not all platforms are created equal
Platform technology in the construction industry is enabling increased efficiency, productivity and workforce safety. Yet as its popularity rises, so does market saturation; with more service providers comes evolved customer wants and needs. And as margins tighten, owners and contractors are rightly keen to identify the value-add of vendors they choose to partner with.
Software user-friendliness, customer support, training, assistance with rollout and adoption, and the depth of third-party integrations have quickly become key differentiators as construction companies invest in platform technology.
The value of a single platform capable of integrating with a wide-ranging library of other tools was a clear priority for Procore client Conack. One of Ireland’s leading construction companies, Conack, faced the challenge of managing over 20 major projects while its staff were heavily restricted by nationwide lockdowns.
While the pandemic has created challenges with site accessibility, Procore’s integration with Evercam has made an enormous difference for Conack, enabling managers to stay connected across all activities, even when working from different locations. The feature provides Conack with the ability to view what’s happening on their sites in real-time. For instance, if there’s a big concrete pour going on in their Cherrywood project, their quantity surveyor or several other people on the project can log into Procore and use Evercam to see the pour happening on-site.
When asked why Procore stood out, Conack CDE Manager, Brid Mullane, emphasised the value of a single view: “The real beauty of Procore is that we don’t have to log into several apps or different solutions. We can view what’s going on at any one of the sites, and it’s all on one platform.”
Conack isn’t the only company feeling this benefit either, with 85% of Procore users saying the platform improved their field-to-office communication.
The power of visibility
We know the cost of poor visibility, and we know that effective visibility is enabled by single platform technology, but why is it so powerful in the first place? Again, we have three standout points.
First up, visibility drives confidence. Like with any task in any industry, full transparency between you, your work and the stakeholders around you can increase their confidence in your ability to deliver – providing that you do a good job, of course.
Visibility also improves decision making, simply because decisions that are rooted in strong evidence are better decisions. If you’re armed with high-quality data, it’s much more likely that new and existing projects will be more successful.
Finally, visibility empowers your ability to identify risks; a regular view of your data helps you identify potential risks and adjust plans accordingly. Risks that transform into reality are always chief culprits when projects go over budget and beyond deadline. 84% of Procore users told us that our platform gives visibility into the health of their projects, which in turn can help ensure that risks are spotted early and hardly ever materialise as a result.
The right technology empowers people – and encourages them to stay
Utilising data more effectively will help the construction industry supercharge its productivity and efficiency. Seven out of 10 specialty contractors say Procore has helped them improve labour productivity in the field, whilst 76% of owners say that Procore has helped them to identify areas for improvement on their projects.
The impacts that effective data and insights can have on a business’s bottom line are significant and will always be at the forefront of the conversation. Compliance, quality and safety are also empowered by the visibility of real-time data, and they should all be held in the same regard in today’s world – as should environmental sustainability.
There’s huge pressure on construction to find greener routes forward, and adopting technology that enables the capture of key environmental data is critical to staying ahead. With less than 1% of construction projects currently evaluated for the scale and source of carbon emissions generated during their lifespans, those that make the right technological investments now will most definitely stand out.
What we can’t underestimate but often do, is the impact visibility into high-quality data can have on people. In today’s climate, with the skills shortage in the industry continuing to be a real challenge for all, those who understand that putting the right technology in the hands of users is key to attracting skilled workers will succeed. 16% of construction professionals we surveyed said that since using Procore their employee retention has gone up, whilst 14% said it has even helped with talent acquisition.
Ineffective solutions could lead to your business losing its best talent, but effective technology could be a key reason why your best people stay and encourage others to join. This is why platform technology should be as inclusive as possible – a solution that alienates the older generations in your workforce will likely see your most experienced people become less effective and consider moving on. The right technology should enable workers to focus their time and energy on what they do best, their craft.
The next great differentiator
Using data to achieve consistent and in-depth visibility into performance is the next great opportunity for construction. Yet digesting and accurately using data is one of the greatest challenges for construction managers as they embrace digitisation; without accurate data, managers are unable to create a more productive, safe and efficient project environment.
In one of the toughest industries to work in – one defined by complexity, huge ambition, constant uncertainty and high risk – what’s needed to unlock the full potential of data is platform technology dedicated to construction and construction alone that prioritises collaboration among all stakeholders, ease of use, and acting as a single source of truth.
Five ways Procore boosts productivity
Improving data quality
– Procore’s platform helps make your data more complete, up-to-date and easily recorded.
2. Driving positive culture
– Procore’s easy-to-use construction software speeds connection, streamlines workflows and keeps your team on track.
3. Boosting staff confidence
– By improving transparency between staff and the work they produce, Procore helps to increase the business’s confidence in your people’s ability to deliver.
4. Enabling better decision making
– Having your data on one platform empowers your business to make smart and savvy decisions based on the complete project picture.
5. Helping to identify issues sooner
– Procore’s platform helps you identify potential risks before they become bigger problems.