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The Data Owners Need From Their Contractors

 

04/14/2021

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AJ Waters:
(silence) Hello, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our webinar, The Data Owners Need From Their Contractors and Why Transparency is the Next Big Thing for Construction. We’ll get into that a little bit more here in a minute, but before we dive into all of the details behind this particular title, let’s take a quick look at some housekeeping rules for today. First off, say hello in the chat. Let us know where you’re from using the chat box on the right, or if you have questions, feel free to enter those at any time in the question box right next to the chat little button there we’ll be sure to try to answer those at the end of the webinar or at least as many as we can.

AJ Waters:
Don’t forget also to rate the webinar and give us feedback at the end and we will be giving away a YETI cooler, those who participate in our poll at the end of the webinar. And we’ll get to that a little bit later. It’s a single question, one question poll, so pretty easy to get yourself registered for. With that, we’ll go ahead and we’ll dive in today. And we’ll set the stage a little bit for why we’re talking about data transparency as it pertains to owners in construction. And really it starts with kind of the setup of just being held at arm’s length or feeling it like you’re held at arm’s length.

AJ Waters:
I remember back to a quote from a movie where a famous billionaire once said, “I’m not the boss.” Of course in that particular movie, Tony was referring to his friend, Captain America as the boss. But he finished that line by saying, “I just pay for everything, design everything, and make everyone look cooler.” A lot of times when it comes to capital projects, we can feel that way at moments where we aren’t really running the project as much as the contractor might be, and we really don’t feel like we have the information we need to go on for decisions.

AJ Waters:
So today what we’re going to do is we’re going to have a discussion. Let’s talk about a couple of the reasons why or maybe who has been holding back some of the digital transformation efforts in construction. We’ll talk about the questions on everyone’s mind, what data are owners really looking for and why? We’ll look at how speed can impact that data. How fast you get it can impact decisions long term. And we’ll discuss how all this information can outlive the construction process. Because construction as an item is a very finite piece to the owning and operating of a capital project.

AJ Waters:
But before we dive into all this, it is my honor to introduce our panel today. And first off, we have Salla Eckhardt, the director of transformation services for Microsoft. Salla, would you please say hello?

Salla Eckhardt:
Hi, everyone. Great to be here. Thank you so much, AJ for inviting me on this panel. It’s a pleasure to be here.

AJ Waters:
Thank you, Salla. And then secondly we have Marty Martin who is the head of digital transformation for Makati Development Corporation. Hello, Marty.

Marty Martin:
Hi, AJ. Hi, everyone. Hope all of you are well and safe. I’m glad to be here, and so that I can share to you my experiences in our company’s digital transformation journey, and the importance of a data-driven culture, the insights that we put on top of that information as we related to the day-to-day activities of the company.

AJ Waters:
Thanks, Marty. So what you’ll see here is Salla comes with that perception of the owner managing those larger projects. Marty comes in with the perception of the contractor and then I’ll add a little bit of color commentary here and there from the technology side of things. My name is AJ Waters, vice president of Industry Solutions here at InEight. I have a background in both construction working for a large capital projects owner as well as being on the software side. So we’ll together roll through each of these topics today.

AJ Waters:
So first up the question of who is holding back or what has historically caused a lag in digital transformation for construction? It’s no secret, there have been many studies that have come to the conclusion that construction is a little bit behind when it comes to digital transformations. What do we mean by digital transformations or digital disruptions? Well, a few examples are things like how the world’s largest taxi company today owns no vehicles and how the world’s most popular media owner creates zero content, or how the world’s most valuable retailer has no inventory. And of course, the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate.

AJ Waters:
Those are examples of digital disruption. But as you can see, there isn’t really a bullet point that we can throw up here about how the world’s most effective contractor or capital projects owner does things a certain way. So why is this? Why do we not have an awesome example from construction? And to start us off, we’ll turn to you Salla. What has maybe been the reluctance from the owner’s standpoint?

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah. Thank you, AJ. There are kind of three aspects that I think that are definitely influencing owner’s reluctance, and someone else might have better answers than me, but traditionally thinking about construction industry and the owners, there has been a disconnect. AEC industry has really identified itself as the designers and engineers, and contractors delivering the digital design intent and then the physical artifact. And the owner, the real estate owner and that side of the business has been identified as the finance organizations, and they haven’t been really included necessarily in the overall discussion about digital transformation in the built environment industry.

