Building a data-driven culture in construction

Building a data-driven culture in construction

As the construction industry continues to move forward and embrace the digital transformation of its core processes, putting a focus on data analysis will continue to become more important for all leadership and construction management positions. Construction is making the effort to shift from manual processes to cloud-based, automated software and technology for workforce planning. That shift will inevitably result in a wealth of project and workforce data being captured from every phase a project goes through.

USING DATA TO MAKE INFORMED WORKFORCE PLANNING DECISIONS 

According to FMI, 95% of all the data captured in the construction industry goes unused. On top of that, 13% of construction teams’ working hours are spent looking for the correct project data and information to keep projects moving forward.

As with most industries making the shift to digital, there’s likely only a handful of people employed by general contractors that have the specialized skills to analyze and pull key takeaways from your data when it’s being stored in a spreadsheet system. It’s important that your organization:

  • Makes data analysis approachable for team members that aren’t “data experts”
  • Clearly defines what success means, and then measures it
  • Ensures the right people have access to the data they need
  • Puts a focus on education and the benefits of being a data-driven culture
  • Consistently make, and communicate, workforce decisions supported by data

In this article, we’re going to discuss a few steps your organization can take to build a data-driven culture.

In a recent post by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), they identify the struggles in shifting to a data-driven business as often simply a technical struggle, but also a cultural one.

HBR has put together a list of data commandments that can help to create and maintain a data-driven culture. We’re going to outline some of their key suggestions and narrow the scope to discuss what that means for the construction industry.


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DATA-DRIVEN WORKFORCE PLANNING WILL ALWAYS START FROM THE TOP DOWN

General contractors that pave the way for data-driven cultures do so by having their leadership set the expectation that decisions must be supported by accurate data before making decisions. Leadership needs to enforce this as a regular process and not something that happens occasionally.

Your operations and project management teams should lead by example. For instance, ahead of workforce planning meetings your teams should regularly update and consolidate all relevant information and spend some time preparing to discuss project progress, changes they think should be made, and the data to support those changes. Making this a regular practice helps to extend the culture downwards throughout your company. It demonstrates how decisions are actively being made and the data supporting them. Team members that want their input to be taken seriously will begin to adapt their approach to be centred around actionable data.

ALLOW YOUR TEAM TO ACCESS YOUR DATA REGULARLY

This is one we hear about often in the construction industry. More often than not, data is maintained in a series of spreadsheets and the team member responsible for maintaining the data is understandably hesitant to allow access. Human error and altered formulas can quickly result in a spreadsheet becoming unorganized or can simply break it, requiring dozens of hours to fix. However, by denying access, the team members that are looking to use data to support the decisions they’re making will always come up short and your data-driven culture won’t get off the ground.

Let’s use workforce planning meetings as an example again. For a general contractor looking to allow access to their workforce data, it’s a good idea to start slow. There are alternatives to spreadsheet systems that’ll allow you grant different access to team members and not only dramatically limit the impact they can have on the data, but also present your data in an easy-to-understand way that doesn’t require them to be “data experts”.

Construction workforce planning solutions like Bridgit Bench allow administrators to create custom permission groups. By doing so, they can differentiate levels of access to their workforce plan for their operations team, project managers, and superintendents. Everyone has access to view the data that will support their decisions, but the risk of human error is gone.

In being consistent with the “top-down” approach to building a data-driven workforce plan, ensure your leadership team is given access to data to create metrics and company strategies that are data-based.

QUANTIFY UNCERTAINTIES INTO ISSUES THAT CAN BE SOLVED

Knowing with absolute certainty is an impossible task. However, HBR suggests that if you require that your leadership and project teams quantify their uncertainty, it can have 3 powerful effects on your organization.

  • It forces decision-makers to grapple with potential sources of uncertainty. Is the data accurate and reliable? How can new factors be incorporated when there isn’t existing data? These questions can often lead to uncovering new ways of updating processes and problem-solving.
  • Your data analysis provides a deeper understanding of your models when they have to evaluate uncertainty. This can help to paint a more accurate picture when running scenarios with active project bids based on the likelihood of winning/losing bids.
  • Understanding uncertainty will also push your organization to run experiments. Whether it’s trying out a project team that’s never worked together or taking on a project your organization hasn’t managed before, “trial and error” allows for small opportunities to discover new methods to support widespread changes.

KEEP TRAINING RELEVANT AND AT THE RIGHT TIME

It’s pretty standard for general contractors to invest in large training efforts that include as many team members as possible to save on costs. The problem is team members that don’t have a chance to immediately put that training into practice will often forget what they’ve learned. Offering training that leads directly to the practical application of new skills will help reinforce those skills and create a foundation of confidence when using data to support decision-making.

Be sure to also communicate to your team how using data will positively impact their work specifically. If you vaguely explain how using data effectively will affect the company in the long run, team members may hesitate to abandon current practices and revamp their work. If you communicate how it will directly benefit them as individuals – avoiding rework, saving time – they’re more likely to invest in the change.

EXPLAIN ANALYTICAL CHOICES TO MORE PROVIDE CLARITY

Ask your teams about the steps that were taken to approach a project decision. Ask what alternatives were considered, what the positive and negative trade-offs are, and ultimately why the end decision was made. This will enable your team to consider alternatives and change previous assumptions when attempting to solve problems. If there’s a member of your operations team that assembles project teams in a different way and uses data to explain their methodology, it can help enlighten everyone else with a similar role.

Like most industries, general contractors (and the different teams and divisions within them) will hesitate to shift to data-driven decision-making. The alternatives can often seem risky, incur a new cost, or appear difficult to enforce company-wide. Having accessible data helps provide evidence and support to new ideas, and gives operations teams the confidence to adopt new or improved processes without feeling like they’re jumping into the unknown. Creating a data-driven culture isn’t easy. It requires leadership to lead by example and create expectations for the rest of the team, but once you’ve started taking steps to make the shift, you’ll see decision-making in a new light.

Bridgit Bench is the leader in construction workforce planning because it makes data analysis approachable for every member of your team. We aim to enable operations teams to make data-driven decisions when it comes to workforce and project planning by providing customizations that allow general contractors to track people and project data specific to their company needs. Bridgit Bench will also help to better understand your workforce utilization and match your teams’ titles and availability to unfilled project roles to maximize productivity.


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Michel Richer - Content Marketing Manager

Michel Richer

Michel Richer is the Content Marketing Manager at Bridgit. He got his start in the construction industry at an early age with a local restoration company. Michel is driven to propel the construction industry forward by helping to eliminate outdated, ineffective processes.

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