As most contractors become more comfortable with technology, project management solutions like Procore Project Management and Autodesk's BIM 360 have emerged as some of the industry’s most valuable tools. As it turns out, though, the benefits of using this software can be lessened when owners adopt their own project management systems without coordinating that decision with their contractors.
This is according to the “Connecting Owners and Contractors: How Technology Drives Connected Construction" study by Dodge Data & Analytics, conducted in partnership with another project management software provider, e-Builder by Trimble. When contractors and owners use different, disconnected systems, contractors often find themselves doing double duty trying to maintain data for both, potentially sacrificing a high level of productivity and even accuracy in the flow of work in the process.
Of course, the resulting higher costs, greater risks and schedule delays that can come with having to process RFIs, invoices and submittals this way are unintended but still impactful to the owner and contractor, to their relationship and ultimately to the project's success.
And none of this has been lost on the contractors and owners who participated in the study. Dodge and e-Builder found that:
- 42% of contractors use both the owner's project management system in addition to their own, which has led to higher risk as they duplicate efforts.
- 73% of contractors report medium or high impact on the productivity of workers due to double entry of construction data, with 62% of contractors reporting that this impacts their rate of data entry errors, and 70% saying it slowed the flow of information.
- 45% of respondents are satisfied with the current state of data connectedness, but 65% of owners and 51% of contractors see high or very high value in using a shared, collaborative data platform.
So, what are a contractor's options here? Go along with the owner's demands? Continue using an unwieldy system that increases the risk of errors and, potentially, litigation down the road?
"I think the findings make it clear that the contractors have already made that decision," said Donna Laquidara-Carr, industry insights research director at Dodge. "Only 6% refuse to use the owners’ system, and the highest percentage (42%) believe double entry, despite the pain it causes, is the best solution."
Having ready access to the owner's information does provide some benefits, like increased transparency and getting paid faster, but Laquidara-Carr said the best of both worlds would see contractors and owners be able to reap the benefits of being connected without having to engage in the double entry of information.
But if contractors aren't happy about being required to use the owner's project management information system (PMIS), they should speak up about how difficult such a setup can potentially be, said Laquidara-Carr. "[The study] clearly revealed that many owners are unaware of the challenges that contractors face when forced to use an owner’s PMIS rather than their own, with 45% saying that contractors face no increased risk in doing so. Contractors must be able to have these conversations with the owner for owners to understand the impact."
The integration of data is something that many tech companies like Procore and Autodesk are focusing on, and Chris Bell, vice president of marketing at e-Builder, said the company can now offer that convenience with e-Builder Enterprise for owners and Trimble ProjectSight for contractors. "[These two solutions] can integrate," he said, "to become one construction management platform for a project and allow information exchange between systems so that each party can own their own data."
However, currently, said Laquidara-Carr, only 14% of the survey's respondents said they were able to integrate their PMIS with the owners'. "It will be great to revisit this question in a few years and see if that number has gone up with the new tools available," she said.