The world of data and analytics can feel inaccessible and foreign. Particularly to construction, an industry grounded in the physical and driven by people.
At the recent Hanson Wade - Advancing Construction Analytics conference, there were some hard truths and growing pains shared behind closed doors. We heard from a wide caliber of ENR companies that:
- Our industry hasn’t determined what ‘good’ looks like for key performing indicators (KPI’s) and process standards needed to measure and undertake predictive analysis…particularly when it comes to safety.
- “Big Brother is watching you” – there is a fear of the transparency data brings
- Data cleanliness and accuracy is a major problem across the board
- Organizations are lacking capacity and expertise in data and reporting - this is making it challenging to get the right information, at the right time to their teams.
Industry guru and keynote speaker, Jit Kee Chin from Suffolk, was encouraged by a noticeable shift over the past year. Organizations are moving away from software point solutions and disparate data, to data warehousing and wide-spread use of PowerBI to aggregate and centralize data. But if we consider ‘crawl, walk, run’ as an analogy of data and analytic maturity (aside from a few outliers who are walking), at best, our industry is at the crawl stage (or about to start).
Jit Kee Chin’s advice was: "Be smart around investment decisions – in no way should this slow down the advancement of data and analytics."
So what do these investments look like for those at cutting edge of data and analytics in construction? How can this help us solve our productivity and risk plague?
There were many ah-hah moments. Here are just a few:
“Start with the End in Mind” by focusing on ‘bottom-up’ problems
Two important questions were posed by Grace Herrera, EHS Systems Manager at DPR Construction, “what problem are we trying to solve? And what questions are we trying to answer?” David Grosshuesch, Manager - Data Analytics & Insights at Mortenson explained, “first, listen to your professionals”. This means you’re solving real-world problems and providing another tool for their toolbox to enable your teams to do their job more effectively. And in turn, it helps you obtain buy-in for digital projects.
By focusing on the desired OUTPUT for your team, this will help you define data input needs and dashboard metrics.
‘Top-down’ culture of support in face of performance transparency
Jit Kee Chin coined this “surfacing pain”, which occurs when data quality is improved and true performance surfaces. Leadership must embody a culture that creates safety, inquiry and provide support to teams to improve performance in the face of transparency. Not default to a punitive response. “Unless you reveal you can’t improve”.
Build your foundation first for quality data and performance insights.
Consistent processes have consistent reporting. Simplistically, data of medium-high quality is created by a thorough process of cleansing and standardizing workflows. Following, data is linked to these workflows. If data is not linked to a workflow, it does not provide performance insight. From here dashboards and performance metrics can be developed.
On KPI’s, there were many questions and ideas shared, which suggests it’s a priority but is still in testing and research phase. We learned:
- KPI’s should measure process adherence and be things that managers can control so they see movement and feedback as they’re using software tools.
- Once you have process adherence – you then can look back and see whether the process led to the outcome you were hoping for.
- Where there are KPI’s you must provide individuals with the training and data visibility they need to achieve these KPI’s.
Looking ahead, the amount of data construction businesses gather is amounting rapidly. Increasingly, leading enterprises view their data as a strategic asset, helping them improve a project’s chances of success through repeatable methodology, this will become a competitive advantage.
We’ll be back next year and are excited to see how these trends evolve. We’re placing our bets on a move to more open application project interfaces (API’s) and more maturity around KPI’s. This will allow clients to pull data from a number of platforms to suit their unique work flows and better measure and support their team to improve performance.
Remember, (if nothing else!) start with the end in mind and build your foundation first.
What are the problems teams need to solve and how can data help improve their work-flows?
What data to do need to provide and how will you measure performance?
How will you respond to the transparency?
Check out Brad and Grace’s bite-sized session ‘How DPR Construction is Enabling Their Future Connected Job-site’:
Curious, where are you on your data journey? Take the poll and find out how you stack up against other poll takers: