Common Challenges in Construction Data Management and How to Overcome Them
August 24, 2021
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital tools across various disciplines of the construction industry. Construction companies have adopted collaboration software, data analytics programs, intelligent Building Information Modeling systems, and more. Each of these tools provides business leaders with a significant amount of data to collect and analyze. However, nearly half of construction managers still collect and process this data manually.
While most managers and executives recognize the importance of on-site data collection, they find it challenging to implement proper data management guidelines across their operations. Here are some of the most common data management issues faced by construction businesses in the U.S.
The most common data management challenges faced by construction companies
A lot of data is wasted
Between contractors, sub-contractors, on-site staff, suppliers, and other stakeholders, construction projects generate a massive amount of data. This data can be used by business leaders to gain insight into the successes and failures of their current operations. However, as much as 80% of this data is usually left unstructured and therefore, considered to be “dark data.”
Construction companies can sometimes fall into the trap of mindlessly collecting data without having systems to process and analyze it. This data is often kept in multiple, unconnected spreadsheets and documents. Consequently, the majority of data generated by on-site equipment, paper forms, and office software is never used, wasting time and effort.
Multiple project stakeholders create disparate data structures
Construction projects almost always require a significant amount of collaboration between internal and external stakeholders. Each of the parties involved in a project would have some form of data structure they use to collect and manage information internally. When these parties come together and share information, this information is inevitably stored in different structures and with different field names. This makes it extremely difficult to create a true overview of the project and leaves business leaders with incompatible pieces of a giant puzzle.
For companies to view and analyze this data, a unified structure has to be applied. However, it can be difficult to convince the various stakeholders to spend time and resources restructuring data in a way that forces them to change how they handle information within their business silo.
Decentralized data banks further entrench information silos
Information silos represent a massive operational problem for construction project managers. They cause significant challenges in communication and can cost construction businesses billions in rework fees. This reluctance to cooperate between divisions is caused by information being stored in decentralized data banks, making it difficult for each business division to access current information. This is especially true in a post-pandemic world where there are still teams working remotely while some are already back on-site.
Project managers and supervisors still rely on paper forms to conduct safety checks while communication between teams is still done via email or chat applications such as WhatsApp. This creates multiple chains of communication, entrenching the silos that already exist in the project and creating gaps in communication that lead to errors and inefficiencies.
How construction companies can improve data management across business divisions
Increase accessibility by democratizing data access
Regardless of how much data is collected or how it is stored, it provides little value unless it’s accessible across the organization. Disparate data sources create pockets of information that create barriers to communication and coordination between project teams. This can allow mistakes and overlapping data to go unnoticed until it is time to consolidate this information for processing at the end of the project.
With advancements in data analytics software, each member of the team can view real-time operations statistics and highlight areas for improvement and collaboration. A fully integrated system also aids in producing an automated data flow that allows information to be sent where it needs to be, when it needs to be. Being fully informed helps project managers overcome barriers to collaboration and create a silo-busting mentality among members of the construction project.
Replace manual data collection with digital tools
To maintain a high standard of compliance and safety, project managers gather data from construction sites. With effective site documentation, project managers can reduce rework, minimize risk, and create a more efficient jobsite. However, despite its importance, many companies still rely on individual spreadsheets and forms. These manual processes create significant challenges, with data duplication and input errors being common in a vast majority of these manual data management tools. To combat this, project managers must adopt technology that collects and stores data digitally. Integrated data management software allows jobsite information to be gathered and shared with all stakeholders quickly and accurately.
Conduct all operations from a unified data source
Construction projects are dynamic and the needs of the project owner can change significantly depending on the latest supplier information, regulation, or brief change. This information is often shared with the various stakeholders in a variety of ways, creating a time lag between that information being available and shared with the different members of the team. Therefore, construction companies must ensure that all data is kept in a unified data bank, so the latest information is always available to project managers, business leaders, and onsite staff. Using a single data source also reduces the likelihood of information being viewed in the wrong context or without the necessary complementary data.
How to extract the maximum value from large amounts of operational data
Construction projects require various kinds of data to be collected. With proper data management techniques, project managers can ensure they gather all insight available from their pool of data. The integration allows disparate systems to work together properly and consistently. Only then can construction businesses make the most of their digital tools, consolidate data sources, and increase information access across the business.
About the author
Tom Stemm is the CEO/Founder of Ryvit. He was inspired to build Ryvit when several of his clients in the construction industry had asked for some customintegration development work. At the time, Tom was part of the founding team at GadellNet (a fast-growing IT consulting firm in St. Louis, MO), and they realized that there was a significant gap in the construction tech industry – namely that, while tech purchases were high, the adoption rate of those solutions throughout all stakeholders was still lagging. After a very diligent launch process, Ryvit was born to address the rampant problem of a disintegrated tech stack in the construction technology space. Tom continues to lead a team of integration developers, application enthusiasts, customer heroes, and sales superstars on a mission to eliminate duplicate data entry and rampant data errors from the construction technology world.