Examining the state of data strategies in construction

December 10, 2021 | 5 minute read
Jeff Hojlo
VP of Research, IDC
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Construction organizations realize that there is significant opportunity to increase productivity, quality, and safety by finding ways to mine their data for insights that improve decision making on current and future projects.

A vast majority of contractors, subcontractors, engineers, and EPCs (engineering, procurement, and construction service companies) have a formal data strategy as of November 17, 2021, according to a 2021 IDC global survey on construction project data practices across the U.S., Western Europe, Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand.

Most (77 percent) have had a data strategy in place for more than three years, and many have elevated data strategies to the C-level. And nearly all (89 percent) want to use their data for a predictive view of their projects, to determine what is likely to happen and how they can use that info to improve outcomes.

Organizations clearly see the need for better ways to extract meaningful and useful intelligence from their data, which is key to realizing the full benefits of a sound data strategy.

Information silos

Construction organizations are digitally transforming, creating an increasingly large volume of project data, yet much of it goes unused and cannot be applied to improve productivity and quality, nor to inform future construction projects.

One reason for this is that data strategies often are supported by offline tools such as spreadsheets (and even paper), as well as construction software point solutions that don’t share data, use different data formats, and generally create data silos―with the problem growing as organizations adopt more tools.

As a result, information is disconnected across design, BIM, costing, quantity takeoffs, bidding, and project management tools.

Recognizing this challenge, 81 percent of IDC survey respondents say their data strategy includes efforts to bring together data silos for reporting and analytics in one project and portfolio management system. Another 60 percent are seeking to integrate multiple disconnected systems for seamless workflows.

Cohesive project data strategies

Without a cohesive system in place, with advanced technologies to enable inputs from across the project life cycle, there are major obstacles to disparate construction project teams working to consistently make sense of, and derive value from, the gold mine of information that is at hand.

Most large construction organizations are developing (if they have not already) virtual design and construction (VDC) teams so there is a unified, closed-loop approach that supports the entire construction life cycle.

This includes design, pre-construction, cost and material estimation, bidding and procurement, engineering, and project management all the way through handover to operations.

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But without the foundation of a cohesive, dynamic data model supporting this process, reinvention, one-off problem solving, as well as tactical and reactive change management will remain the norm at job sites.

This obviously is an incredibly inefficient and potentially unsafe way of working; one can understand why it is not uncommon for large construction projects to overshoot deadlines and budget plans, sometimes by a lot. 

This is why, when we asked in the IDC global survey what key initiatives are in place, accurate financial forecasting, mitigating risk, and ensuring quality and safety are top of the list. 

With a cohesive project data strategy in place that includes an accessible, cloud-based platform for access and collaboration along with the tools to interrogate, analyze, and federate data in real time―as well predict future outcomes―construction teams will be able to meet these initiatives. 

Working off a single data model that updates iteratively during a project enables the development of a set of leading indicators (supporting predictive intelligence), more rapid and accurate engineering change, and dramatic improvement in resource, time, and financial efficiencies.

Other reasons for construction companies moving to enhance their data strategies, according to our research, include:

  • Better communication and collaboration through accessible data, available for consumption on any mobile device
  • Secure visualization of complex data sets
  • Improved sales and marketing initiatives, to engage with owners during the bidding, and construction phases
  • Assurance of compliance, in support of regulation and initiatives such as OpenBIM, ISO 19650, and buildingSMART
  • Predictive analytics and decision support to leverage past project learning for future project excellence

Need for predictive intelligence

According to the IDC construction project data survey, predictive analytics is overwhelmingly a key initiative for construction firms, with virtually all of AEC organizations either using (29 percent) or planning to invest (60 percent)  in predictive tools over the next 12 to 24 months.

They realize that although they may have a method and the tools for collecting data (e.g., IoT, combined with spreadsheets, point solutions, and other tools), the approach is not scalable, nor does it enable them to analyze this information and provide decision support in a timely manner. 

That is, firms do not have a complete decision support environment that streamlines change management; mitigates resource, project, and financial risk; and improves project quality and delivery speed. 

In response to these challenges, software vendors that support the AEC market are striving to provide cloud-based platforms with predictive analytics capabilities.

They realize that these AEC organizations are digitally transforming―rapidly―and need decision-support capability across a multi-domain team of contractors, engineers, project managers, and service providers. 

CAD, BIM, cost estimating, bid management, contract management, project management, and other tools have been prevalent for decades in the AEC industry – but they have been disconnected, and so has the data created by these systems. 

The importance of digital transformation is well recognized in this industry, and it starts with a unified, cloud-based view of construction project data, interconnected with related information and combined for intelligence that can improve processes and productivity for current and future projects.

Message from the sponsor

To learn more about how data can improve performance across construction projects and operations, read the IDC InfoBrief, The State of Data Strategies in Construction, sponsored by Oracle.

Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data 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.


Jeff Hojlo

VP of Research, IDC

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