Optimizing your construction company’s data can lead to higher revenues and profits and more efficient business operations, according to expert panelists speaking during a recent webinar.
Optimizing data means “creating experiences to make your jobs easier in the field and for your executives, and to streamline your operations,” said Yahia Kala, product manager for analytics at CMiC, which sells a software platform for construction company management. But, he added, “You need to collect it so it is good quality and…create reports that are accessible and allow stockholders to make decisions.”
Kala and Sergio Diaz De Leon of Dryco Construction discussed how to collect data and analyze it during a webinar sponsored by Construction Dive, our sister publication.
Diaz De Leon, senior data anaylst for Dryco Construction in California, said his pavement maintenance, custom concrete and fencing firm creates reports and dashboards for stockholders to consume and act on.
“We have become more forward looking instead of backward looking,” Diaz De Leon said, noting the contractor has increased its profit margins by 15% because of its data collection and analysis process.
“We had one big project, and saw that our margins were decreasing,” Diaz De Leon said. “We were able to take action and increase our margins.”
But timing is everything, the presenters said.
“The faster you can get the data processed to be analyzed the better,” Kala said. “If you make decisions based on data that is from last week or last month, it doesn’t allow you enough time to recover.”
If your construction firm is large, Kala recommended hiring a data analyst “who can walk the line between the construction world and data world.” Diaz De Leon said the person needs to have a technical skill set but also know how to ask the right questions of company stakeholders.
Likewise, contractors should automate as much of the data collection and report generation process as possible and send an email to stakeholders when the data changes. “This made us faster, better, more efficient,” Diaz De Leon said.
But the data must be accurate and complete, so your company needs a process in place that ensures these things, Kala and Diaz De Leon said—and you need to collect data for more than your biggest projects.
Kala also said you’ll need to adapt out-of-the box software to work for your company and “doesn’t just sit on the shelf.”
There are several obstacles to data optimization in construction, the presenters said.
“Different stockholders will view the data at different times and see different numbers and think the reports are wrong,” Diaz De Leon said. “What is really happening is that data is being refreshed (every two hours at Dryco) and the data changes.”
Another issue is you must get buy-in from senior leadership to invest in the right software and hire people with the expertise to use it. “Very little happens if you don’t have executive sponsorship,” Diaz De Leon said. Kala added if you start using the fundamentals of data optimization and can show value, it’s easier to ask for the investment.
Many contractors collect data in the field on iPads or mobile apps, but sometimes that data is not accurate, or it is in an inconsistent format.
“We experience a lot of that from the field,” Diaz De Leon said. “Anytime there is manual input, you’ve got to expect some inconsistencies.” Dryco Construction solves that issue, he said, by sending an alert to stakeholders and having someone check the data’s quality.
Training is important for the field staff, he said: “You are bound to get a lot of mistakes if you don’t invest in (training). Training leads to better data and it’s a lot more consistent.”
Finally, Diaz De Leon said, “Having a data analysis is very important; it’s probably the best thing you can do for your company because of the amount of data that is being consumed.”