Those who joined us at this year’s Tech Day event in Santa Clara, Calif., on October 4 got a first-hand glimpse at the role Big Data is playing in construction today, and the reaction thus far has been very positive.
This past year we have been focusing a lot of editorial content online and in print around the idea of ‘building with Big Data’ and our annual half-day conference was the culmination of the topic.
Throughout the day our jammed-packed agenda featured builders, contractors, educators, consultants, and others, all giving their interpretation of what Big Data means to them and their operations. And the message came across loud and clear. Even during the keynote, which Peggy Smedley and I delivered, I was a bit taken back by just how many folks in the audience were thinking about Big Data. I’d like to say we have played a hand in that market acceptation, but truth be told construction has long been building on the idea of Big Data. Ideas like BIM (building information modeling), green, collaboration, and such are all based on the premise of having good, solid data in hand. And that is what the construction industry has been good at generating for years. However, it is the idea of turning that data into information—valuable information, and information that can be trusted—that has long been the hold up. And now that we have all these great new technologies and devices designed to get at data in new and exciting ways, there is no doubt this will be more important than ever.
During our keynote we introduced our four phases of Big Data, intended to help the construction industry set a framework for how to capitalize on Big Data in new and exciting ways. I am sure many of you are trying to get your arms around some, if not all, of the four phases internally, which are Capture, Analyze, Access, and Share. Each action plays a pivotal role in the idea of turning data into the actionable information necessary to build with Big Data.
And taken in isolation they are all very much valuable. But it is only when all four phases are appropriately executed that the true value of Big Data can truly be achieved in construction. The Capture phase is self-explanatory, given the myriad of ways in which data is being recorded on jobs today. Given the advent of new connected devices that allows us to capture images, sounds, documents, and more, we now have the power to literally turn anything into ‘data.’ The Analyze phase plays a critical role, in that it becomes your ability to interpret that data in new and meaningful ways. The Access phase comes back to those devices in that you now have the ability to take that data that you have captured and analyzed, and bring it out to the field where those who need it the most can access it any time, from any place. And of course, the Share phase helps spread that knowledge to extended parties.
But perhaps most important of all is before you begin applying the four phases of Big Data, the very first question must always be: What do you want to do with the data? Because anyone can just collect the data; it’s knowing the purpose of the data and what you ultimately want it to do for your company that will help you Build with Big Data.
Big Data: It’s All around Us
We had a great turnout at our annual Tech Day event in October and I attribute that to the topic of Big Data. After having numerous conversations before and after the event, I am more convinced than ever that construction companies of all sizes are trying to get a better handle on what data is the most important.
More specifically, what data is going to make each individual firm more efficient and improve the bottomline. At the end of the day all the rest of the data that we talk about is just extraneous information that you really don’t need and most likely will never really use. Too much information is never consumed.
It’s a matter of knowing what information will be most powerful for making decisions right at the jobsite. The key is to understand that data cannot be siloed. Simply, siloed data might as well be useless data. As every GC knows, all decisions are predicated on examining an action from a job at every angle.
For instance, you need to know not only if material is going to be delayed at a jobsite, but also what is the ripple effect that will cause every other action on the job to be impacted by this event. Likewise, you need to know how you can predict key patterns as a result of the data you have in front of you. Today that insight can make the difference when it comes to achieving profitability in construction. And that’s truly the power of Big Data.