Navigating the Future of Construction: Leveraging Data for Strategic Advantage

In today's digital age, data has become an invaluable resource. Over 80% of construction businesses today only have either beginner or emerging levels of data capabilities. The industry is evolving rapidly, and the effective use of data to guide decision-making is more than just advisable; it's essential. So, embracing data isn’t just smart—it’s a strategic imperative for staying ahead. 

Autodesk, in collaboration with Deloitte, recently conducted an extensive survey involving over 600 construction professionals across Europe. This research has culminated in a comprehensive report that paints a detailed picture of the current state of data capabilities within the construction sector. 


The two most common challenges raised by construction businesses in our survey were cost pressures – namely cost of raw materials (cited by 50% of business), followed by labour costs (36%). Economic uncertainty (35%) and a lack of workers with suitable skills (34%) were also commonly cited challenges. Data provides a critical asset for businesses to help overcome these challenges and thrive in a competitive industry. 

Only 1 in 10 businesses are data leaders 

The report introduces the Data Capabilities Assessment (DCA) tool, a new benchmark tailored specifically for the construction industry. This tool evaluates businesses based on their data collection and analytics tools, data strategy, and data talent. Through the lens of the DCA, businesses are categorised into three levels of data proficiency: beginner, emerging, and leader, using thirteen distinct indicators. 

Our findings reveal a stark reality. The average construction business collects 11 out of the 13 potential types of data presented in our survey. Yet this figure shrinks to only eight when considering businesses that collect and analyse the data and diminishes further to three when considering the data types that businesses collect, analyse and use to make decisions.  

This gap shows that we're not tapping into the data we've got as much as we could. It's not that we're not collecting enough data; it's more about not using it effectively when it comes to making decisions. A staggering 88% of surveyed businesses fall into the beginner or emerging categories of data capability, pointing to a need for strengthened data integration in everyday operations. 

In an increasingly competitive landscape, it is common practice to identify faults and unexpected issues in the construction process through real-time data. The Deloitte Construction Data Survey uncovered that only one in seven (13%) construction businesses have access to daily insights on the projects and less than half of businesses surveyed (43%) generate weekly insights from administrative supplier data. This suggests that there are opportunities for businesses to improve their data collection and analysis capabilities that will have a clear impact on their profitability and efficiency.  

Why should construction companies strive for higher data proficiency?  

The benefits of implementing data-centric strategies are clear and compelling. As Steffan Speer, Technical Director at Morgan Sindall Construction, notes, “There are a myriad of technologies that have recently been applied to construction and the field is evolving rapidly. This can make it hard to decide what to invest in, but our simple rule of thumb is that if project teams can see a benefit, then things get implemented.”  

This perspective is underscored by our survey results: 

  • Businesses with advanced data capabilities are 1.7 times more likely to be optimistic about their financial growth. 
  • They are 2.7 times more likely to have international operations. 
  • Leaders in data utilisation average nine out of seventeen possible technologies adopted, including drones, BIM, and digital twins. 

The advantage stretches beyond technology adoption. Strengthened data capabilities drive better communication and planning between all project stakeholders, which in turn boosts productivity and efficiency in operations. 

Overcoming barriers to data utilisation 

Despite the clear advantages, several barriers hinder efficient data utilisation in construction. Chief among these are the availability of skilled data personnel, data quality, and data security risks. Over 95% of industry players face at least one significant hurdle in integrating data-driven insights into their operations. 

There are actionable solutions to these challenges: 

Skill Development: Addressing the skill gap through comprehensive data training programs can empower existing staff. Our findings indicate that companies investing in widespread data training are three times more likely to achieve leader status in data capabilities. 

Centralisation of Data Teams: Standardising data processes and establishing centralised data teams enhance both data quality and security, nearly doubling the likelihood of reaching leader status in data proficiency. 

Executive Support and Investment: Securing commitment at the executive level and ensuring dedicated budgets for data initiatives are crucial. Companies that demonstrate strong executive support and clear investment strategies are significantly more likely to excel in data utilisation. 

The construction industry is at a critical crossroads, and using data to make decisions isn't just a nice-to-have anymore; it's a must to keep up with the competition. By really getting the importance of data, tackling skills gaps, and pushing a data-first culture, businesses can tap into new efficiencies, spark innovation, and set themselves up for success in an increasingly complex global market. 


Amanda Fennell

Amanda Fennell is Director of EMEA Marketing in Autodesk Construction Solutions and Autodesk Ireland Site Lead. She has over 20 year’s marketing experience in IT, including working with some leading cloud organisations. Amanda holds an MA in Communications and Cultural Studies from DCU and is based in Autodesk’s European headquarters in Dublin.