It’s no secret that in recent year’s construction contractors have gotten much more tech-savvy. They have largely shifted from a collective industry that has resisted emerging and new technology to one that’s highly embracing it. From end-to-end, integrated construction software solutions to electronic construction documents to the broad, heavy use of mobile apps and devices to gather data and execute tasks in the field to shifting to cloud-based solutions for their complete construction management needs, construction contractors are now mostly on the cutting edge.

A mountain of data today is produced by the construction projects. From materials quantities to job costs to labor and production stats to equipment usage, data drives how successful a project will be. The most successful contractors and projects are able to accurately gather all available data and dig deep analytically into it to better understand projects. However, that’s easier said than done.

For instance, ask virtually any project manager and they will tell you they are consistently behind, buried in a mountain of paperwork and swamped with work. Their entire body of work is judged by just four words: “on budget” and “on time.” But if getting there means using a combination of outdated, non-connected software systems and manual processes, then they’re not working as efficiently as they could be.

While much of the construction industry has embraced a digitized approach, some construction contractors are still quite hesitant to digitize their operations and move on from manual processes. The construction contractors have realized all the benefits of having real-time information on hand to make important decisions; the peace of mind from having data backups and electronic documents should issue arise, and the integration of technology solutions to deliver one source of data throughout the entire company. The era of the digital construction contractor is here.

Now, the construction contractors are consistently looking for new ways to elevate digitization to the next level, but using cutting-edge technologies to help better collect, store, analyze and segment their data to better understand their organizational health and projects. This data transformation has significant legs in the construction industry, as evidenced by a report from a leading technology company.

The construction contractors report the increasingly growing ability to collect and analyze data is poised to improve key project outcomes according to specialty trade contractors, construction managers and design/build firms that were surveyed. When asked about increased technology advancements and use, 64% of the respondents said that their ability to collect data and analyze data has improved or significantly improved.

Improving Construction Data Collection:

Being able to efficiently and accurately collect data is a necessity for project managers. Spreadsheets are expected to continue to decrease in use over the next two years as technology continues to grow within the construction industry, with the percentage of construction contractors depending on them falling from 40% in 2015 to a projected 14% by 2021. As a result, project managers are turning to software solutions and are adapting to these changes, which will allow them for automated data collection and centralized organization.

Since 2014, construction contractors have specifically reported an overall decrease in manual processes with 64% of the respondents reporting improvement of data collection and analysis capabilities. And three of the most sought-after capabilities reported included the following ability:

  • Collect accurate and timely data from the field
  • Trend analysis across projects
  • Collect data that is easily comparable across projects

When asked about the most important data to contractors, 93% of the respondents said project performance, closely followed by 76% of the respondents that said payroll and man hours, 75% said productivity data, and 64% said safety data; all of which are clearly in project managers’ wheelhouses.

As construction software solution capabilities advance with current and emerging technologies over the next three years, the number of project managers using these solutions is expected to increase by 20%.

Better Jobsite Data:

The ability to collect data from the field led the pack in looking at the most important data capabilities for construction contractors over the next three years, with 54% of respondents listing it among their top three needs. And construction contractors are increasingly moving to cloud-based technologies to gather field data.

Software Connect carried a survey in early 2018 on construction technology trends noted that 87% of construction contractors mentioned they were now open to reviewing cloud-hosted software. And this year’s survey from a leading construction software company noted that a growing number of construction contractors are using commercial cloud service providers that account for 37% and software providers that account for 25%, to host their construction data. While more than 80% of construction contractors are already using mobile apps and smart devices to gather data from the field.

For now, though, many project managers are still sticking with manual processes and spreadsheets, with technology and software advancing, spreadsheets are increasingly becoming less acceptable, and an average 28% satisfaction level was reported.

When looking into the future, commercial software and custom-designed software are two methods of data collection that are projected to dominate the construction industry when it comes to collecting, processing and analyzing data from the field. Construction contractors reported a 76% satisfaction rate with commercial software and a satisfaction rate of 72% with custom software.

Data collection delivers impactful change:

The new report by a leading construction software company reveals that construction contractors believe improvements in the field data collection will bring helpful, impactful change over the next three years, driving the digital transformation of the construction industry. The results can significantly increase key project outcomes like budget, productivity, and profitability; if important business data normalization can be accomplished.

