How is the construction industry using data, and how can contractors get started with data analytics? Get the answers.

Construction sites these days have no shortage of data: design and BIM data from the planning stages of a project, jobsite data collected by wearables, mobile devices and sensors on equipment/materials, accounting and job progress data from the office, project management data and much more. Many contractors are practically drowning in data and don’t have the right tools to parse and analyze the data in ways that would have meaningful impacts on their projects.

That, however, is changing. Data analytics and business intelligence have become hot topics in construction as firms are seeing the benefits other industries are realizing. We’ve heard our customers discuss it at both our Digital Contractor Roadshows and our Collaborate 2018 user conference this year. The industry as a whole is looking for ways to help contractors get smart about data. So what are the major trends in data analytics right now, and how can contractors start participating without getting overwhelmed? Let’s take a look.

Smartphone displaying data analytics in construction.

Several construction data trends have emerged recently.

Diving Deeper into Construction Data

Better understanding your project data can help significantly boost productivity and profitability on current projects, as well as better plan future ones. Here are just a few of the key benefits:

  1. Improving Jobsite Processes and Productivity

Contractors can improve workflows, find ways to automate tasks, find efficiencies, cut costs and much more by streamlining and analyzing data collection from jobsites. And true data analytics is more than just tracking traditional job costs and cash flow. For example, by analyzing data about employees’ movements (either collected from wearables or smartphones), you can see how much extra movement takes place in the course of a day. One contractor did just that and used the information to place materials and equipment in the most logical locations to cut down on all this movement, saving a lot of time.

  1. Reducing Risk and Increasing Safety

All contractors should track data related to safety issues. Injuries, safety inspections and other information must be recorded and in some cases submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But going a step further and analyzing data that can help you identify high-risk tasks and dangerous conditions can help prevent future incidents and reduce risk for your business.

  1. Bidding Smarter and Winning More Work

Closely tracking things like job costs, change orders, material and equipment usage and worker productivity from your projects can help better forecast future work and lead to smarter bidding. While many companies already do some version of this, having more complete and relevant data can provide a fuller picture of how jobs fare and where improvements can be made. Analyzing data also ensures your bids are more accurate for future projects, while the increased efficiencies and on-time, on-budget delivery of projects will lead to a solid reputation for your firm, helping you land even more work.

  1. Transitioning from Analytics to Predictive Analytics

Most of these trends touch on how you can plan better by analyzing data, and that leads us to another trend: predictive analytics. Ideally, you won’t only assess what happened on a project after the fact. You want data to help you make smarter decisions based on models of what will happen in the future. Your data can help you develop these models. As we see an increase in machine learning and artificial intelligence technology in our industry, this may also fuel the move to predictive models in construction.

Workers studying construction data on a laptop.

Construction software can help you analyze your data.

Look for Integrated Construction Software, Built for Business Intelligence

In order to take advantage of the power that data analytics and business intelligence can provide, you need the right tools at your disposal. First, an integrated construction management or enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform is critical. To streamline data analysis, data across the organization — from accounting to project management to document collaboration to operational workflows — needs to be uniform.

An integrated construction ERP solution can collect, store and provide you with tools like dashboards and comprehensive reporting to help you better sort and interpret data. Viewpoint’s cloud-based ERP solutions come with built-in data analytics tools to provide business intelligence and enable better planning for future projects. They also help you unlock the true potential of data by making it easily accessible in real time to everyone in your organization who needs it.

Leading construction ERP platforms are also building new data analytics tools and business intelligence solutions into the software, providing even more layers of functionality to break data into specific fields, create customized comparisons, map data, create predictive models and much more. These tools can also streamline data collection from other technologies like wearables, GPS tracking and applications for logging jobsite inspections.

The real challenge, though, is what you do with that data, which is why more and more contractors are hiring construction professionals with experience in data analytics and business intelligence. These new construction leaders, using new powerful technologies designed for construction, are at the leading edge of an industry transformation.

To learn more about how construction software can put your business on the path to successful data analytics, explore our solutions for contractors.

Posted by Andy Holtmann

Andy is Marketing Content & PR Manager at Viewpoint. He has worked in the construction software arena since 2011. Previously, he netted multiple awards as a newspaper and trade media editor.