Salla Eckhardt:
They do come from very different backgrounds and different points of view. The AEC part is really a very engineering like and very kind of design thinking like and the owners are thinking like financial organizations. So there is a need for building a bridge between those aspects and tying the O into the AEC or maybe starting to use the built environment as the topic for talking about the construction industry.

Salla Eckhardt:
Then the second one that is probably influencing the reluctancy is that real estate owners, they tend to outsource a lot of the services that they need and they hire the industry experts to deliver those services and deliver the outcomes and the results that they then kind of feed into the end user experiences and overall generate more business for the built environment industry. But that outsourcing of services has caused problems to become depersonalized. The real estate owners, they don’t use the digital design tools or additional construction tools, so they don’t understand what are the pain points of delivering the documentations that traditionally are asked in 2D drawing format and they don’t see how adapting to better digital tools would actually support the AEC partners delivering the actual outcomes of the built environment industry and not so much focus on just the documentation delivery, but really think about the total performance delivery of the built environment.

Salla Eckhardt:
Then thirdly, I think that there is a little bit of confusion in terms of terminology and what that actually means for operations and action that people need to take, and that’s digitization versus digitalization. Digitization is that you keep the same processes, but just change the physical format into digital format. A good example is going from stacks of drawings on paper into PDFs. That’s digitization. The process of delivering the outcomes doesn’t change and that’s causing the reluctancy of owners supporting the digital transformation because they don’t see how the outcomes and the performance of the built environment change from that point of view.

Salla Eckhardt:
So overall when thinking about the digitalization and digital transformation that actually puts more impact on what are the process changes and how might we actually need to re-engineer the processes to deliver the different outcomes. But Marty, you might have a different point of view into this.

Marty Martin:
At least for the contractor’s point of view, for me, we all know that it’s not cheap up front to invest in digital solutions and it’s not that easy to compute the ROI and more so to realize it, as it’s a combination of a quantitative and a qualitative approach in some aspects. In addition to that, I think digital adoption is a challenge from the top down because most end products are done physically in construction and unlike banking and telecom for leaders in digitalization compared to other business. So I think there’s a challenge.

Marty Martin:
So construction companies need to be more creative in implementing digital solutions. And lastly to your point, Salla, because of that AEC and O disconnect, because of that, there is a lack of end-to-end appreciation from design to implementation and then to operations in that aspect.

AJ Waters:
Those are all excellent points and the interesting thing is technology isn’t exactly innocent either, right? The owner might be reluctant, the contractor may be reluctant, but as technologists we’ve played a role in some of this lag. We weren’t exactly turning things around quickly. Popular products out there have clung to some outdated UI UX. The industry loves their Excel spreadsheets in that view, right? So maybe that view is good, maybe there are ways to do things better or be more efficient and intuitive.

AJ Waters:
Also, thick clients that were traditionally installed on your machine are difficult and have been slow to migrate to the cloud, right? So a lot of solutions that the AEC and O environment relied on still had to be installed on a machine. All the data was stored locally and that made things more difficult. Then lastly, everyone, I mean you mentioned it, Marty, the historical perception of a digital transformation is it’s costly, and it’s this huge consulting effort. We’re going to land a dozen consultants in your office, and they’re going to be there for indefinitely because we’ve got to get this solution moving.

AJ Waters:
So it’s not exactly that technology has been innocent through this whole thing either, it’s kind of been a a three-pronged approach from all angles. But the good news is there is a path forward, right? There is a way to partner to digitally transform.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah, definitely. Think about partnering up digitally and think about the beginning and the end that no longer should actually exist in the future of digital real estate and digital built environment. There is a need for taking more responsibility on a personal level and not only the responsibility or the accountability of digital transformation on the owner or the contractor. And it traditionally is that way because the owner is the one that begins the journey and is the one that then operates that the built environment and then the contractor is the participant, the stakeholder that actually creates the physical artifact based on the design intent.

Salla Eckhardt:
So it’s easy to kind of try to delegate the responsibility for someone else and then say that we should transform. That way is too anonymized. It needs to be that everyone is responsible and take accountability on how do we support the digital transformation and how do we take action into making it happen. And that way, if we can, together, utilize the life cycle approach rather than keep the silo linear process alive, we can start seeing the benefits because this is a long journey. It’s not something that organizations or companies or solution providers can resolve in one quarter or even one fiscal year.

