Business Intelligence: Where Does the Best Data Come From?

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To do business intelligence the right way, you need to be collecting data. The problem is that in this case you are collecting data from the job site and construction field. We’re here to show you how to do it.

Welcome to week three of our discussion on business intelligence for construction firms. The first week we went over why you should be doing it, and last week we talked about getting a good infrastructure started. This week we’re going over one of the trickiest problems facing construction firms who actually want some business intelligence- getting information from the field.

Where Does Construction Business Intelligence Come From?

Last week we agreed that business intelligence comes from somewhere, and more often than not that means numbers. We even told you which numbers you should start off tracking. If you forgot, make sure to check our our introduction to business intelligence for construction firms post.

But here’s the thing- all of that information is gathered in one place and one place only: the field. That’s where the manpower, material, and progress is being made and if you want to run a smarter, more efficient organization then that is the place you should be looking for your data.

The problem is that it’s easier to look anywhere else for your data. The office, for example.  The office is clean, all the work is done on computers that track numbers automatically. But the kind of data collected in a construction firm office just doesn’t cut it when it comes to making the jobsite more efficient.

That’s because the office generates big-picture data like how many new clients were acquired, how many jobs were completed in the last year, and how many subcontractors are working on a particular site.

Big-picture information is great, but it can’t improve your jobsite because it isn’t capturing the detailed data that can only be captured on site and in the moment. You can’t paint a really detailed picture with a giant brush.

The only problem is that getting accurate, complete information from the field has been like pulling teeth for as long as anyone can remember.

Why is Getting Good Data From the Field so Hard?

Because it’s complicated out there, that’s why.

That’s the reason. Building things is, by nature, a complicated thing to do. You’ve got manpower, materials, delays, building codes, specifications, RFIs, changes, all sorts of situations of all kinds and sizes. Think about getting data from such a place- it would take forever.

Consider the simple manpower report. You’d think it would be straightforward- how many people worked on the site that day. Well- let’s start off with what you define as a day. If it’s a working day of 8 hours then you might catch the night shift coming off of a large site while the day shift is coming on, effectively doubling your figures. Are we counting subcontractor crews? Because if we are, subs rarely have the same people on a site from day to day, and it’s not uncommon for them to bring on extra help or take workers off a site as different needs arise.

No matter which data point you are hoping to get from your jobsite there is undoubtedly something out there that will complicate it. It’s the nature of modern construction.

What’s the Real Problem?

You might be wondering whether or not collecting accurate field data is really a problem. After all, isn’t it just counting and writing down the number? To a degree you are right, a lot of field reporting is just counting and writing things down. It’s writing down people, hours, materials, safety incidents etc…

The problem isn’t in knowing what to report, the problem is reporting it. By and large the superintendent is responsible for filling out the daily report. They are also the ones who are trying to juggle all of these subcontractors and safety incident and material deliveries. Their day is incredibly, mind-bendingly busy and then, at the end of the day, they are meant to sit in a trailer while everyone else goes home and put down all of these numbers they’ve been seeing throughout the day.

No wonder most daily reports don’t get done, and accurate BI isn’t available to construction managers.

But the situation isn’t hopeless, though. We’ve seen construction firms out there that have not only beaten this problem, but done it in style. Join us next week!

Find the rest of our Business Intelligence for Construction Firms Series here: