Business Intelligence for Construction Firms: Field Data Collecting

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Last week, we talked about where the data for construction business intelligence comes from. We landed on the idea that it naturally comes from the construction field- the only problem was that this was a notoriously difficult place to get information from.

It was difficult to get information from there because the superintendents in the field didn’t have a good way to report the information. How can anyone be expected to keep on top of the changes in manpower, materials, and incidents that occur throughout the day and then recall them at day’s end with perfect accuracy while they are sitting in a trailer wishing they were somewhere else?

That’s why it’s so hard to get good, accurate, timely information from the field. The problem isn’t in knowing what to report, it’s in how to report it. Like we said in our first post of this series, what you need is a way to gather accurate information from the jobsite, and not just the big events either. If you want to use BI to help grow your construction firm the information you collect needs to be granular, but not so miniscule as to be unusable. It’s a happy medium sort of situation.

So how do you get accurate data from the field?

The results are in and the answer is becoming the same the world over- you do it with a field reporting software solution. And when we say software we don’t mean having your superintendents lug around a desktop. Desktop options are the worst because you run into the same problem you did earlier- a sad, frustrated superintendent sitting in the trailer wishing he could go home but instead he’s stuck trying to remember everything that happened that day.

Nope, it has to be a mobile app. The vast majority of construction superintendents have smartphones or tablets these days and an app that they can carry around with them and mark down what happens on the site as it happens and then submit their daily report in an instant is worth its weight in gold.

These mobile apps excel in the field, they were (for the most part) designed to give your field personnel the tools they need for fast reporting. And there’s not just one of them, there are a lot of options out there for the firm looking to start gathering information from their site.

The Top 5 Apps for Construction Field Reporting

While there are plenty of field reporting apps out there we decided to keep it down to just the top 5. We’ve included links to their pages so you can check them out for yourself to see all the features and make a decision about which is best for you.

By and large all of these apps handle the daily reporting basics- they allow you to upload photos, take voice-to-text notes, track weather, and offer easy ways to track manpower and materials as they enter and exit the jobsite.

So we’ve just given you some neat features that set the apps apart.

CMFusion:  The best part about  this app is that it comes with a nifty submission tracker that keeps everything organized.

eSub: This one handles all of the basics with some added features that help the subcontractor come onto a job site and report everything they did that day.

Notevault: The unique thing about this application is that they include the ability to translate spoken construction acronyms directly into the notes.

Fieldwire: Definitely more of a construction management tool, this one allows you to see drawings and markups right from the app. 

Raken: That’s us! Voted #1 by the AGC and the most popular daily reporting app around, we like to think we’ve perfected the daily reporting workflow because we’ve made collecting granular data as easy as a few taps. Neat features include the ability to capture video as well as the Super Daily, which collects all subcontractor and superintendent reports into one branded, easy-to-understand report.

That’s great, but my team will never go for an app. They’ve got too much already.

Good point- the average superintendent has about a dozen different apps and reports that they are already using, and adding one more to the mix will only anger them and waste your time and resources.

The difference is that these field reporting apps don’t add to the work they are already doing, they are there to replace an outdated, time-consuming process. Our recommendation is that when you bring one of these apps into your jobsite you just go right ahead and get rid of the corresponding, outdated process. Your team shouldn’t be using the app and gathering the information manually in a spreadsheet- that's a waste of time. Just commit and use the app to replace something they are doing already. Once your field team sees how much time it saves them they’ll be converted for sure.

Suppose I use the app and it collects the data, now what?

Now you’re ready to take the next step, which is the only step that a lot of people consider when they want to implement some BI into their business: the analysis. We’ve taken some time to consider where construction data comes from and tools to gather it so you can make sure that you’re doing this thing right from the ground up.

One last note on this- all of the apps we've mentioned here integrate with other tools like Procore. Make sure that they do- integration and keeping all of your data in the same place will make what happens next so much easier.

If you’ve got these tools in place, and they are collecting data from your field, the next step is to analyze that data.

The good news is that there are tools for that as well. See you next week!

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