Construction in the Digital Age
Linesight's Lisa McIntyre on how technology is radically changing the way buildings get built.
When people think of construction they often envision fenced-off worksites filled with people in hard hats, stacked materials and power tools. But behind the bulldozers and cranes, every construction project generates an abundance of information, documents and data, all of which require technology to manage and utilize to the best effect.
Organizations planning new buildings often hire consultants to help them leverage this data. These specialists rely on Project Management Information Systems to organize and share data to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget.
Data complexity, simplified
Construction teams work on projects that produce a wealth of data from a variety of sources. This data can come in from different parts of the team who use diverse systems to present it in various formats – often without much standardization. Many clients need to share their data across regions or worldwide and to have it clearly understood by all parties. Hence why there are teams responsible for standardizing, formatting and presenting this data for easy distribution, presentation, benchmarking and analytics.
Here are three examples of the types of invaluable data an analyst can mine by properly managing data with the right tech tools.
- Project data: By collecting all data pertinent to a client’s project from start to finish (including operations, team and contractor performance and safety record), consultants can better reasonably predict results of different strategies, getting more accurate with every subsequent building.
- Estimating data: By taking data from comparable, finished projects and applicable market analyses, cost managers can set reasonable expectations for the costs, timeline and other metrics of their client’s projects.
- Financial data: All the information regarding money spent on the project, as well as the client’s fiscal information, can help determine any project’s costs and profitability and the project’s impact on the client’s financial outlook.
Data-driven decision-making can be a massive benefit to any construction project. To help share consistent and standardized data with all stakeholders and perform effective benchmarking, a PMIS is the best solution to manage the complexity of data, information and documents.
What is a PMIS?
A PMIS is one or more software applications that help collect, standardize and effectively utilize the wealth of data created by a project. PMIS applications differ for every industry but tend to support any information relevant to project management, including:
- Systems integration
- Project scope
- Time and scheduling
- Cost and budget
- Quality controls
- Risk mitigation
The leading PMIS applications offers a centralized system to house and standardize all project data. This includes drawings, schematics, schedules, cost information, project controls records and other data tools. It can also track contracts and invoices and build all data into multiple standardized formats.
This system makes it possible to source and track costs of materials like timber, both locally and abroad, and to know where prices are most reasonable or where clients may be overpaying for materials and supplies.
Users can also drill down into the variances, costs, and schedules of a project to understand the issues with different construction methodologies and determine whether working across different regions or countries is causing variances. If so, the software can standardize everything to help create a data-driven strategy. These PMIS systems offer a centralized place for all a project’s information for better analytics and benchmarking.
Accurate benchmarking allows a consultant to determine the ideal timeline and cost for any project, comparing the plan with similar projects along multiple rubrics. Users can then have a PMIS organize the necessary data together in an easy-to-use dashboard or export the data into different systems for analytics, reports, or other uses.
Many projects, one system
To demonstrate how useful a PMIS software can be for a company with a large construction portfolio, take the example of an organization of approximately 2,500 people delivering 1,000 projects over the next four to five years.
This many projects create a lot of data in different formats as various contractors have their own cost breakdown structures, recording systems and working methodologies. People running projects in Singapore have limited visibility on what’s going on with similar projects in San Francisco, and often, neither team can easily compare materials prices near the other project sites. They know materials and supplies are cheaper or more expensive for other teams but have no means of understanding why.
The consultant’s job in this case is to perform a complete data cleansing to bring all the data into line so all teams, regardless of location, can benefit from all available information. The consultant would first standardize all the information in the system. Then, this standardized information would be rolled out across all the client’s teams worldwide to develop a standard process for developing contracts, approving or changing orders and invoicing at every stage of each project.
This system then streamlines the standard coding of all schedules and determines their impact on the cost of each project. For new companies starting up, it is beneficial to begin with a PMIS already in place to create a sound and trackable system for project controls throughout an organization’s lifespan. More than anything, this system establishes a baseline that all team members and stakeholders can access to leverage the same data and pricing information. With all data safely stored and standardized, the consultant can help the client complete the current slate of projects and begin new ones. By eliminating early data confusion, the standardized data can help create momentum in funding and developing a roadmap for emerging projects.
Technology is a necessary part of every construction project and every project creates enough data to require its own comprehensive solution. A PMIS is just one example of how a software platform can solve a whole host of problems for businesses and their consultants and stakeholders. By standardizing data from multiple sources, a PMIS can make all the data useful to all teams and give everyone involved a clear picture of available resources and conditions. Along each step in building the structures we use every day there is a suite of technological tools to help the people in hard hats do their work.
Lisa McIntyre, director at Linesight, has over 12 years of construction experience. She is passionate about her field and proficient in value engineering, cost control, project management and risk analysis, earning her a reputation as a trusted and results-driven specialist.