Using Data Sharing to Forge a
True Partnership with Your Project Owner
By AJ Waters
November 04, 2020
Partnership. It’s a word that gets used a lot in construction. However, operating in a true partnership, to achieve that elusive “win-win” is often difficult when constructing a capital project. First, there is the challenge of location with the owner often not “living” on the project site with the contractor. Second, there is the challenge of technology and the difficulties of disparate systems with little to no integration capabilities. And third, there’s the simple fact that owners and contractors are rarely, if ever, tracking a project in the same structure or buckets, or speaking a similar project language.
All of this adds up to one thing; owners are left feeling like they are being held at arm’s length and are not true stakeholders in their own projects. But while it may feel like contractors are intentionally withholding information, the truth is that they both absolutely want the project to succeed. After all, it’s in everyone’s best interest that it does. This is where effective data sharing, particularly through an integrated project controls platform, can help. Let’s take a look at the why, what and how of it all.
Why It Pays to “Pull Back the Curtain”
Asking, “What’s in it for me?” as a contractor is a fair question when it comes to opening yourself up to an owner. The first thing you stand to gain is trust. The more open and transparent you are with an owner about where a project is, the more they will trust you if and when issues arise that require joint cooperation. While the most critical moment for an owner is when they begin to realize a return on investment from a finished project, there are many milestones along the way that are of equal importance. Offering a deeper level of visibility into the progress of the schedule removes surprises and opens communication channels for on-the-fly adjustments. Nothing will hurt trust more than coming to an owner the day before a critical milestone to reveal you are two months behind.
Another benefit is efficiency. On a job site, time is money, and delays in critical decisions can cost both the contractor and the owner dearly. By opening up communication channels and providing real-time collaboration access to the owner, detailed information required for quick decision making will be readily available. Owners will no longer have to spend time digging through multiple emails to find the correct drawing or specification in question, and contractors will be able to be more agile in their methods. Considering that the average construction professional spends 5.5 hours a week just looking for necessary project data, opening the lines of communication could mean a time savings of over seven weeks per year.1
And then there’s the competitive advantage of being more transparent. As owners continue to strive for partnership, contractors who embrace the change will jump to the front of the line when decision time comes for the next project. The trust, the efficiency, the transparency; it all adds up to a new level of confidence that owners will have in partnering with contractors to get the job done both on time and on budget. Moreover, owners will have faith in the fact that project surprises of the past will be minimized with this new level of partnership. Many of our own customers have reported that construction software promoting all three of these factors, such as InEight’s Connected Analytics, is proving to be a pivotal tool to further differentiate themselves in the market. This allows them to not only be more competitive now, but to stay that way in the future.
1Construction Disconnected: The High Cost of Poor Data and Miscommunication, FMI Corporation, August, 2018.
What Data Is the Right Data to Share?
While there are thousands of data points that can be collected on a project site each and every day, it can be difficult to discern what is important to owners from what is only important to others (OSHA for example). The key to pertinent data sharing is to first step back and determine what the appropriate language will be in communicating with your owner. Defining those data buckets and key metrics up front will save valuable time and effort over trying to manually aggregate data into reports during the project.
The first place to look when sharing project data with an owner is cost and schedule. These two have always been the biggest questions for an owner. And while contractors historically have shared this information in some routine cadence defined in the contract, it typically ends up being a static report of just one snapshot of time. This is why giving owners real-time access to progress on the project in both cost and schedule often opens up a whole new level of transparency as you lead up to a billing cycle. In addition, if you can offer up the ability for an owner to customize any visualizations provided in their data dashboard, you will be offering yet another way to remove the language barrier, which is always a good thing.
The other key data point that’s important to show is the management of issues and changes on the project. The quicker you can get the owner involved in the collaboration of understanding and processing issues on the jobsite, the quicker you can come to a resolution. This means providing proper access to the field issue logs, project documentation and change management workflows in a way that may be new to you. But it is well worth the adjustment because it goes back to enhancing that level of trust. By engaging owners early and often as issues arise, removing the element of surprise, and truly partnering on a worthy resolution, contractors can become the trusted advisor their owners need to complete a capital project.
How Do We Capture Data at This Level?
At this point, the benefits of partnering through the sharing of data have likely become clear to you. Now the questions change to how do we capture data at the level our owners are expecting us to provide? How do we tag the data in a way that translates to the owner’s language or buckets? And how do we connect data from multiple sources in a way that is simple, non-manual and yet still valuable to all stakeholders? These are the questions that drive us at InEight and this is where a cloud-based, integrated project controls platform becomes the right answer for all of them.
Through an integrated project controls platform, you can gain the ability to maintain and enrich a seamless flow of data sharing between all contributors – including your owner. When searching for a platform that’s going to drive better data sharing and partnership, make certain it has the ability to leverage a detailed information flow between all contributors within a single source of data truth. Also, focus in on its ability to align with your owner through transparent workflows and real-time analytics. And don’t forget, it’s important that it can break down data silos, whether they be system-based or location-based. Ensure the platform solution is able to integrate with existing tools and is accessible from anywhere for anyone on the project, contractors and owners alike.
Partnership. With the right software, the word can become real for both contractors and owners. By leveraging the capabilities of a powerful integrated project controls platform, you can begin to remove the challenges that have long made partnering on the jobsite difficult, opening up a new level of transparency on your capital projects. It is time to join with your owner in a partnership that is not only win-win, but one that elevates you to the role of contractor of choice.