Don’t Let Your Data Sit There, Put it to Work!


Why construction hasn’t been ready to take advantage of Big Data

I was recently having a conversation with Julian Gonzalez with Procore at ConExpo about big data and the construction industry. You can hear part of the conversation below.


We were discussing the importance of data collection in the construction industry and Julian pointed out to me an interesting fact. Construction was positioned at the bottom of a list of industries primed to benefit from Big Data. I later research this report and it was issued by Mckinsey Global Institute in 2011. Here is the graphic that Julian was referring to.

Source: Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity, Mckinsey Global Institute

A shift in data collection

Until recently our industry has been unable to leverage big data and analytics due to the lack of digital data we had collected. Data capture was one of the main issues cited by Mckinsey Global Institute as to why were positioned at the bottom to benefit from Big Data. So much of our information was trapped in notebooks, binders and rolls of construction documents, but times are a changing. With the rise of mobile devices and point solutions specific to construction we are beginning to address the capturing of data issue. So now what do we do with all of that data?

Source: Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity, Mckinsey Global Institute

Finding the talent to analyze the data

Well now that we have that data we need to start analyzing it, but how? Our industry has lacked the talent and the data driven mindset to truly take advantage of what we have. So how do we change that? One way is through more commercially available business analytics solutions such as Power BI, Domo and Tableau. These solutions are allowing us to begin organizing and visualizing data so we can focus on what matters to decision makers. But who uses these tools? Construction does not typically employ Data Analysts. Well I have good news for you, there are likely people in your organization who can put these tools to work. Whether it be an estimator who is known for his/her spreadsheet prowess or an accountant who has been using access to do financial analysis across projects there is likely someone in your organization. Now we just have to figure out what questions we want to ask.

Asking better questions

So what do we really want to know from our data?  We can easily track pedestrian metrics like Request for Information duration and number of outstanding punchlist items but we must dig deeper.  We need to begin to overlay layers of data to truly find things that will lead us to more productivity.  Your probably asking yourself, what is he talking about?  If you have ever seen the movie “Moneyball” or better yet have read the book you have an idea where I am going with this.  Billy Bean, Oakland Athletics GM, believed he could win games by playing the numbers, on-base percentage and slugging percentage specifically.  He believed that those statistics were a better predictor of offensive success.  Rigourous statistical analysis of historical stats proved that he was right.  So what are the construction industries indicators?  Having access to more data we can now start to dig into that question.

Using Data to measure Risk

Having about twenty years of data, coming from our previous PM solution, and the results of the corresponding jobs we are starting beginning to analyze project risk using a weighted metric.  While the metric is unique to us based on our experience we are weighting certain categories to come  up with a total project score.  This Risk Metric will allow us to compare projects and allow us to focus on those that score lower than others.  This is the type of analytics that we need to investing in as an industry.

Together we can build big things

Pairing data from across the industry with new tools we can identify areas where productivity gains can be made.  Individually our data is valuable but if we choose to share that data together it could truly be powerful.  Other industries have been doing this for decades and we have just started to mass enough information to be able to encourage meaningful research such as this.  American Institute of Constructors is already doing research such as this on topics such as quality.  So I encourage you, begin to ask questions, share your data and lets get off the bottom of the list.  Lets build bigger, faster and more efficient than we ever have before.