You can’t control everything on a project. Make sure you can control your data.
To anyone involved in the complicated business of managing or delivering construction projects, these statements seem obvious, even axiomatic. But there are important (really important) questions and shades of meaning beneath the data statement that warrant a deeper look.
As any project pro will tell you, the complexities, interdependencies, and risks surrounding any construction project are numerous and knotty, so they spend a great deal of time worrying about, anticipating, and doing their best to control these. But even with the best hard-won wisdom, wit, and technology, not everything can be brought under control. Ever try to stop rain from falling?
The problem at issue here arises when organizations, caught up in the above, neglect to address one critical aspect of this whole process that they can control: their own project data. So let’s look at some of those overlooked but really (really) important questions around control of data – and the risks of surrendering it.
Whose data is it, anyway?
“That one’s easy. It’s mine,” you say. “It’s tied to my organization’s work and information, and my team enters it and maintains it in the project information management software. Next question.”
Not so fast. The real answer to this question depends on what software is being used on the project. With most of the collaboration tools for project information management, the software owner – i.e., the one who pays for it – acts as the ultimate system administrator, with the ability to control every participant’s access to the system as well as the data within.
The system owner might be the project owner, or it might be the head contractor or some other delivery-side organization managing the project work. Whoever it is, this organization has the power to override security and access – and even alter – your data, i.e., your intellectual property.
In some cases, other project participants may be able to do the same with your data.
In addition, such an admin might also be able to control your access, in essence having the ability to lock you out of your own information.
So…if you don’t have full control over your data, is it actually yours?
What happens if I don’t fully control my data?
Remember the complexities, interdependencies, and risks I mentioned previously? As we all know (some of us all too well), those can quickly snowball into disagreements, disputes, even litigation.
When these unfortunate situations arise, it’s critical that there be an accurate and indisputable record of everything that happened around the problem. That’s the only way to get to the truth.
That means all of the relevant information – the correspondence, records of actions taken, related project documents, and so on – needs to be available and it needs to be reliable. Neither is guaranteed if the system permits one party to alter or delete another’s information. Any such doubt calls the whole project record into question.
Bottom line: When things get messy on a project – and they sometimes do – there needs to be a clean, indelible, and undisputed record of what actually happened. All of the information is present, accessible, and reflects each organization’s accurate contribution to the project record.
We call this an unalterable audit trail, and it is invaluable when problems arise. In the event of a brewing dispute, all parties need to know that they will have access to their data in the system and that no one else has been able to change it. Anything else invites major risks.
What happens to my data when a project ends?
Unlike the first question, this one actually is easy: You should be able to take it with you. Data control considerations extend beyond the day-to-day of the project.
Whether you are a project owner, contractor, consultant, etc., there are benefits associated with the ability to retain your data, including extracting project performance insights and equipping your organization for any potential future disputes related to the project.
How do I make sure I can control my data?
This one’s pretty easy, too: Make sure the project information management software allows you to do so.
Oracle Aconex was built from the start with data control in mind. Our unique data ownership model – put simply, your data is always and only your data – is a foundational principle.
Every participating company on a project has their own private workspace and complete control over their data. This includes dictating when and who has access to their information.
And unlike other systems on the market, Oracle Aconex doesn’t allow an administrative user to override security to allow information to be altered or prevent a company from accessing their data, and it doesn’t allow anyone to delete any aspect of the project record.
Those aspects limit potential problems and engender trust among all project teams that drives adoption and fosters collaboration. The result of all that is a complete project record on one system.
So realize that you can’t control everything on a project but that you can control your data – and that failing to do so could bring on risks that you definitely can’t control. Getting this right starts with choosing the right software. (Hint: Oracle Aconex is the right one).
Learn more about construction document control.
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.