Construction projects are generating more and more data through their lifecycles, driven in part by the growing use of IoT, mobile devices and construction-oriented mobile technologies, virtual reality (VR), and AI/machine learning (ML).
This increase in data underscores a simple truth: Trust between the organisations involved in a project is more critical than ever.
The value of data is becoming better understood, and when something has a value it can lead to battles. Who controls the data? Who owns the data? Who’s responsible for the data?
Questions like these can become sticking points for project partners, decreasing open collaboration and undermining the quantity and quality of data shared on a project.
Poor data quality has many implications, both in the short and long term, from immediate project quality, safety and schedule impacts, to the ability to drive process improvement for project success.
Ending the battle represented by these questions and encouraging open sharing of data across project participants should be a key focus for project owners and delivery teams. Let’s look at how this can be addressed.
A trusted and open construction project begins with some key tenets:
Projects today often consist of multiple third-party applications and tools being used by different teams, each with their own data formats that ultimately create large amounts of incompatible data. The challenge here is making sure the data is captured and stored in a single, reliable, trusted and open system of record.
A true common data environment (CDE) serves precisely this purpose. Foundational to this is an open data exchange that eliminates barriers to collaboration, maximising adoption and data sharing across the entire project, creating a complete project record on one system.
It provides a central repository—a space where data converges from different sources and is equalised, so that data coming in can be meaningfully compared to other data sources. Smoothing out these disparate data sets is key to data being available to generate insights and, ultimately, predictive analytics that can improve project outcomes.
But for a platform to overcome concerns about data ownership and control, it needs to win the trust of all project parties. The construction platform must have a space for all project participants to store data and to decide what data should be shared.
When shared, each party must have confidence the record is indelible and not subject to change or deletion by others. And each party needs to be able to maintain ownership of its data – even after their role in the project is completed.
It can’t be the case that the project owner (who might be paying for the platform in use) can cut off access. Each project participant needs to control and own their own data.
Another way to think of the CDE is in terms of it being a data trust, a place where data can be stored, shared and accessed, but the space operates for the benefit of the project and the collective participants. It’s not owned by a single entity, it cannot be taken, altered or deleted after the fact.
Working within a true CDE addresses these challenges by forming a trusted, transparent, secure, and easy-to-use platform.
Another key element of platform-based collaboration and fostering the right environment for data to flourish and drive project improvement is that there must be buy-in from all participants. All parties must be willing to share the information, regardless of how big or small a role they play during the project lifecycle.
This buy-in is driven by trust. When project participants know they own their data, its distribution and access to it, they will trust the system and, most importantly, use the system.
This adoption drives collaboration and data sharing – and with all project participants using the one platform, the reporting and insights that can be generated increase in value. This adoption also leads to the creation of a complete, unalterable audit trail of the project.
When it comes to handover between the plan-build phase and the operate phase, an incomplete version of the project’s history isn’t going to cut it.
Along with an understanding of what data should be captured and shared on a project, the quality of the data being shared is critical. It’s about having the required data shared and ensuring the quality of that data meets the criteria required.
Even with this approach, construction projects still collect vast amounts of information. Using a metadata-based approach to document management and project communications (like RFIs for example) makes it easier to navigate through it all and report on processes.
Metadata gives documents and communication forms an identity as soon as they are uploaded or created. This helps with sorting, grouping and, ultimately, searchability.
Importantly, it should not be possible for anyone (regardless of their role on the project) to alter the data stored on the platform. It must be a secure and reliable, single source of truth.
Ensuring that nothing is altered after it has been captured in the platform is critical. The data represents an accurate reflection of the project and an unalterable audit trail of the project’s story.
The capability for all project participants to control and own their data is an important part of this, because without it, project partners will preference use of their own systems. This not only adds to the cost of project participation, but it also removes any possibility of a single version of the truth for the project.
An approach to data management where no single entity sees and controls everything also reduces liability and additional risk for project participants, particularly the organisation that pays for the overarching platform.
This is critical for any disputes that may arise in the project. A single, unalterable audit trail can show where the truth lies if a dispute arises.
For many years the construction project management paradigm has been one of control and ownership. But intuitively, as well as through experience, we know that collaboration leads to superior outcomes.
Combining collaboration with an operating model that encourages openness and instils trust is a 10x opportunity for construction and engineering businesses.
10x may even be underselling it, because it often leads to a self-reinforcing cycle, with open data-sharing driving collaboration, and good quality collaboration putting ever more and better-quality data back into the loop.
This is where intelligent construction platforms really come to the fore. Built on a CDE and enhanced by AI and ML, an integrated platform that allows each participant to own their own data and share it quickly and easily will streamline project delivery, improving the KPIs that matter – safety, velocity, quality and, ultimately, margin.
The industry is moving rapidly past that old McKinsey report identifying it as just above agriculture and hunting on the tech adoption leaderboard – but just adopting point solutions and closed, owner- or contractor-controlled systems will contribute to stagnation and not realise the promise of improved productivity and project outcomes.
The true leaders in the industry will be looking to make intelligent construction platforms central to their businesses and taking full advantage of the data-trust-collaboration cycle that such platforms create.
Learn more about Oracle Construction and Engineering's Smart Construction Platform and Oracle Aconex - the solution that eliminates barriers to collaboration and connects teams, and see how a purpose-built CDE can improve your project outcomes.
Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data; empower better decision-making; and synchronize activities across the project and asset lifecycle. Drive efficiency and control in project delivery with proven solutions for project controls, construction scheduling, portfolio management, BIM/CDE, construction payment management, and more.