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Data is no longer a term used by simply IT or finance professionals; rather, it’s a term that should have meaning in the minds of any construction leader. Big data, data mining, data collection, insights and performance metrics are terms leaders hear over and over again. However, it can be difficult to take such a large topic, with overwhelming amounts of information, and apply it to a specific work context. With this in mind, every construction leader can benefit from the value that data analytics provides.

Understanding Data Analytics

Data analytics is a process. First, it begins with leaders identifying what needs to be tracked. From there, data mining and collection tools are put in place. With the collected data, leaders can glean insights, which ultimately help leaders make informed decisions.

In the book “A Practitioner’s Guide to Business Analytics” (2013), Bartlett notes, “measurement is not the goal, but rather the approach for supplying facts. The objective of data analysis is to provide facts that will support better judgment." In short, data analytics allow organizations to make decisions based on facts, and those decisions play a critical role in organizational operations, customer experience, productivity and performance.

When these data insights are shared across teams and the organization, team members are able to make informed and influenced decisions based on analytical work.

There are several different types of data. A few of the key data types leaders often encounter include descriptive, predictive and prescriptive data. Understanding when and how to use the various types of data is critical for construction executives.

  • Descriptive data is data that shows history, demonstrating what did happen and serves as an observance of the past.
  • Predictive data often comes in the form of trend analysis as leaders seek to predict the future using data.
  • Prescriptive data provides a plan or recommended actions for organizations as they seek success in the future, influencing the future and direction of the organization.
Data Analytics in Your Context

This serves as merely a brief overview of the data analytics conversation for construction leaders. As organizations seek to strengthen their data programs, important conversations include software/technology integration, data mining, data management, data policies, data security and forecasting. However, the starting point is assessing how or if the organization currently uses data analytics at all.

1. Assess the organization

New to data analytics? Consider the following ways to start a data program.

  • Identify the key processes of the construction company. Consider the activities in the process and note an associated, quantifiable metric.
  • Integrate analytics into decisions, budgeting and strategies. 
  • Review and analyze data regularly to explore ways to optimize work.

Already have data systems in place? Consider the following ways to improve the data program.

  • Identify ways the organization is currently using data.
  • Identify current information gaps in for leaders.
  • Identify ways to strengthen the data insights.
  • Reflect on how the team uses data insights when making decisions.

2. Reflect on these important hallmarks for organizations from Davenport, Harris & Morison in the book “Analytics at Work” (2010).

  • “Analytics are embedded in major business processes, the 'workhorse' activities of the enterprise.”
  • “The company builds and continually reinforces a culture of analytical decisions, a 'test and learn' philosophy, and a commitment to fact-based decision making.”
  • “Never satisfied, and always mindful of how business conditions change, the company continually review its business assumptions and analytical models.”

Using these tools, construction business leaders will be better equipped to improve business operations using data analytics.


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