Big data in Construction

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original article by Singlepointsolutions

An example of how big data can help businesses can been seen in the world of retail. Retail businesses are now able to take data from past customer buying patterns, from their internal stock information, from mobile phone location data, social media as well as external weather information, then analyze all of this in seconds so it can then send vouchers for a BBQ cleaner direct to a mobile phone, but only to those people who own have previously purchased a BBQ, who are living within a 3 miles radius of a store that has the BBQ cleaner in stock. Big data is creating a “big brother” environment, big data means power!


So what does this all have to do with the Construction and House Building industry. Let’s first look at why we have so much more data in the Industry than ever before . Data is being generated through all kinds of systems helping businesses carry out all kinds of business processes. From construction programmes to customer care snagging lists and purchase orders to invoices, data is being entered into all kinds of systems by all areas of a modern Construction or House Building business. Take a major construction project and the treasure trove of big data that will be generated. Without much effort, it’s possible to discover masses of data related to everything from planning, procurement, plant, commercials, finance, human resources, sales, customer care together with a range of communications and events that have taken place during the project.

So how can “big data” help in world of Construction and House Building? The use of big data analytics can help companies keep projects on time and on budget by providing insights based on the data generated through out the project lifecycle. Business systems and communications tools can be connected to “big data” applications which will enable construction firms to gain increasingly accurate insights in to operational and financial information, allowing managers to create budgets and programmes that are better equipped to accommodate the rigours and changes of the real world.

There are five broad ways in which using big data can create value.

  1. Big data can unlock significant value by making information transparent and usable at a much higher frequency by a wider audience.
  2. As organisations create and store more transactional data in digital form, they can collect more accurate and detailed performance information on everything from job costs to supplier and subcontractor performance, and therefore expose variability and boost performance.
  3. Big data allows ever-narrower segmentation of customers and therefore much more precisely tailored products or services.
  4. Sophisticated analytics can substantially improve decision-making by assessing trends and real-time data.
  5. Big data can be used to improve the development of the next generation of buildings and and services – (BIM will be major factor in this development).

So, how much data is big data? Most organisations are not drowning in data – they have completely manageable volumes to contend with. If you are from a small to medium sized company you might feel like the “big data” conversation is not about you, but you would be wrong. In fact, companies of all sizes can get value out of “big data”. Size doesn’t matter; the real value of “big data” is not be able to collect all the dots you possibly can but in being able to connect the right dots to give you the picture you require.

Once you stop worrying about the volumes, you can focus on the more interesting bit: bringing all the different types of data together. In some instances, this is already happening and companies are collecting information to track project lifecyles by joining up information generated in various systems and bringing it together, using EPM’s and other reporting and Business Intelligence tools. By joining these data sets together, they can see the full picture in one location. Budgets can be compared against actual figures of build times, costs and revenues thus enabling businesses to plan, monitor and control projects in a better way in the future. The potential for “big data” in Construction is limitless.

It has been well noted that the use of big data will become a key basis of competition and growth for individual firms across many industries, why not Construction? From the standpoint of competitiveness and the potential capture of value, all companies need to take “big data” seriously. In most industries, established competitors and new entrants alike will leverage data-driven strategies to innovate, compete, and capture value from deep and even up-to-real-time information. So the question is can Construction leverage “big data?”

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