We’ve written a lot on this blog about the importance of data in construction decision making. Joe Burkett of Cafco Construction Management shared how his company puts their data to work every day. Chris Sheridan gave us insights into how data is part of a peer review program that is preparing his company for the future. And we learned a bit about this new thing called big data (and how it relates to beer—yes you read right–and building).
In my experience, most construction firms have not yet tapped into the full potential of data-driven decision making. But there is interest, and many construction professionals are expanding their use of data to give them more visibility into their business.
What business visibility benefits do construction companies want their information technology to provide? We recently asked contractors that question in our 2014 Sage construction IT survey. Here’s what they had to say.
- 57% want standardized (or consolidated) reporting across the company. No surprises here. The first stage in data-driven decision making is automated reporting that provides a consistent view of up-to-date financial and project information.
- 52% say dashboards that track key performance indicators are important. Contractors want to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening right now in their businesses. Rather than waiting for reports that give a rear-view mirror perspective of what has already happened, they want to monitor performance daily so they can take immediate action.
- 48% would like to receive alerts and notifications when specific situations occur. Taking data monitoring one step further, a growing number of contractors are identifying specific risk areas and setting up automatic alerts when something goes astray. I’ve seen alerts set up to notify individuals by email when jobs haven’t been billed, a subcontractor’s insurance has expired, or current profits are less than a specified percent.
- 41% want forecasting. Predicting what might happen next is the highest level of data-driven decision making. Contractors who use a variety of data to make more informed forecasts and what -if scenarios can manage their projects and companies more profitably, knowing they are prepared for both best and worst-case scenarios.
- 36% feel it’s important to access reports through mobile devices. Access to job cost and project reports from the field is seen as a huge productivity factor as mobile devices take hold at job sites.
- 14% want online analytics. Looking across projects and overall business performance can provide insight into why something happened in order to formulate business strategy. This can include what type of work is most profitable or how change orders are impacting profit margins.
I like what R. Tyler Pare, a consultant with construction consulting firm FMI, said after looking at these survey results: “Simply collecting and tracking data is all for not if that data is not appropriately and effectively communicated to decision makers. The biggest challenge is how to boil down thousands, if not millions, of data points into a conveyance of information that is understandable and actionable.”
About the Author
Deb Carpenter-Beck is a writer and marketer with more than 25 years of experience in the construction and real estate industries. She often writes about technology and best practices and is passionate about helping contractors and real estate professionals achieve their business goals. You can follow her on Twitter @DebCBConstruct.