Increased Engagement in Digital Workflows Suggests Increased Demand for Further Digitization of the Construction Industry
Last February, Dodge Construction Network, in partnership with Trimble, released a Dodge SmartMarket Brief based on a comprehensive study of owners, architects, engineers and contractors. The study and resulting report evaluate the use and benefits of digital workflows in the construction industry. This report is the first in a series based on the study findings and entitled Connected Construction: The Owners’ Perspective.
Owners are highly influential in the design and construction industry and are often essential to driving change. The report reveals the degree to which owners have already embraced digital workflows for multiple design and construction processes and suggests that owners’ influence will drive greater use of these tools across the industry.
An owner’s design and construction process requires data to be shared across the project lifecycle with internal stakeholders, numerous external project teams, and supply chain participants. Traditionally, this multi-party data sharing has been inefficient, with individual parties either using their own software systems or relying on manual rekeying of data into spreadsheets and other document- based formats. This makes it difficult for stakeholders to access reliable information about the status of a given project and even more difficult to improve project performance across portfolios through analysis of accurate and complete historical data. Digital workflows enable far better communication and performance tracking.
“The study shows that owners are already strong adopters of digital methods within their own organizations,” said Greg Blackman, vice president of Trimble’s Program and Project Management Division. “In turn, they recognize the need for increased transparency and faster information delivery by their construction partners, such as contractors, engineers and architects. With the expectation of increased activity driven by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, digital workflows and connected teams will be crucial in meeting ambitious project goals.”
This report is based on owners’ responses about the degree to which they and the companies they work with are using technology for specific tasks and workflows that allows them to improve multi-party data exchange. Key findings include:
Owners are more deeply engaged with digital workflows than other project team members — Over half (54%) of owners have either integrated software solutions or are using a single, connected construction management solution. Designers and contractors significantly lag in this area, meaning owners are more likely to be able to conduct digital workflows effectively.
Owners realize the need to improve the flow of communication and data between themselves and other project team members — 59% of owners report frequent breakdowns in communication between themselves and other project team members. Less than half (45%) report that they are satisfied with their connectivity with those external companies.
Owners’ experience of benefits from digital workflows will help drive further engagement — 66% of owners using digital workflows report that they frequently result in better-informed decision- making on their projects. Fortunately, this is also the top potential benefit that small to midsize owners report would be likely to drive them to increase their use of digital workflows.
Ability to conduct root-cause analysis improves owners’ decision-making. The findings reveal why owners using digital workflows are able to make better informed decisions: they are far more likely to be able to trace the root causes of delays and errors on their projects back to specific activities than those that do not use digital workflows.
Over two-thirds of owners contractually require contractors to use some digital documentation and practices. This finding demonstrates the value that owners place on having digital data on their projects.
Owners can draw from their greater experience with digitizing their internal workflows to help them digitize their external ones — 60% of owners report that they have digital workflows for at least half of their project data between departments within their organization. However, only 28% report a similar level of digital data exchange with external companies. This experience with internal digital workflows has already helped drive their appreciation of value of them and can provide valuable experience for helping them transform traditional processes into digital workflows in the future. “Owners have the greatest influence on the project team,” says Steve Jones, senior director of industry insights at Dodge Construction Network. “If they decide that digital workflows will improve their projects, the rest of the industry will embrace them as well. This study clearly reveals that owners are already deeply into their own digital transformation, and therefore, we expect to see wider use soon of these valuable tools.”
The SmartMarket Brief that contains the full findings of the owners’ responses to the study can be downloaded for free at www.construction.com.
Dodge Construction Network and Trimble expect to publish more reports developed from the findings of the study. These will also be made available on this site.
Republished from Marine Construction Magazine Issue III, 2022