Data Fluency in the Construction Industry

Data is as good as gold—it can be immensely valuable, but by itself, it’s rather worthless. As with gold, people assign value to data. In this day of rapid technological advancement, businesses and agencies in every industry aggregate mountains of data in short time spans. In order to build your business success atop these mountains, you must dig in and find the gems. Data must be mined, reported, analyzed and communicated as insights. “Data fluency” is a buzzword that gets tossed around frequently in relation to the tech industry. The truth is, the availability of data is changing every industry, including construction.

Thriving in a Volatile Market

Noam Reininger, Chief Data Officer at Gordian, says, “As the construction industry improves productivity by becoming more fluent in technology, it is critical that the same attention is applied to fluency in data and analytics.” We live in a world with a lot more variability and volatility, paired with a continuous push for more and more technology adoption. Change is happening fast. In our recent RSMeans data analysis, we found that 84 percent of construction material prices changed by more than five percent over 2018.

It’s a challenge to thrive; budgets are continuously under pressure and there is a fair amount of uncertainty in the construction industry. The struggle is real to get your estimates and bids right and complete your projects on time and within budget. The benefits from software and technology advancements alone are not enough; It’s not enough to be a tech wizard with these new tools. It’s important to be extremely adept at data fluency, the ability to manage and integrate data across the enterprise.

Data Formatting and Standardization

Data fluency often presents a huge obstacle for organizations. There isn’t a Rosetta Stone® series to teach you to be fluent when talking about your data. But, making sense of data does require a set of standards, processes, familiar terms and tools. Within an organization, it is important to be able to meaningfully discuss unique data sets, but it can be impossible if all parties are not using a common measurement or don’t share the same understanding. Construction companies that treat their data as a critical business asset are investing in data science and engineering and validating their data with reliable third-parties.

“Technology without good data is like an engine with dirty fuel.”

Noam Reininger

You’d never drive your vintage Ferrari GTO up to any old gas station for the cheapest fill-up. You shouldn’t pump bad data through your organization either. A tremendous amount of time is wasted cleaning up and standardizing spreadsheets of data to import and export from one software program to another. Standardization, the process of bringing data into a common format, is critical to achieving data fluency. Standardized data helps eliminate errors and duplications and allows for fewer variables, easier analysis and compatibility between systems. Winners have a data strategy that cleans, standardizes and maintains critical construction costs and project data with the same care it takes to maintain your vintage ride.

Siloed and Disparate Systems

Siloed software stacks in construction planning, design, procurement and project management departments bridle efficiency and collaboration. Noam says, “Mastering the data that underlies disparate projects, bids, material costs and labor is key to realizing the true potential of the great technology shift happening in construction.” Part of construction data mastery is making sure when things change on disparate projects or within separate systems, the proper integrations take place to allow for fluent data maintenance and updates.

Separate teams within an organization may utilize different software systems to accomplish their jobs. If these teams do not share information, collaboration suffers. Just as the Scope of Work and project deliverables must be communicated thoroughly, the data must also integrate fluently between systems for accuracy.

As Bob Mewis, Director of Engineering at Gordian, always says, “Accurate information is key to making the best decisions.” The higher the number of variables, the more problematic it becomes to rely on your data. You can reduce variables through data standardization, integrated systems and third-party validation. With the power of predictive data and analytics, Gordian has seen accurate, location-specific costs for more than 100 different construction projects up to three years in the future. This helps alleviate the variable that makes everyone nervous: price.

Data is a critical component of any operational entity. Companies that thrive will overcome data siloes and “dirty data” by using standardized, updated information and leveraging technology integrations. A high level of focus on data helps ensure that investments in Building Information Modeling (BIM) and project management software have a positive return on investment.

As a leading provider of facility and construction cost data for all phases of the building lifecycle, Gordian knows the importance of data fluency. Whether a contractor is cost estimating a new project or a municipality is procuring construction for an emergency repair, standardized, integrated and accurate data is critical to maximize project efficiency and optimize project time and cost savings.

Watch the 2019 Construction Data Trends Webinar for more information on data fluency, construction estimating software and data integration.