How Can Big Data Drive Smarter Decisions in Construction?

When considering the impact of big data on modern industries, it’s easiest to think first about businesses that are largely digital in nature. Some examples would include financial management, marketing and advertising, and IoT development, to name a few. In all of these types of businesses, it’s easy to see where and how big data can come into play. The truth of the matter at this point is that data is applicable far beyond the initial tech-driven industries that come to mind. And construction is one of many areas in which the impact of big data has become steadily more apparent.

In an overarching sense, today’s construction companies are able to harvest massive amounts of data and put them to use in ways that make projects safer, more efficient, and often more affordable. To dive into things in a little bit more detail though, read on for a few specific ways in which big data can drive smart decisions in the construction business.

Identifying Target Clients

We have written about ‘Defining Your Perfect Client’ before as a way for construction companies to increase the number of jobs they secure. Simply put, identifying a target market of potential clients makes marketing efforts much more efficient. A company that is marketing broadly, to entire communities, is essentially hoping to reach someone with a relevant need. A company that takes the time to assess the market and identify the people with relevant needs in advance can then market directly to those people with a much higher likelihood of converting them into customers.
Data is crucial in this process. By gathering insights about consumers — through surveys, social listening, direct engagement, or even referrals — a company can begin to build profiles of the types of potential customers most likely to need (and pay for) construction.

Explaining Project Goals

Big data tends to be even “bigger” than most people realize, particularly given all of the opportunities that have arisen in recent years for people to study the subject. Thousands have turned to online courses to pick up skills in data and enter lucrative job markets. We are now seeing universities adopting new programs, showing several more specific or niche roles that can be useful in the building industry. One example relevant to construction is the position of “operations research analyst.”
A data analyst in this kind of position is trained to assess information and “demonstrate to their employer or client the implications of different actions” and then “assist with decision making.” This essentially amounts to explaining project goals and practices in a way that ultimately sells the project. In other words, construction companies today an also take advantage of big data by using analysts to convey project needs — whether to secure funding, approve designs, or earn project contracts in the first place.

Improving BIM

Finally, there is also BIM to consider. Several years ago, BIM (or Building Information Modeling) was recognized as a trend that was “revolutionizing” the industry. Now, BIM is fairly commonplace, and provides ways for construction companies to build and adjust virtual models that reflect and inform actual projects. BIM has always revolved around data to some extent, but with today’s emphasis on “big data” there is simply more information at hand. Any and all information relevant to a project can be plugged in if necessary, to affect a model and thereby inform what needs to happen with the actual construction job.
In all of these ways, big data is bringing about smarter and more efficient construction. And the exciting thing is that we should only see further improvements from here.

Submitted by Renata Joyce

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