Improving efficiencies in the planning, design, and execution of construction projects is the ultimate goal of construction management. Projects ought to be completed on time and budget, and according to quality standards to meet clients’ requirements while maintaining profitability for the construction delivery team. As a resource-intensive activity, construction requires the use of specialized tools and techniques that ensures the adequate monitoring and control of people, resources, and activities from start to finish. To keep up with such an intensive undertaking, a data infrastructure is an indispensable tool in the modern management of the construction site.
Construction as an “information-intensive” process
Construction is an “information-intensive” process where each phase generates massive amounts of data. Construction is a complex undertaking involving lots of interconnected activities spread across different stages . Depending on its size and complexity, a typical construction project may involve between less than a hundred to thousands of activities and tasks . These activities could be happening within the same or different organizations; located within or away from the construction site; and spanning single or multiple periods. Construction information range from drawings, specifications, models, reports, budgets, contracts, calculations, purchase orders, permits etc . Such complexity makes the task of keeping steady information flows and adequate communication a challenge. The need to ensure the right decisions are made by the right people at the right time make information a vital part of the decision-making process . Therefore, it is in the best interest for construction teams to manage information properly.
Lot Kaduma & Oliver Eischet
Information Management from a Construction perspective
Although there has been a steady growth in the use of Information Technology in construction, research has shown that the data generated is not being utilized nearly to its full potential. According to a 2018 study by FMI Corp, a staggering 95% of all data captured goes unused in the Construction industry . This suggests the amount of wasted potential that would have enabled the desired productivity in a sector that has been reluctant to change. It is important to note that the prevalence of unused data in the construction industry could be attributed to the popular use of stand-alone solutions such as Word, Excel, WhatsApp, Email, etc. Such solutions store data in different places and create information “silos” — where data is isolated and inaccessible between different groups within an organization. Information silos cost construction companies time and profits yearly as teams struggle to keep track of data from multiple sources. To make matters even worse, a construction project would involve multiple organizations with different operating cultures being required to collaborate temporarily . Such fragmentation creates even greater data silos in a project considering that these popular tools were not purpose-built to meet the specific complexities of the construction industry . The lack of adequate data integration between groups within different organizations has turned construction projects into hubs of “unstructured” data being generated daily. Unstructured data can be textual or non-textual (such as audio, video, and images), and generated by people or by machines . Unstructured construction data is often created by people and difficult to record and analyze which hinders informed business decisions .
Data-Driven Approach for Construction Management
As companies begin to transition from manual and paper-based processes to digital workflows, a data-driven approach helps Construction teams to effectively generate, find, gather, use, share, and store information that can be used according to each activity and in a timely manner. When data is “structured” to a specific activity, it becomes information that is clear and useful to the user. This provides transparency on the overall status and performance of projects which results to better decision making, improved efficiencies, and business growth .
Access to a data infrastructure is an indispensable tool in modern construction management as mentioned earlier. The prevalence of cloud-based platforms in the Information Technology space has become a needed game-changer for data management in the construction industry . Tailor-made Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions with x-Dimensional integrated web and mobile apps are enabling speed in executing construction activities through the automation of manual tasks. Core features ranging from document management, project management, submittals, plan markup, reporting, communication among others provide a “single source of truth” where all information can be centrally created and accessible through the web to all team members. Another unique feature of cloud-based platforms is the availability of digital “dashboards” for enhanced data visualization and analytics to provide real-time visibility. By keeping track of all projects in one place construction teams can save time and increase profits while sticking to quality compliance. Above all, the benefits in time saving and central access of information (structured and unstructured) through cloud platforms will allow construction teams to adopt a proactive and predictive forecasting function .
Understanding the setbacks that may arise in the wake of switching to new tools and techniques in an industry that is reluctant to change is a critical step to ensuring the successful adoption of a data-driven approach. Considering that success depends on the active participation of a diverse variety of users (foremen, construction managers, suppliers, designers, owners, etc) — it is important to provide solutions that are cost-effective, easy to understand, and demonstrate a concrete value in daily usage.
Our next post will highlight on the types and uses of information by various stakeholders in a construction project. We will explain how data is created, and why it needs to be integrated across the lifecycle of a project.
 “The Construction Process — Different Stages — Explanation”, Maytin Engineering, December 12 2018, https://maytin.com/the-construction-process/
 “Project Management for Construction”, Carnegie Mellon University, 2008, https://www.cmu.edu/cee/projects/PMbook/09_Construction_Planning.html
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 “Study: 95% of All Data Captured Goes Unused in the Construction and Engineering Industry”, FMI Corp, November 12, 2018, https://www.forconstructionpros.com/business/press-release/21031884/fmi-corp-study-95-of-all-data-captured-goes-unused-in-the-ec-industry#close-olyticsmodal
 “Why Does the Construction Industry Love Silos?”, Richard J. Driscoll Consulting Engineer, September 15, 2017, https://www.richardjdriscoll.com/2017/09/why-does-the-construction-industry-love-silos/
 “Breaking Down Information Silos to Improve Construction Project Productivity”, Nintex, May 30, 2018, https://www.nintex.com/blog/breaking-down-information-silos-to-improve-construction-project-productivity/
 “What Is Unstructured Data?”, MongoDB, https://www.mongodb.com/unstructured-data
 Matt Ryan, “‘Unstructured’ data: gleaning insights from info beyond rows and columns”, Construction News, 05 July, 2021 https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/tech/unstructured-data-gleaning-insights-from-info-beyond-rows-and-columns-05-07-2021/
 Tom Rice, “Dealing with Data in the Construction Industry”, Constructor Magazine, https://www.constructormagazine.com/dealing-with-data-in-the-construction-industry/
 “Cloud adoption is rising in the AEC — but what are we missing? Sage weighs in”, BuiltWorlds, June 29, 2017, https://builtworlds.com/news/cloud-adoption-is-rising-in-the-aec-but-what-are-we-missing-sage-weighs-in/
 Marcel Broekmaat, “Data-Driven Construction Management”, Construction Business Owner, February 20, 2018, https://www.constructionbusinessowner.com/technology/data-driven-construction-management