Salla Eckhardt:
There’s a need to start the journey together now and then be invested into it for years to come. It’s certainly not a short process, but by partnering up, we can really make it a successful journey. And when thinking about the success, it’s not only the technical success, but also the financial success.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And to add to what Salla has mentioned rather than doing it in siloed and linear approaches, I think we need to feed more from each other’s data to build these integrations and more so connect information from one process to another, so that the digital transformation gets to an end-to-end approach.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah. And overall when thinking about the question that people ask that why should they invest into innovation. And when they are thinking about investment, they actually think in cost. But think about the physical environment of today. It doesn’t really differentiate who you hire to design or engineer the buildings or even build them because the software tools and the tools overall and the resources are now available for everyone, and organizations have been trained to use them correctly. But where the differentiator in the future is where I think that the sophisticated real estate owners and investors developers are looking for resources is in the digital production.

Salla Eckhardt:
How do we actually create the overall digital journey and the digital thread all the way from the planning phase that is in owner’s court through the digital development of the design for construction or for fabrication, or for manufacturing assembly, and then through the digital construction phase all the way to digital real estate. That’s what I’m looking for that how do we actually create that digital service design and create added value for the future of whoever is going to be the owner of the built environment but also the owner of the digital environment.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And why we strategize and explore new solutions, I’m sure companies don’t innovate for nothing. KPIs are still are measured for success. And for the consumption industry, for me it’s simply SQTC. It’s having safe projects and having quality products, and having to deliver them on time and having to be cost efficient in those aspects.

AJ Waters:
Yeah. And there are ways, even if the partnership doesn’t work out, right? There are ways to set yourself apart if you will and kind of develop that paradigm shift like you were saying, Salla to become a digital builder and to work more toward that digital footprint not just the physical footprint. And then as Marty mentioned to allow that integrated approach to then build out that digital culture between the two partnerships, that’s a way to really start to set yourself up not just as an owner as a contractor, but as a partner in this effort moving forward.

AJ Waters:
I think we already touched on this a bit, the investment side of the house as far as investing in innovation. There comes a point when that physical production is no longer what makes you the contractor of choice. There comes a point where production begins to flatline and now it’s about the digital side and how you can take that to move on to that next level. And Marty, you hit it, focus in on those key metrics as you do that.

AJ Waters:
So with all that being said then, there’s typically one question that is on everyone’s mind and that’s answering the riddle of balancing scope, cost, and schedule. Those are the three most important factors in it in a capital project and how that is balanced out across the life cycle of the project is important in collecting data, in developing a single source of truth. So one of the things that we always talk about when it comes to technology solutions is how a common data environment begins with the planning and design phase. It’s not something you can just start up when you’re in the middle of construction. Right, Marty?

Marty Martin:
Yeah. That’s a good point, AJ. It’s important for all stakeholders to have that common collected and available data for faster decision-making. And with that clean data comes the transparency and trust between the clients, the consultants, and then the contractors. And maybe, Salla, you can add to that.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah. And overall when thinking about the common data environments and why they are so important is that they are the collaboration platforms for the digital teams. So especially in the past year, companies have gone through digital transformation of using virtual platforms for remote collaboration. And that way with the common data environment, you can plug in a lot of different components of data. It doesn’t mean that you host everything and copy everything into the common data environment, but linking more data there and making it accessible democratized for everyone who is a stakeholder in the same project, and that way making people more self-sufficient in finding answers to the questions that they have, and those questions are often very trivial and the answer can be found in the building information models or other data sources that are hosted or linked to the common data environment.

Salla Eckhardt:
But what is an interesting aspect of the common data environment is that there needs to be a separation of data ownership from the data authorship and how might we actually build the service network for the data maintenance, because when thinking about the owner of the physical building, that is the one that finances the overall project, and with that at least in my mind, the digital version of the physical artifact should be tied together. So it’s the same owner for the physical. Same owner for the digital.

Salla Eckhardt:
But then there are the authors of the data that are the architects and engineers, the suppliers, the manufacturers, the fabricators who create the physical components and know how they actually engineered or designed them to function. And that’s the super valuable part that I’m hoping that in the future business models the real estate owners can really leverage and buy services from those stakeholders in the operations phase. And regardless of someone owning the digital version of the physical building, they can still buy the services for the data authorship and continue the update process that traditionally has been a pain point that people are complaining that the building information models or the drawings are outdated the moment that they are produced, and there’s no one keeping them up to date.

