Contractors lost an estimated US$1.8 trillion to bad data in 2020.
That’s a big number, and it can be tough to see how it applies to your business, right? Well chances are good that you, too, are suffering from bad construction data, which in turn prevents ad hoc analysis and impedes growth.
Bad data is incomplete, inaccurate, or inaccessible information you’ve collected that just isn’t doing you any good – and if you’ve got some, you’re in good company. So, when you ordered too many supplies for a project? Overbid on a job? It wasn’t you; it was your data.
The findings come from a survey conducted by FMI Corporation and Autodesk, which also found that nearly a third of respondents felt they were receiving bad data, and that in many cases was leading to bad decisions and stymieing ad hoc analysis efforts.
Where Does Bad Data Come From?
Let’s look at some of the sources of this poor information you’re getting. Most companies have some sort of method in place for collecting information from job sites. You may have paper forms, emails, scheduled meetings, and text messages flying back and forth, that keep office and site connected… sort of. If there’s a hitch in the original plan, however, these communication techniques may fall flat.
The problem lies in the lack of consistency and organization in these methods, which can hamper your efforts to pivot direction in a crisis or get you through a dispute.
Pen and Paper
A paper record of events can be an invaluable tool for collecting information, but it suffers some major pitfalls. The first is in collection itself. Forms that are half-filled include only half of the required information. Words may be indiscernible, numbers may be smudged, and names may be misspelled, all of which prevent a company from drilling down to the truth during an ad hoc analysis. Papers get wet, dirty, and eventually, some get lost, rendering them completely useless in the future.
That leads to the second downside of paper: its organization. How many times have you found old notes stuck between the truck seats? Missing documentation doesn’t help back up your version of events in a legal dispute. Unless they’re meticulously thorough and organized, paper notes are inadequate for tracking jobsite goings on.
Even meticulously gathered and filed paper notes lack in shareability. How is paper information disseminated around the company? Managers may not get paper updates about site activities until weekly meetings, and by then it’s old news. Any time crunch or site crisis has been handled before managers can get a long view on the situation.
Paper had its time as a data collection tool, but that time has passed.
Spreadsheets are pervasive in construction. For many years Excel was considered the cutting edge for data collection and storage, but it, too, suffers major downfalls that can cost companies big money.
A single spreadsheet can have formulas numbering in the thousands, any one of which could have errors that misrepresent the data. Company owners are often astounded to find out how inaccurate their spreadsheets are – the same sheets they’ve been using as a basis for making huge corporate decisions and on which they base their bids.
Excel has one up on paper, though, it can be emailed around with ease. But with everybody passing around versions of a spreadsheet, it’s nearly impossible to tell if you’re dealing with the latest data, and even tougher to keep information secure.
How Do You Communicate?
We could go on from here with all the ways you obtain and store information – take email for example: have you ever had to find a specific email about a specific project? Book a couple of days to flip through thousands of correspondences to find the right one.
And if the email in question was in an ex-employee’s email folder you may have trouble gaining access to it at all. What about text messages? What a nightmare!
Construction is a complex industry that requires systematic methods for collecting information on each job and organizational methods that will make key data easier to find in the future.
Incomplete Data Can Cost You – Big Time
What is all this hard-to-find, incomplete, miscalculated information costing your company? It may be more than you think. Consider all the times you make decisions based on your gut, on how you’ve always done it, or on the information in your spreadsheets.
You May Be Bidding Too High – Or Too Low
Accurate bids are created using front-to-back knowledge of average administrative, labor, and supplies costs on similar jobs. The best way to gauge these costs is first to recognize like projects based on key criteria and then to analyze data about them. Without complete and correct information, you may be bidding blind. If you guess or use wrong information to construct your bids, you may be leaving money on the table by bidding too low or go the other way and lose jobs by bidding too high.
There are two ways to improve your construction profit margins: to earn more money, or to do more with what you already earn. Thorough project data can open a window into daily site operations, so that you can recognize and amend inefficiencies. Rework is a classic example: though it’s pervasive throughout the construction industry, its roots lie in bad data – either the wrong information has been passed along, or the correct updates were badly communicated. By finding and eliminating rework, you could do more with less and improve your bottom line.
Learning From Your Past
When you can look at projects you’ve done before and figure out how to do the next one better, you can avoid pitfalls, do things better, and could even earn more money for your work. Accessible, accurate, and easy-to-find data can help you avoid scheduling problems, and pivot workforces when an interruption occurs to improve the way you do you work.
How to Fix Incomplete Data
Luckily, you don’t have to succumb to the pitfalls of incomplete data. Current data solutions use a few key strategies to help you get a handle on what’s happening at your work sites.
First, systematic data collection, can ensure that consistent metrics are being tracked company-wide, to get the coverage you need and giving you a benchmark for comparison.
Real-time updates provide a single source of truth for the project – no more working from outdated instructions or struggling to fill in an entire spreadsheet data immediately before a meeting.
Finally, data integration across the various stages of the construction process puts an end to data silos – each area of your business can be educated by past experiences.
Prophix not only aids in the data collection process, but it also solves a data visibility issue, making it easier to find and use the information you’ve gleaned through your past projects. This hard-won expertise can tie together with current project knowledge to help you identify inefficiencies, spot problems before they occur, and bid better.
Get Good Data, Get Better at What You Do
The biggest problem with incomplete data is that it stymies the feedback loop that can help leaders improve their businesses, and their industry. By building a true and complete picture of the work as it happens, companies may actively get better at what they do, and improve their profit margins in the process.