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Project Managers Driving Demand for Better, Faster Construction Data

Fast Facts

Project Managers Driving Demand for Better, Faster Construction Data

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Construction projects today produce a mountain of data. From job costs to materials quantities to equipment usage to labor and production stats, data drives how successful a project will be. The most successful projects — and contractors — are able to accurately collect all available data and analytically dig deep into it to better understand projects. But that’s easier said than done.

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 But if getting there means using a mix of manual processes and outdated, non-connected software systems, then they’re not working as efficiently as they could be.

Recently, Viewpoint teamed with Dodge Data & Analytics to produce an extensive industry report on Improving Performance with Project Data. This report looks at the evolution of data collection and analysis within the construction industry and how roles, processes and technology are changing to drive stronger, more data-driven project performance.

Here are some takeaways from that report that showcase how project management is shifting as data collection processes improve.

Improving Construction Data Collection

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

Specifically, since 2014, contractors have reported an overall decrease in manual processes with 64% reporting improvement of data gathering and analysis capabilities (Read more about the Pitfalls of Manual Processes). Three of the most sought-after capabilities reported included the ability to:

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

The data most important to contractors? Project performance (93%) leads the pack, followed closely by payroll and manhours (76%), productivity data (75%) and safety data (64%) — all of which are clearly in project managers’ wheelhouses.

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

Better Jobsite Data

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

An early-2018 survey by Software Connect on construction technology trends noted that, 87 percent of contractors noted they were now open to reviewing cloud/hosted software.  This year’s Dodge-Viewpoint survey, meanwhile, notes that “a growing number [of contractors] are using commercial cloud service providers (37%) and software providers (25%)” to host their construction data.  While 80 percent of contractors are already using smart devices and mobile apps to collect data from the field. 

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

Looking into the future, custom designed software and commercial software are two methods of data gathering that are projected to dominate when it comes to collecting, processing and analyzing data from the field.  Contractors reported a 72% satisfaction rate with custom software and a 76% satisfaction rate with commercial software.

Benefits of Improved Data

Since its vast development, contractors have greatly benefitted from technology and enhanced methods of data collection that can be gathered. Over the last three years, 48% of project managers realized an enriched ability to win projects, better client relationships and improved reputation in the industry. With better data collection, 53% reported an improved ability to complete projects within or under budget while 47% realized greater productivity, and 46% saw an increase in profitability. These benefits will continue to rise as construction software continues to progress and open new data doors.