Salla Eckhardt:
But by separating the data ownership and the data authorship and tying it, wrapping it around services network for data maintenance, that’s a business model that I would be curious about and see where that leads for the future.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And another aspect I’d like to touch on is the changes in the construction stage and construction phase. For those who have been in construction for the longest time, we know that changes in the industry is really constant. Even if we are able to track these changes, we’re not even sure if these changes are populated in the drawings and how it affects the cost and the schedule. So I think, AJ there’s something that’s that needs to be done in this aspect.

AJ Waters:
Yeah, I would agree. Creating that digital is not just about turning something over for operations and maintenance at the end of the day, but something that we can take action on when we’re live and in the system. And that’s why that common data environment begins in the planning and design phase. Let’s get that started right off the gate so that we know if there was a clash, we can do something about that clash now, but a year from now, two years from now when we get to the construction of those items and we ask ourselves why did this move or why is this routed funny? We can go back and look at the clash and realize that was the issue. And not have to do a whole lot of rework. Right, Marty?

Marty Martin:
Yeah. at least for the contractor side, we know that rework costs a lot. on the average based on study, I think it’s 4 to 5%. I don’t know if that’s still consistent. and in some cases there are several changes by the owners and the architects or engineers for that matter that are not captured in the drawings, or maybe the contractors don’t have the updated drawings that probably led to these reworks.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah. There’s the reworks and overall there’s a lot of the tenant improvements that begin from the day one that the building goes online that it would be beneficial for the project team, but also for the real estate owners and the end users that the data originators of the project would be the ones making the updates rather than assigning a person to manage the data that they never created in the first place. And that way, it would be more streamlined process overall less of rechecking and back checking what someone else has done. But it would be more about assigning the responsibility, accountability, those that already know how they delivered something and why they delivered it in a certain way.

Salla Eckhardt:
And if there’s anything that is kind of a systematic error, it’s easier to fix by assigning that error fix back to the originator because they must have a reason why they chose a certain solution, et cetera. So it might not be actually an error, but it would be a design feature and if it’s an actual error, then it’s a learning point for them, and that way we can continue educating the industry about what are the best practices, where to pay attention, and that way overall things continue to improve.

AJ Waters:
That’s an excellent point because as you both have mentioned, change is inevitable. We need to put some sort of ownership on the change in the communication of the change and all the details that sit behind those changes, right? Because arguably the most difficult place for a contractor and an owner to be transparent with one another is around the cost, which is the number one detail of a change. There’s two pieces to it, cost and schedule. We’ll hit on both of them. But it’s difficult right, Marty, to share exactly what’s going on cost wise?

Marty Martin:
Yeah. To delve on that, I think owners and contractors tend to be in two different ships. And it’s highlighted when you deal with costs. For example for contractors, you don’t necessarily give away the cost details particularly on how you’re making money, but it’s also our responsibility to give them details on when the owners can save as well. As well as our historical unit rates, so just they know and understand how we price stuff so that when they do change and when they do provide information on the plans, they know that it’s going to entail a time and cost impact in the end.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah. And when thinking about the cost management of construction projects and the budgeting that the real estate investor needs to prepare for, a lot of the risk mitigation is seen as additional buffer budgets, et cetera. And where the risk comes from is that people might not always have the same comprehension of the information that is provided for them. And thinking about how complex projects we are delivering and developing these days using the digital tools will really help people comprehend or at least somehow try to understand what the intent is before starting to assemble or build it on site. But as long as there is the delegation of information to someone else than ourselves or there is the fragmentation of data into multiple different siloed solutions that others might not have access to, there is a risk involved in that, and that really drives out the cost that then the real estate owner actually has to deal with.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And another aspect of change, I think at least for the change in the end users, I believe a top-down approach to drive the changes is critical. I think for this to happen at least for the end user’s perspective, we always have to answer the what’s in it for me question. It’s really hard to drive the change when the people that’s going to use the systems are not… We don’t have their buy-in into this stuff. So a lot of it boils down to the process blueprinting and then defining the pain points of the current process and then translate that to the assets process to ensure that the solutions that we are driving at are implementable and realistic.

Salla Eckhardt:
And to kind of like wrap up, it’s always good to remember that change happens at our own personal level, but when people are resisting change, they often anonymize it and explain how the change might not fit the current processes of the organization or that they all of a sudden are very empathetic and compassionate about their co-workers that are still anonymized and that way they can always keep the change at arm’s length, because then it’s always someone else whose responsibility it is to drive the change. So I’m really hoping that the industry will start to look into the mirror more and start from the processes or the tasks that we are actually managing ourselves, and being the spearhead for change.

