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The True Cost of Not Having a Data Strategy

In any workplace, good decisions drive good outcomes. In construction, those outcomes can vary from staying on schedule to facing major time and cost over-runs.

But decision makers are now contending with more complex projects and shorter timelines than ever before.

In fact, four in five APAC construction professionals say schedule compression is fueling the need to make more rapid decisions, according to Autodesk Construction Cloud’s new Harnessing The Data Advantage In Construction report.

Autodesk partnered with FMI Global to survey more than 3,900 construction industry stakeholders, including more than 500 across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, and Hong Kong, to understand how their approach to data was propelling them forward – or holding them back.

And the single biggest factor interfering with making good decisions? The lack of reliable data.


Data quantity

The research revealed vastly different approaches to data strategy, but what’s almost universal is the fact that more data is being generated and collected than ever before. In fact, most project managers and field supervisors report spending two to three days a week collecting and managing the ever-increasing torrents of data.

A big factor in this workload is the multiple channels from which data must be collected, and the numerous formats it arrives in. As one subcontractor told us, “The usual way in which most construction companies operate is a lot of decentralised information.

“We create 2D designs, spreadsheets, PDFs and a whole range of different file types and formats. This is very hard to manage.”


Data quality

Not only are many streams of data unwieldy – they can also be tainted.

For the average construction firm, almost 40% of the data they are collecting is bad – inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent or untimely.

For data to produce valuable insights and drive better project outcomes, it needs to be readily:

  • Accessible
  • Consumable
  • Understandable

Worryingly, just one in eight construction professionals believe that most of their data meets this definition. This doesn’t just undermine confidence in data-driven decision-making; it undermines projects too.

Industry data indicates that for every $1 billion of revenue earned by a contractor, the total cost of poor decisions driven by bad data could be as high as $165 million. In fact, it is estimated that bad data is responsible for 14% of all construction rework.

That means bad data costs the construction industry an estimated A$2.49 trillion in 2020. And that’s before we count:

  1. the environmental cost, with global construction waste reaching 2.2 billion tons by 2025, and
  2. the reputational cost, including 77% of megaprojects being delivered at least 40% late.


Difficulties using data

Despite the vast increases in data flows, barely one in 10 construction professionals report always incorporating project data into their decision making. Most do it sometimes, at best.

These concerns over data quality are why the companies that are reporting getting the most out of their data have formal plans in place to ensure the quality of their data.

“We have invested a lot of time and money ensuring the integrity of our data. Otherwise, it will all be a terrible waste,” one told us.

Another contractor explained, “We want the data to work for us and not against us. If you have bad data, the results will be bad, no matter how good the process is.”

Among the chief challenges faced in using the data being collected are:

  • combining data from two different sources
  • grappling with missing information
  • difficulties in accessing data, either because of its structure or because other parties are unwilling to share.

Overcoming this requires both process and people solutions.

On the process side, for instance, replacing non-collaborative digital channels such as email with cloud-based, construction specific technology can ensure data is collected accurately and easily accessible.

Underpinning all of this is a firmly mapped out data strategy. Such a strategy must cover which data is the most valuable to a given team, and how it can be made reliable and accessible.

Having this not only helps you ensure your processes and tools are fit for purpose – it also helps bring the people you need up to speed.

A subcontractor in the mechanical, electrical and plumbing sector told us, ”Everything is centred on our information being iterative and creating bidirectional workflows with BIM software to drive commissioning activities out on-site.

“That means that we can actually collect data from the field and format it back into the model. We’re getting consistency through construction documentation – and consistency breeds quality.”


Data-driven decision making

Our research clearly shows the impact of trying to make decisions with bad data – the average company reports that it results in poor decisions 38% of the time.

On the other hand, those companies that have nailed their data strategy say it is driving fewer budget overruns, fewer missed schedules and fewer safety incidents.

By managing data effectively from collection to access, these are the companies unlocking its value and moving to the next level, where nothing is left to chance.

An integrated digital approach allows them to see all of the dependencies on a construction site and review the project schedule for potential risks.  They can see how a change order might affect the project’s critical path, and re-prioritize accordingly.

Despite this, one in three APAC construction firms without a data strategy say the cost and resourcing required for a data strategy is holding them back.

It’s a bit like trying to save money by skimping on maintenance – any savings you make will be wiped out when something inevitably goes wrong.

Learn more about how Asia-Pacific construction firms are using data to build better in the Autodesk/FMI Harnessing The Data Advantage In Construction report.


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