Digital Builder Ep 76: The Opportunity – Improving Data Capabilities in Construction

If you work in the construction industry, you are likely handling data in some way, shape, or form. “Data” may not be in your job title, but you’re certainly contributing to and utilizing it. Research shows that companies produce around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily, so gathering and managing information is a way of life in our industry. 

But here’s the thing – are you handling data effectively? And if not, how can you level up your data strategy? 

To answer that, we caught up with Nick Hull, an Associate Director at Deloitte. Autodesk and Deloitte recently published a report called The State of Data Capabilities in Construction. Being part of the team that created that report, Nick shares valuable insights and key findings from the study.

Watch the episode now

The Opportunity: Improving Data Capabilities in Construction

You can also listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and anywhere else you get your podcasts.

On this episode

We discuss:

  • The benefits and ROI of having a solid data strategy.
  • What sets data leaders apart from other construction firms. 
  • The steps you can take to uplevel your data capabilities. 

Background and methodology

Why did the Autodesk team decide to launch the report, and how did it come about?

According to Nick, the State of Data Capabilities study started from a conversation about the construction field and the role of data in helping teams overcome the challenges they face.

“The construction industry had gone through a hard time with COVID lockdowns preventing work from happening, along with severe supply chain disruption. That caused inflationary pressure and the inability to find raw materials. So, really, the idea behind the research was understanding how data can help.”

To surface their findings, Deloitte surveyed nearly 1,300 construction firms across the globe about their data practices and then analyzed the results to identify trends and insights.

“We used the survey responses, and we essentially used 13 key indicators to categorize those businesses into beginners, emerging, and leaders,” explains Nick. 

From there, they measured and compared the performance of different segments and extracted key findings. 

A tremendous ROI in improved data capabilities

As it turns out, there’s plenty of room for improvement in how construction companies manage their data. 

“Four out of five construction companies could significantly improve their data capabilities,” says Nick. For instance, the study shows that while most construction firms collect data, “far fewer were actually putting that data to work and using that to inform decision-making.”

But here’s the good news: when you enhance your data capabilities, you see substantial benefits in your bottom line. 

According to Nick, businesses that improve their data capabilities (i.e., become “data leaders”) see a 50% increase in their average profit growth.

How can you become a data leader?

While different companies are at various stages of their journeys, Deloitte and Autodesk’s research shows some common denominators among data leaders. Here are some of the best practices leading firms implement when it comes to construction data.  

Leverage what you have ASAP

The first step, says Nick, is to “put your assets to work.” He stresses the importance of acting sooner rather than later, especially in today’s economic landscape. 

“We are seeing one of the most competitive industries facing some of the harshest economic outlook in terms of high inflation and a lot of uncertainty that’s coming up. So, now is the right time to ensure you are making the best use of your data.”

Improve your company-wide data literacy

Did you know that 13% of construction businesses don’t have any data training at all? This, Nick points out, is a concerning detail, given that having data capabilities is such a competitive advantage. 

And the research supports this view.

According to him, “Organizations that train their whole staff are two and a half times more likely to be data leaders than businesses that don’t.”

So, if you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to develop data training for your entire organization. As Nick puts it, “Data literacy is not only for your data analytics team. They won’t be the ones collecting the data or implementing the lessons you learned. So it’s really from your apprentice right up to your C-suite that needs to understand data literacy.”

Break down silos

Nick also brings up data silos and how eliminating them can lead to better data capabilities. 

“The days of Excel sheets being saved to the desktop, hopefully, are far behind us,” says Nick. He adds that having a central platform for all your data not only streamlines accessibility and collaboration but also helps promote consistency and best practices with data management. 

“If you’ve got one set of data, you’re analyzing it in consistent ways. As such, different teams can use that data effectively. It also allows them to invest in security to protect that data consistently. The idea of having weak spots in your data, just because this team does it differently, gets eliminated when you’ve got a centralized data team,” remarks Nick. 

New podcast episode every week

Digital Builder is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. Remember, new episodes of Digital Builder go live every week. Ready to become the data leader you were meant to be? Be sure to catch this entire episode. 

Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.