AJ Waters:
Yeah. That’s a really good point looking in the mirror every so often just as an industry so that we all understand where there are places that we can make a difference. So then secondly as we mentioned, Marty, not just the cost side of things, but the schedule side of things, the details behind the milestone changes, right and where we are in project?

Marty Martin:
Yeah. I think in terms of the milestone, when owners and contractors have this different scheduled interpretations, it’s even more highlighted when these changes occur, because recording and tracking are not always there. And even if they are, as I mentioned earlier maybe the cost and time impact is not documented and reflected in the plans. So I think that’s one of the key aspects that we need to look into.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah, and overall it’s like traditionally thinking owners have preferred to have the turnkey solution. So they’ve chosen not to be necessarily actively involved in the construction processes and digital construction today, but I’m hoping that in the future when there is more discussion amongst the AECO industry and there is that the kind of the transfer of best knowledge and best practices owners are learning as they are collaborating with the industry professionals and they continue a kind of bringing their side of the business to teach others and overall cross-pollinate, but there is definitely more opportunity for owners to be more proactive and be kind of a meaningful part of the digital construction team.

AJ Waters:
That’s true, and a lot of times it’s not just that, but it’s taking a step back further like the schedule even to begin with is typically overly aggressive and sometimes unrealistic due to the lack of an ability to see risks. It’s just difficult to do. You don’t have 20-20 vision into the future, so finding and mitigating those risks up front is difficult and with that limited insight, I know when I was working for a large capital projects owner, it wasn’t irregular or it was regular to say it in a more simplistic way. It was very regular to have a large milestone coming up, a major milestone on a project only to hear of a huge delay just days before, right? It happens a lot. It’s not necessarily just because we’re slow, it has a lot to do with overly aggressive schedules too.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And probably there’s some information throughout the project that are overlooked. And then they may be missed when you do post mortem which we should have been useful when you use it for your next projects. So that’s something that we need to consider as well.

AJ Waters:
That’s an excellent point. When you talk about postmortems and getting into things that you can make actionable decisions on, that’s where speed comes into play, right? And the real possibilities of real-time analytics where we’ve come in the technology of the cloud and being able to truly get data to all stakeholders right away, which gives you equal stakes for everyone involved. Not just the contractor who’s doing kind of the collection of the data.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah. I mean, think about how to involve everyone and be more inclusive. There is a need for more open collaboration and open innovation between people and sharing and democratizing the data that already exists, and that way support the decision-making that everyone is participating in. It can be a very insignificant or small decision that is made, but everyone who is part of the project are decision makers and they can accumulate over time to the outcomes. And that way when we approach the project with more transparent, more inclusive, more collaborative manner, we can really start improving the metrics and the metrics need to be tied into that the outcome and the end in mind of the projects to improve what the built environment industry and the built environment as is look like in the future.

Salla Eckhardt:
And with that, it’s super important that the entire project team understands the benefits of that transparency and openness rather than having that traditional gatekeeping and siloed processes that in the past whoever was able to hoard the most data or was the know-it-all person was the one holding power. But then that led into a very kind of silo disconnected way of delivering the projects. But, yeah. Thinking about it from a software development point of view, what do you think, AJ?

AJ Waters:
Well, I think you’re exactly right. Everyone deserves a seat at the table where the data lives, right? The fastest way to get to the data is to be in the system where the data lives and that should be your frame of reference. In order to do that, we go back to the single source of truth idea and that with a single source of truth on the project across the board. Whoever the end user is, whoever the stakeholder is, that gets you a seat at the table and the fastest way to the data.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And at the end of the day for all the things that we’ve said, I think going back to what I’ve mentioned earlier, what’s important is we have a safe high quality and timely delivered projects within the targeted budget that will benefit everyone involved. So in terms of the open collaboration and proactive decision making, yeah, it all leads and boils down to the metrics that we mentioned.

AJ Waters:
Yeah. That’s an excellent point, Marty that everybody wants the project to be done on budget and of course, safe, right. Everyone wants that. So collaborating together just leads to those metrics in the end. So how do we connect all of these dots? What can we do to start getting each individual into the same language and the same speak?

