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How to Develop a Data Strategy for Your Construction Business

Every construction project yields data that can be used to improve a company’s performance. The key is knowing what data to gather and how to analyze it. Construction companies should have an overall data strategy that provides guidance for how to gather construction data, analyze it, and how to communicate the insights to key stakeholders.

Benefits of a data strategy

Gathering and analyzing data from their projects can help contractors and suppliers

  • Increase their productivity
  • Raise profits
  • Improve bid accuracy
  • Predict problems before they occur

Companies that don’t utilize the data they have are leaving money on the table. Even small contractors can benefit from data collection and analysis.

Companies should be focused on gathering the data that will provide the most value for their business. That specific data a company chooses to analyze will change over time. A contractor may start by analyzing costs, and once they are under control, move on to analyzing productivity. Companies can always find areas to improve, and data helps them know where to start.

How to develop a data strategy

Developing a data strategy is a six-step process:

  1. Choosing strategy objectives
  2. Identifying the data to be collected
  3. Determining how to collect it
  4. Purchasing technology
  5. Assessing skills and capacities
  6. Implementing and managing the strategy.

Data strategy objectives

The first step in creating a data strategy is to determine what problem(s) you are trying to solve. Companies may look at multiple issues at the same time, but a good rule of thumb is no more than three major focuses at the same time. Construction companies may start with costs or productivity, as these are key issues that affect job profitability.

Companies should ask employees at all levels what problems they think data could help them address. Project managers may be interested in costs and productivity, while superintendents may want more information about safety on the job. Once you’ve gathered input from all the key employees, you can decide which objectives to focus on during the initial data analysis. Objectives should be revisited regularly as the data reveals new insights.

Data requirements

Once you’ve decided on the goals for the data strategy, it’s time to determine what data you need and how to get it. Each strategy objective will require different types of data and retrieval methods.

For example, cost data will most likely come directly from your accounting software, while productivity information may be gathered from individual timecard entries made by workers in the field. This information may be available from one source if the accounting software is integrated with timecard entry. However, some companies may get their timecard information from a different software program than their accounting, so they need to figure out how to retrieve that information and gather it in one place for analysis.

Data governance

Data governance deals with issues related to how you get the data you need for your analysis. It has to do with:

  • Data quality
  • Ethics
  • Privacy
  • Access
  • Security

You need to make sure that you’re getting high-quality data and that it’s stored securely to prevent a data breach or loss.

For example, data quality is an issue that all contractors face. Your data strategy should include processes to help ensure that you’re getting accurate, up-to-date information before you perform your analysis. Knowing when up-to-date information is available is key to determining the timing of your analysis.

Technology

Now that you know why you’re collecting data, what data you need, and how you’ll collect it, it’s time to assess your current systems to see what software or hardware you need to invest in. This could include:

  • A more robust accounting program
  • Time tracking software
  • Project management software
  • Another software as a service (SaaS) solution

You may also need to invest in additional hardware to ensure that everyone who needs access to the data has it.

Technology assists in the process of collecting data, storing it, analyzing it, and communicating what you’ve learned. The more integrated your software and hardware solutions, the easier it will be to communicate the big picture to a larger audience. If team members only have access to one platform or piece of technology, they won’t be able to see the relationships between that data and other platforms. This could lead to making decisions that aren’t fully informed and end up hurting productivity or increasing costs.

Skills and capacities

Next, you’ll need to do a realistic skill and capacity assessment for your team. Honestly look at where you need help in implementing your data strategy. Your team may be good at collecting data but doesn’t know what to do with it to find out what you need to know. Or you may find that your team can gather and analyze the data, but has a hard time communicating it in a way that everyone understands.

Once you’ve figured out where you need help, you can use training or outsourcing to help close those gaps. Maybe your employees need advanced training on a software package to be able to complete the analysis you’re looking for. Or you may determine that it’s beneficial to outsource the data analysis altogether, so your team can focus on gathering quality information and acting on the results.

Implementation and management

Before beginning the implementation of your data strategy, identify potential roadblocks or challenges that you or your team may encounter. Develop additional processes, requirements, or procedures to deal with these potential problems. By planning for difficulties ahead of time, you reduce their ability to stop the implementation in its tracks. When the team knows how to react to a problem, they can address it and move on.

Once the planning is complete, you can begin to implement your new data strategy following the processes and procedures that you’ve selected. The key to a successful implementation is to remain flexible and be prepared to address issues as they come up. As the amount of data you’ve collected increases, you’ll continue to gain new insights into how your company works. Use these insights to guide further improvements in your processes and track your progress so you can see the benefits.

Construction data is a gold mine of information

Many construction companies have only a little data on their jobs, or if they have some it isn’t very robust. The more data you have, and the more detailed it is, the more beneficial it will be to your company. Having a software system that allows you to customize the amount and type of information you’re analyzing will help you as you grow in your data use.

Assignar has that flexibility, along with the ability to analyze data and quickly let you see where you stand on key measurements. The more information you have, the better your insights will be, and the more you can improve your company’s performance. If you’re ready to start using construction data to improve your productivity and increase your profits, contact Assignar today.

Dawn Killough is a freelance construction writer with over 25 years of experience working with construction companies, subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator. She writes for several construction technology companies, contractors, and material suppliers. Her published work can be found at www.dkilloughwriter.com.

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