The Case for a Truly Common Data Environment

As we constantly hear, our industry is faced with ever-increasing pressure to collaborate more efficiently, gather and share more data, increase visibility, reduce cost, time and waste. At the heart of the conversation on how this can be done is the Common Data Environment (CDE). 

A CDE is the single source of information used to collect, manage and disseminate documentation, the graphical model and non-graphical data for the whole project team,’ says the BIM Wiki. ‘Creating this single source of information facilitates collaboration between project team members and helps avoid duplication and mistakes.’ Great!

The problem much of industry is currently faced with is that there isn’t one Common Data Platform, meaning in effect there is no Common Data Environment.

Let’s look at the definition of ‘common’ for a second. As an adjective it means widespread, prevalent. But, in a fragmented industry there’s a multitude of CDEs out there,  meaning we’re still operating in siloes from the design phase of a project through construction and operation.

 In addition to several available CDEs, many companies aren’t accessing the cloud at all, using different, multiple, often inefficient tools to manage and share data – or investing in point solutions to solve individual challenges on individual projects – rather than looking at the way they manage data holistically.

Many conversations we have with customers about data are categorised as follows:

  • Some are not using cloud at all
  • Cloud is used, but someone in the supply chain has a preference for ‘AN other’ CDE provider
  • CDE is only used within the design teams

Let’s look at some of the issues related to the above statements. Issues we’re all familiar with.  

No Cloud Solution – Free DE is not a CDE

There are many ‘free’ or perceived lower cost solutions out there that can be availed of. But what are the real costs? What’s the annual cost of using the wrong version of a spreadsheet, or PDF? What’s the cost of losing access to a file storage solution when someone leaves a company? The cost of the loss of key information on any project is always far higher than many consider it to be at the start of a project.

Generating and Accessing Data

Some startling figures came out of Autodesk’s FMI report in 2021 that show just how much data and time is wasted on every project:  

  • 95.5% of data in engineering and construction goes unused.
  • 13% of construction teams’ working hours are spent looking for project data and information. That’s 13% of construction teams’ work spent looking for 4.5% of the entire available data.
  • 30% of engineering and construction companies are using applications that don’t integrate with one another.

Data Control and Ownership: Document Management is dictated by our clients”

Many firms use their own CDE for sharing information internally and storing their own intellectual property on projects. When it comes to the end of a project, they simply transfer a copy of the files to the contractors or owner’s CDE. A lack of a central hub of information for the project is detrimental not only to the project teams but also to the owner. Information can be unreliable and increases project risk. This is a fragmented and inefficient use of CDEs.


Confusion, duplication and missing information are frustrating, and make people look for blame. When they’re not placing it on one another, they then turn to blame the software. And if people can’t trust their colleagues and tools, what does that say about the working environment of the industry today?   

What’s the Solution? Finding Common Ground

At Autodesk, we know that the way forward is to provide Architects, Engineers, Construction Companies, Owners and Manufacturers with a truly ‘common’ data environment that enables easy transfer of data between hubs, whilst allowing all customers to own their data.

Imagine if all project collaborators were working from the same CDE from the very start to the very end of a project, using digital workflows to communicate in real-time and track project progress? Not only would this speed up the handover time, it would also be a more productive way of working across the supply chain from the outset.

Strength in Numbers

As we’ve stated, a collaboration platform’s strength only comes from its number of users. We can only ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’ if everyone has the sheet and we all have the same songs on it. We recognise this so we are enabling ALL our customers to access the Autodesk Construction Cloud platform for a very manageable fixed cost.

Our goal is to get away from conversations about who is paying for the CDE at the start of a project and to truly put data at the centre.  This means any Autodesk customer who has an Autodesk AEC collection, already has access to our Autodesk Docs platform.

Learn about the essence of a CDE from our senior product manager, Joan Allen.

Autodesk Docs

With Autodesk Docs you can organise, distribute, and share files across the project lifecycle from a single document management platform. Right from project kick off the design team can store drawings and other documents and share them with internal collaborators and external stakeholders.

Importantly you retain data ownership while enabling greater collaboration with the entire project supply chain.

Autodesk Docs is a cost-effective way to keep the right information in the right hands, making sure on every project data is accurate, accessible, complete, valid and consistent.


Our passion is to unify teams, data and workflows. Making true collaboration and sharing across the project lifecycle a reality. Without A CCDE (a common, common data environment) it is nigh on impossible to do that.

The time and cost savings are there to be made, if we find the common ground to make it possible.

To find out more about Autodesk Docs visit our site here. If you’re an Autodesk AEC Collection owner or user and would like to find out how you can access and expand Autodesk Docs usage, click here to request a demo

AJ Jenkins