Marty Martin:
Yeah. Let me touch on that. I think because of the technical terms and some construction methodologies implemented that may be probably hard to understand for the owners and other stakeholders. I think it’s data that’s becoming the language that connects both the owners and the contractors, and the other parties as well.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah, definitely. And think about it from the owner’s perspective because they are always the finance organization that collecting dark data is just as useful as uninvested money. So if you’re just hoarding data, but nobody can access it, nobody can use it, you’re just leaving money on the table or not making much from it. And also when thinking about the overall industry, if we can start collecting more relevant data, we can start improving the trust, and trust is one of the big pain points in the AECO industry that people are constantly kind of re-evaluating that is the data or information provided for them, something that is useful or is it something that is an added work for them and added cost for them because they have to redo what was already provided for them. So a lot of opportunity there.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. I think because there are emerging solutions that are more user-friendly now, I think it’s been easier for all parties to understand and appreciate these technical data that we’ve been mentioning.

AJ Waters:
Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that, Marty because there are emerging solutions, but not always is the secret to add more technology, right? The secret is in connecting the technology, getting it aggregated into a way that can be actionable. So connecting the dots, bringing all this information together, having it real time, that makes these real-time analytics these ways that we can make decisions now more mainstream, right?

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And without that proper data built up and then the connections that we’ve been mentioning, it would be hard for us to justify time extensions or additional costs when these complex problems arise just because information are cluttered and not structured and secured.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah. And when thinking about that when does data become valuable, it’s really like you can collect as much data as you want, but if it’s not really refined into information, and then digitally tagged and clustered into something that becomes knowledge for the use cases and application into a business cases, it doesn’t really… It’s like buying grains of sand rather than buying a beach. So there needs to be some kind of understanding of how you’re going to be using the data so that it becomes relevant and it it then builds up the value overall. And it’s those use cases that are sometimes and oftentimes are very, very difficult to define when you don’t even have the physical artifact in your hands yet. And you might not even know who the end user is going to be. But just based on the knowledge and the expertise, and the experience that people have from their past, that’s where the applicability of data and information starts to show the investment value.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And to add to that, Salla, I think, and I’m saying this with all due respect to the data scientists out there, I believe process owners like us or the business entities for that matter can be the data scientists as well in the most basic level. If they are able to harness that data, process that information and provide analytics on top, and some trends and recommendation so that… Simply because they have the experience and know what needs to be done and what is expected to generate the desired results.

AJ Waters:
Yeah. But it call all comes back to the key being everyone working in the same system of connected data, right? That’s what truly makes this real time and something that’s actionable.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And if that information is up to date and then that will provide more impact to the decisions that will have to be made.

AJ Waters:
So if we’re going to all this work up front to collect all this information, to get it in a common data environment, to utilize it throughout the construction process, there’s a good chance that we can continue using it, right? And that’s where the information begins to outlast that construction cycle not just for the digital twin, but for other items as well. But as the starting point the way to outlast construction is to build out that digital twin. And when you collect and organize all of this data in the construction phase, it sets that path forward so that you have a fully operational digital twin that you can utilize through the O&M phase and that’s what owners are after. Right, Salla?

Salla Eckhardt:
Yes, definitely. And when thinking about why we need so much transparency throughout the whole digital building life cycle is that a digital twin is not a single a solution. It’s not one stop shop for all or a turnkey that fits everyone, but it is at least in my mind, it’s a combination of different components, and that way a digital twin experience for each stakeholder, each decision-maker is unique. It’s almost like a smartphone that if you go and buy a same smartphone as I do, it’s within the first five minutes that your smartphone experience is completely different from mine because your selection of applications is different from what I need.

Salla Eckhardt:
That’s why when building up the digital twins and thinking about the digital twins, we should be looking at what components are already available. What technology already exists? What software already exist and what might be then aggregate into the digital twin as a platform? That way everyone can access still the same components that are available for all, but then the experience of the digital twin is completely unique to your decision-making and the processes that you are managing.

AJ Waters:
Yeah, because there is enormous value being able to take and customize and then select on an item in the model and know exactly when it was installed, who did it, and what the specs are to maintain it. When is the next scheduled outage for this particular item?

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah, that’s the very proactive and predictive approach to digital twins that how might we actually use the simulations that are like… One thing about digital twin, it’s a theoretical model of the physical and it can be used for kind of determining what we want as the future outcomes because it’s a tool for supporting educated decision-making and that way if we can simulate or analyze or visualize the trends of our own decision-making outcomes then we can really be more proactive about making the right choices because there are a lot of options of where to choose from and they’re not necessarily equally good or equally bad, but whenever a decision is made, then it starts to predetermine what the future outcomes are.

