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Specialty contractors are some of the most resilient members of the construction industry—they are responsible for delivering high quality results on project after project. Of course, contractors have much to gain from a successful project—more work, more money and an overall good reputation—but there is a lot they stand to lose from an unsuccessful project. Not only is their reputation on the line, but the financial stability of their entire business could be at stake as well. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, construction and contracting businesses have the highest failure rate of any other business—up to 96% fail before even reaching 10 years in business. It is imperative that contractors find ways to replicate successful projects, and a key component of that is selecting the right technology—both to fit the needs of the company and the type of project delivery. 

For many subcontractors, the first step is moving away from paper processes—a wildly manual approach that is outlandishly inefficient. The stats don’t lie; the average cost of paper per employee is $80, it takes about 18 minutes to find a paper document, and around 70% of projects would fail in three weeks if they had a catastrophic loss of paper form a flood or other disaster. When teams stick to paper, they run a higher risk of working from outdated information, causing delays and raising the cost of a project resulting in a dissatisfied customer and losing future work. 

How can specialty contractors collect, analyze and ultimately use data to stay on budget, on schedule and continuously deliver successful projects? There are four steps they can take to not only deliver success—but repeat that success, time and time again—all through the power of data. 

1. Start With Owning the Data

Specialty contractors need to own their data. To do that, there needs to be a means and method of collecting project data. The obvious first step here is to begin digitizing workflows, but the question remains: how to get to that point of “digitization” in order to benefit from the downstream activities of having all this data? 

It begins with adopting a platform to collect that information; more specifically, a cloud-based platform. Doing so allows teams to standardize processes and workflows, break down information siloes and ensure that everyone is working from the most accurate information. And at the end of a job, teams own all their information and can tell an accurate story of a given project. This unlocks many of the doors to lessons learned from mistakes as well as standardizing and repeating successful projects.

2. Ensure Data Quality

Collecting data is important, but making sure the integrity of the data is set to a high standard is an absolute must. A recent Autodesk report showed that 30% of companies believed that more than half their data was bad—meaning missing data, a general lack of data, inaccurate or untrustworthy data, and duplicated data. 

Data quality is vital to a project for many reasons, one being that data acts as evidence when making decisions on a project. When teams use more reliable data, they can make more informed decisions and avoid wasting resources, time and money.

3. Connect Project Data in a Common Data Environment

After digitizing ensuring the accuracy of data, connecting that data is the next step of the journey. Connecting data enhances how specialty contractors share information in a way that simply was not possible with traditional methods of project delivery. Through connecting data, things like real time updates, maintaining a high level of information integrity and seamless collaboration are now a reality. Being able to leverage and connect different devices from the office and trailer, between different stakeholders to create a common data environment, is revolutionizing the way that the project information is shared and how people access it.

By connecting data in a common data environment, specialty contractors are breaking down information silos in the process. This ensures that every stakeholder is working off the latest and greatest information, which is what drives a successful project as well as a replicable one. 

4. Analyze the Data

The final, most impactful, step of the process is to begin analyzing data, turning it into actionable insights and help identify work that contributed to success or failure. Being able to analyze the data allows teams to make course corrections for projects in flight, or predictions of the data to standardize the successful projects. At the end of any given project, regardless of whether this was a success or not, teams can use data to understand the story of that project and make data driven decisions about their businesses, their projects and how they can improve in the future. 

What Metrics Should Teams Be Tracking?

There are some sample target metrics to begin with when analyzing data. Asking questions like, “How much money did we spend on rework?” and “What was the root cause of said rework?” are great places to start. One way to measure the cause of rework is RFI cause and resolution time, which answers questions like “Why do we have so many RFI’s associated to a specific trade?” and, “How do we correct that going forward?” 

Another way to measure is by looking at punch list items and, more importantly the cause of a buildup of punch list items associated with a specific project. After collecting these types of insights, teams now have data points to start making decisions and can start course correcting. One additional target metric all teams should keep track of is around safety trends. Safety is the most important factor on any project, and with safety data can help to identify risks early on.

When specialty contractors can take control of their data, the larger picture of what makes projects successful begins to become clear. With this information specialty contractors can see what exactly worked in the past that worked and replicate it, as well what did not work in the past remove it from future projects. This kind of information is vital and can truly be a determining factor on the success or a failure of future projects—both today and in the future. 


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