- Construction technology firm Autodesk has released a new study on Sept. 14 with management consulting firm FMI Corp. on the prevalence of data usage in construction and the losses that result from data errors. It shows that in 2020, bad data may have caused $1.8 trillion in losses worldwide and may be responsible for 14% of avoidable rework, which amounts to $88 billion in costs.
- The survey gathered results from 3,900 construction professionals across North America, Asia-Pacific and Europe on their data practices in 2020. The largest group of respondents, 39%, were general contractors.
- The survey focused on the effects of "bad data," defined as inaccurate, incomplete, inconsistent or untimely numbers. While 55% of respondents said that they implemented a formal strategy for project data, 30% said that more than half of their data was bad and thus unable to offer usable insights.
The emphasis on data in construction isn't new, but the depth of related financial losses is a reminder of how important carefully gathering and crunching the numbers is for the industry. In 2020, construction represented 13.2% of the global GDP of $84.5 trillion, according to the study. For a contractor that generates $1 billion in revenue, the losses resulting from bad data could be as high as $165 million, including up to $7.1 million in avoidable rework.
"Organizations are adopting technology, but our study shows there is opportunity for them to gain even more from their investments," said Jay Bowman, research and analytics lead at FMI, in a press release. "Without data strategies in place, the construction industry is leaving significant amounts of money and opportunities for more positive project outcomes on the table."
The root causes of bad data are typically not malicious actors, hackers or other criminal causes. According to the study, much of bad data is the result of simple human error. Twenty-four percent of data was inaccurate or incorrect, such as a 5 entered in a field where a 6 should be. Another 24% was missing data, like blank fields in a spreadsheet, and a further 21% was simply wrong, such as when an employee believes they were recording one aspect of a worksite, but instead covered another, according to the study.
The power of good data
Along with the monetary damages to the construction industry from bad data, there are positive outcomes from good data. The study found that intentional data strategies supported more consistent, data-driven decision-making. The 12% of respondents who said they always incorporate project data into their decision-making use strategies like regularly reviewing data for quality, standardizing data collection, reporting and monitoring practices and structuring data in a common data environment for centralized access, according to the release.
The study also found that construction managers highly value data skills, and 60% of respondents said that the presence of data management and analysis skills were important for construction teams to work effectively, according to the release.
"This study quantifies the immense value of putting frameworks in place to capture and manage data," said Allison Scott, the director of construction thought leadership for Autodesk, in the release. "Organizations that implement formal data strategies stand to gain the most ROI from their technology investments, so it is important to collaborate with vendors and determine how to make the best use of the data being collected."
Editor's Note: In a previous version of this brief, construction's GDP was incorrectly attributed. It is 13.2% of the global GDP.