The finding of this report reveals critical call-to-action for continuous improvement in the construction industry;

  • Many construction contractors still have concerns about storing their data in the cloud, and specifically around how secure their cloud-stored data will be. Both general construction contractors and specialty trades list security concerns as the top reason for not managing data in the cloud, and 65% still use on-premise servers among those surveyed.
  • Construction contractors using commercial software to collect job site data report significantly higher satisfaction rates than those using spreadsheets or paper forms.
  • While 86% of the respondents are relying on anti-malware software to address data security concerns, just 45% of those surveyed have implemented employee compliance training.

Better measurement of project performance:

Collecting siloed data from across their company to improve and analyze project outcomes is a key challenge in the entire construction industry. From the office, across their extended teams and into the field, construction contractors are demanding better, easier and more consistent collection of data, in order to enable better measurement of project performance and drive toward greater gains.

The report surveyed construction contractors about their existing means of gathering and utilizing data, where there are still data gaps and how they’re planning their own data transformations.

The following six are valuable highlights from the report;

1. Data Collection has improved in Recent Years:

Based on the report, more than 64% of construction contractors are reporting significant improvements in the ability to collect and analyze data in the last three years. This is largely because of the advancements in the cloud and mobile technology solutions that are easily available to construction contractors, which make it quite easier get data from the field and share in real-time with the back office. The report also pointed out, of special note, that 12% of construction contractors mentioned the ability to run advanced data analytics as a top reason for moving to the cloud.

2. Project Performance Data is the Most Sought after by Contractors:

Before everything else, construction contractors want to know what’s going on with their existing projects, with more than 93% of the respondents mentioning this as a top need. Also ranking high among the top concerns are streamlining payroll and labor hours stated by 76% of the respondents, finding productivity gaps stated by 75% of the respondents and collecting safety data stated by 64% of the respondents.

3. Commercial Construction Software the Preferred Way to Gather and Analyze Data:

ERP platforms or construction-specific management software solutions are now the preferred approach to collect, parse and analyze data, with an average 76% of construction contractors either very satisfied or satisfied with these solutions. However, the report also noted that less than half of contractors are content with this approach, while there is still some reliance on more manual methods like spreadsheets.

4. Project Financials Remain Top-Generated Report:

Based on the findings of the report, project financials are still the most commonly used across the entire industry as stated by 93% of the respondents. Following project financial, project logs are the second most commonly used as stated by 83% of the respondents, then comes safety reports as stated by 73% of the respondents, and equipment maintenance and costs are positioned at last stated by just 52% of the respondents. And it’s quite clear that productivity and costs are of the top importance for construction contractors.

5. The Role of Data Analysis is moving Beyond Senior Leadership:

Increasingly more and more project leaders in the field and in the office are taking on the role of making key decisions and analyzing projects. As software solutions and technologies become more intuitive and accessible, it is becoming much easier and simpler for project stakeholders at every level to be able to analyze data in formats that are very relevant to them and also to their specific roles. And as much as 41% of specialty contractors and 34% of general contractors are now easily performing data analysis while in the field.

6. More than Half of Contractors are looking at Data to Predict Future Events:

Though the group of construction contractors currently are still looking at historical data to gauge what happened on a project and why it happened, and then help determine the actions to take, 55% of the construction contractors are looking at the data in predictive models, leveraging data to help them better understand where and when future triggers or events will occur and how to effectively plan for them.

Benefits of Improved Data:

Construction contractors have hugely benefited from enhanced methods and technologies of data collection that can be gathered since its vast development. And over the past three years, around 48% of the project managers realized an enriched ability to win better customer relationships, projects and improved reputation in the entire construction industry. With improved, better data collection, more than 53% of the respondents reported an improved ability to complete projects under or within budget while 47% of the respondents realized greater productivity, and another 46% of the respondents saw an increase in profitability. In the coming years, these benefits will continue to grow as construction software solutions continue to progress and open new doors for data.

Transforming Construction Data with data and technology:

There has been a growing demand for a data transformation in the entire construction industry as construction contractors become more tech-savvy and they’ve seen what industries have been able to do with business intelligence and advanced data solutions.

While construction data is the backbone of most technology solutions, the way construction contractors apply benchmark and look at the data can open the doors to better projects and better planning.

Using cloud-based, integrated software solutions to deliver data in real-time with leading-edge security measures and also providing the functionality and tools to work with data in ways that weren’t possible before, you can help your organization transform entire operations and better scale for growth in the future.

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