The Importance of Capturing Data on Site

September 15, 2021
If data is the new oil here’s 5 areas we should focus on to get better at drilling!

If data is the new oil here’s 5 areas we should focus on to get better at drilling!

15 years ago Clive Humby, a British mathematician and data science entrepreneur, said “data is the new oil”.

In the past 15 years the construction and engineering industry has invested billions in technology but has it created abundant wells pumping out data to be refined and enrich us all or just shiny platforms and refineries with a trickle of genuine value?

We explore 5 areas that must be addressed to capture and benefit from a data rich environment.

1 – Use the right tool for the job and stop trying to adapt the old ones

The journey of technology in construction started in the office with computer aided design and computational analysis software. It has only recently, with the advent of mobile applications and advances in connectivity, ventured out on to site and the “coal face” of projects where the actual physical work is happening. The result of this has been decades of investment in software which interprets data sets, provides reporting power and delivers knowledge to senior management based on mostly manual input and transcription from paper processes. Other industries have historically been more proficient and effective in capturing raw data (finance, automotive, aviation). Significant investment was made to capture data without worrying about the journey beyond into information, knowledge and wisdom – if you gather it that will come!

2 – Education, empowerment and feedback

Through education and empowerment we must improve how we capture data and bring those responsible for capturing it on a journey which shows the value of what they are harnessing and delivers at least some of that value back to their day jobs. How often are we asking site teams to complete administration processes with no explanation of the value or link to their own tasks? This leads to lower quality records and dislocation of the data expected and the data collected. In the same way that professional office based staff wouldn’t accept poor quality solutions for design, planning, project management and contract administration we shouldn’t treat site staff as second class citizens when considering the digital tools at their disposal.

3 – Mobile first

Platforms and technology built for the office and professionally qualified users may not easily translate on site. Mobile first, simple, streamlined tools are the only ones which will be adopted enthusiastically and the ongoing advancement of front end technology means that tools entirely focused on this approach will always outperform those extended from office applications or in-house developed applications.

4 – Direct cost is only one part of the ROI calculation

When considering data capture applications, ROI calculations and business cases generally focus heavily on the direct cost efficiencies. What about the following?

  • Likelihood of adoption resulting in quality data inputs.
  • Resilience, ongoing maintenance costs and information security risks.
  • Indirect costs including opportunity cost, contractual/commercial risk mitigation.
  • Staff morale – what’s the impact of building an inferior lower capital cost solution or extending an existing platform outside it’s core capabilities to your site teams?

5 – Focus on the top 20% and put a value on qualitative feedback

Don’t deploy solutions where there’s already problems – those problems are most likely people and leadership related and not systems and tools dependant. Put potential solutions in the hands of your best teams and watch how best practice spreads and acts as a catalyst for improvement across your organisation. Seek out qualitative feedback to maintain quality data inputs –answering the question “will this solution capture the data I need?” is not as effective as “will my teams enthusiastically adopt and use this solution capturing the data I need?”

At Raildiary all we think about is how to better capture and analyse site data in the rail industry. Click here to contact us today to find out how we can support you to do the same.

The Importance of Capturing Data on Site

Nick Woodrow

Operations Director

A positive and outcome focused chartered civil engineer with over 20 years spent in a broad range of businesses successfully delivering complex projects & leading teams at C-level.

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