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The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis, impacting every person, every company and every country worldwide. For industries that have been deemed essential by federal and state governments, such as construction, the challenge is not how to shutdown but how to keep going. Even though most construction sites have the option to stay open, projects face difficulties with high absenteeism, shortages of supplies and scarce or unpredictable subcontractors. General contractors and construction executives now find themselves fighting this situation on multiple fronts during these unprecedented times. 

One of the greatest assets a construction firm can have at their disposal in times like these is trusted supplier and subcontractor data. Information is always available, even when people are not. Data facilitates visibility, even when people cannot make eye contact from a corporate office or a construction site.

The following five strategies outline some of the immediate business benefits associated with having trusted data—at all times, but especially when in a crisis.

1. Who’s who?

Let’s start with the basics. A major benefit of trustworthy supplier data is having access to a centralized resource that can inform project leads that have worked with the organization in the past (with 100% certainty). That resource should also provide additional details such as the full capabilities of the supplier, including geography, diversity eligibility and how to contact them. Having this information significantly accelerates business operating procedures. It helps eliminate having to jump through legal hoops or conduct a lengthy and cumbersome supplier onboarding processes.

2. Actionable accessibility

Knowing who current suppliers are is a must, but in the face of this crisis, many companies are overwhelmed with stock shortages—especially with imported materials. This is no time for an arduous, time-consuming new supplier discovery and sourcing process. If contractors need a product or service, they need it now. Having fast access to new suppliers that can meet the demand for materials and services, or step in to supplement supply chain shortages, is critical.

As Graham Ryan recently wrote for Construction Executive, “Labor and material challenges often lead to project delays and cost overruns, presenting budgetary and profitability challenges to project management.” Trusted supplier data can strengthen contractors’ response to those challenges by helping them identify new suppliers faster and making more informed decisions during the supplier selection process.

3. Sharing is caring

Executive teams that are accustomed to coordinating projects from corporate offices are now trying to function remotely in a virtual workplace. Managers are scattered, working from their homes, and potentially unable to visit their jobsites depending on local restrictions. Any difficulties associated with access to information under normal conditions are amplified under current market conditions. Project managers end up contacting the same suppliers looking for similar products and services. This process leads to confusion, repetition or the duplication of efforts—a misuse of scarce resources that no company can afford under any circumstances.

4. Open communication channels

Having easily accessible supplier contact information holds very little value if contractors don’t use it. As much as companies need access to trusted supplier data, those suppliers also need updates on the status of the contractor’s project. Project managers should be communicating with critical suppliers and subcontractors regularly to keep them up to date on changes to schedules and new policies that affect them. These are the times when effective communication can save the day—potentially even building stronger relationships for the future.

5. Incoming information

Effective communication has to flow both ways. It is reasonable to want suppliers to update their status, capacity and any innovative ideas they have for addressing the changing market dynamics. But with that said, they have to share those updates in the most efficient way. In some cases, suppliers can leverage shared platforms to provide standardized messaging and generalized updates to all of customers simultaneously. Approaching communication holistically is a much better use of supplier resources than having to send many individual emails or make dozens of phone calls. Mass communication also prevents the need for suppliers to decide who gets the information first. It democratizes information distribution, making sure that large contractors receive data at the same time as smaller firms.

If there are two things that all industries need to improve during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is handling disruptions with visibility and speed. For the construction industry, the best way to achieve both initiatives is to have a trusted, and centralized supplier data resource that keeps project leads informed, enables communication and helps navigate material shortages. In this way, crucial construction projects can thrive during challenging times.

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