AJ Waters:
Exactly, but it’s not just about operations and maintenance. Right, Marty? There’s a sense of all this data collection. It helps us be better next time.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. I think with the data transparency and the collaboration that we are all talking about, post-mortem studies would be more useful I think for planning new projects so that you get better results next time. And I think with a more robust database, estimates are more detailed and accurate and I think scheduled projections will be more improved.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah. And when thinking about the future projects that are always coming into the existing portfolio or existing built environment, or the natural environment if you’re dealing with a greenfield project, but you’re dealing with something that already exists. And then when think about the future outcomes, it would be beneficial if we started building our buildings digitally first. We would simulate and analyze them as much as we could to really drive the educated decisions based on the data that comes from the building information models as the theoretical version of the building, but also the evidence that is the collection of data about the natural environment or the built environment that will be surrounding the project that we are about to deliver as net new. That way it’s really thinking about the future outcomes and thinking about what might be the needs of all the stakeholders involved in the same project.

AJ Waters:
Yeah, and you’re exactly right because when you collect all this data and you have the evidence available to you, that’s where certainty begins on the next project because the value of historical benchmarking not just in cost, but in schedules makes that operation more predictable. It makes the project more predictable and those big milestone slips or those risks that maybe you weren’t ready for, you have the evidence. You have the data, you have the backup to support building that into the project’s timeline the next time.

AJ Waters:
And that’s where really all of this transparency that we’ve talked about all the way through bringing it all together, it becomes win-win when you’re working with transparency in a single source of truth, it doesn’t just provide a better outcome for the owner, it provides a better outcome for the contractor as well. It truly makes the project move in a much more smooth pace, in a way that is predictable and is certain, and are easy to turn over at the end of the day.

Salla Eckhardt:
Yeah, and overall when thinking about what the digital transformation means for the overall project team, it can be the digital contractor or the owner. Transparency supports the adoption of technology, and what we want to use the technology for is to automate the processes. So if we can start leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to support people deliver their share of our scope of the work, this is really important when thinking about the future that we have a massive amount of industry experts retiring in the next few years as the baby boomers are finally at the age that they will exit the construction market.

Salla Eckhardt:
But we are not necessarily as an industry attracting the same amount of new people into the industry. So there is a scarcity and lack of workforce. So there needs to be a way to really support those that actually do continue working in the built environment industry and really building that connection, how does the machine actually support the person, and that way is not the competition that is AI going to replace a person. Likely not. But can the AI support the person? Very much so.

Marty Martin:
Yeah. And then that transparency just to add I think will not only improve the trust factor as well as the customer relationships, and that will eventually lead to more projects. And in addition to that, I think we build digitally not only to improve the company’s metrics and profitability, it’s also a way of upskilling our teams and letting them be more efficient. Like for example in the old times, I think the drawings are just being sketched up and now because of building information modeling just to share with you, I think now we have the largest pool of BIM modelers in the country and we also do that offshore.

Marty Martin:
Another thing is that because you’re saving time on gathering information and processing them, you have more time for analytics which is more important for the decision-making. And it’s making the employees more… They feel like they’re more important because they bring this information and these are high leverage skills that are needed in the company.

AJ Waters:
Yep. We’ve got a lot of questions pouring in. Let’s wrap things up quickly just with a summary of what we’ve been through today, right, the key themes. The construction industry is ready to digitally transform, but we all play a part in that moving forward, right? It’s each individual role. It’s not just the contractor, it’s not just the owner, it’s not just technology. But each one of us are working together to play a part. And in doing so, we can answer the integration of scope cost and schedule. No longer are they in silos, but we can put those together into a single source of truth and when everyone has instant access to that single source of truth, everyone becomes a part of the team. You can make decisions faster and that transparency becomes a win-win scenario for everyone on the project.

AJ Waters:
So I’m going to quickly start collecting the questions and organizing those. Don’t forget, we do have a YETI cooler if you answer the poll question that is popping up now which is, who do you represent in construction? As an attendee today, what would you classify yourself as, an architect, engineer, contractor, or owner? And I’ll start pulling together the questions that we have from today’s webinar. There’s quite a few so we’ll try to go quick.

AJ Waters:
All right. First up, this one is for, I think it’s for Marty, but Salla, feel free to chime in as well. How can we best prepare smaller contractors and subcontractors for digital delivery? What percent added cost should a contractor think about to supply certified as built data?

Marty Martin:
Yeah. That’s a good question. At least in our case, because most of the digital solutions that we have are based on an enterprise license, we have already extended these software to our subcontractors with no cost to them. So that’s an easy buy-in for them because they wouldn’t have to spend on anything. Then we trained them and we get the buy-in of their top management. And basically, it’s just the support of the equipment that they would need for example the tablets and the data needed to support the infrastructure and these digital platforms.

Marty Martin:
Another thing is probably because, we’ve drilled down the process to make it more of an end-to-end solution so that it will not stop from us, but it will be also extended to all the stakeholders. But in terms of the person added to get certified aspect, I don’t know how it’s being done in other countries, but as built data is a component in the contract of our subcontractors when they deliver stuff to us. So I hope that answered the question.

AJ Waters:
It does. Another question that came in and this one maybe more toward you, Salla and again, Marty you can provide context if you’d like. There are a number of different references and supporting standardization data forms out in the industry, the US GSA, CII, COAA, ACIE. There’s a lot of ISO standards. They’re all over. What additional key references should be considered when it comes to adopting IT and/or software that can help establish a digital thread?

Salla Eckhardt:
Oh, nice. Well, I’m personally a fan of open data and open solutions. As a bad analogy here, I think about like charger plugs. If you have a certain manufacturer device, you need a charger that fits that. So the same problem basically exists with the data creation and data collection in the built environment industry that if you are using proprietary systems then you have to have the proprietary tools and then you might not be able to use something else. And when thinking about your digital strategy and digital core, you have to be very mindful of how do you build that?

Salla Eckhardt:
And with that, think about how many good standards we already have in the industry, but how many are actually using them? I think that there are more standards available than what there are users using them. So I don’t think that we definitely don’t probably need new standards, but we might need aggregation of standards and creating more global standards that fit the industry globally because there is a more and more internationalization of the construction industry stakeholders are no longer local, they are global. And with that, it would be great if there was more cross-pollination of best practices. I think there is a lot that I learned from Marty today and I’m definitely going to take them back to my team here in the United States.

Salla Eckhardt:
So overall, looking critically into what already exists and how might we actually start integrating them together, and aggregating them together. Thank you for teaching me that word today. That it is about creating the free data flows and not creating more added work for people or creating more analog work or tedious work, because there’s a lot of copy pasting happening across different software and platforms today because there is no interoperability or transoperability across hardware platforms either. So I’m really rooting for how might we develop standards and data structures and formats that then support that free flow of data so we make things easier for the end user.

AJ Waters:
Right. So we have time for one more question. I think this one’s a good one to end on and the rest of the questions that are in the chat, we’ll be sure to send a follow-up out with answers to those, but who owns the common data environment, the owner, the contractor? Who owns it?

Salla Eckhardt:
My personal opinion is that it should be the owner that provides the common data environment for the project team that is working on their projects, and that way everyone gets access to the platform and the owner inherits the data that is relevant for them, and that way it’s easier for the BIM, SMEs to be actually managing the building information management, but also the modeling and the modeling process, the models themselves and all the digital construction data. And the original project team, they can be plugged in back to the common data environment when there is time for attendant improvements or retrofits and renovations, but there is no added admin for the other stakeholders. It can be the real estate owner that can then hire someone to do the data management, but I think that it should be provided by the owner. Marty, what do you think?

Marty Martin:
Yeah. I agree with you, Salla. I think while there’s different takes on that probably because there are processes that it’s more fit for the designers and the engineers during the pre-consumption. And during the construction, it’s the contractor that manages the data. But at the end of the day the end users of this information will be for the owner’s use. So I think that should be on the owner’s side.

AJ Waters:
I agree. But if as a contractor you’re on a project where the owner is not doing so, that doesn’t mean you can’t, right? And at the end of the day hand them a deliverable that is digital and not a big paper binder. So the contractor could step in and make that turnover delivered for the owner if need be in that sense. All right. Well, again. Thank you all for your time today. Salla, Marty, thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate it. Have a great day.

Salla Eckhardt:
Thank you, AJ.

Marty Martin:
Thank you.

Salla Eckhardt:
Thank you, Marty. Thank you, everyone.

Marty Martin:
Thank you, Salla. Thank you, AJ. Bye.