Team meeting; unorganized data costs concept

What Unorganized Construction Project Data Costs Subcontractors

Every company in the construction sector generates a lot of data every day.

Most of those companies have no idea what to do with all that data, either.

As data accumulates, it gets harder to sort through and manage. Lots of businesses learn this lesson the hard way. Need something from a daily report you wrote six months ago? It might be buried under a million files, images and project documents that were created in the meantime.

Below, we offer some figures that will help you calculate how much unorganized data could be costing your subcontracting business. Then, we will go through the steps you can take to give your construction project data an organized structure.

Unorganized Data vs. Organized Data: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to construction project data, organization works the same way it does with socket wrenches and sock drawers.

You need a place for your things to go so you — or anyone else — can retrieve them quickly and easily when you need them.

The organization’s logic needs to make sense for other people, too. That way, you can ask someone “Would you hand me a 3/8-inch wrench?” or “Could you grab my black dress socks, please?” and trust they won’t need to spend an hour looking for the thing you’ve asked for.

The same goes for construction project data. You and anyone else on your team needs to be able to retrieve a daily report, a timesheet, a proposal, a design model, or any other project document easily and in the moment you need it.

But when your project documents, emails, photos, text messages and everything else are scattered across various devices and locations, then you have unorganized data. And finding information when you need it gets time-consuming, frustrating and expensive when your construction project data is unorganized.

Two seated women facing laptop; unorganized data costs concept

Calculating the Actual Costs of Unorganized Construction Project Data

Disorganization ultimately hampers productivity. That’s where the biggest costs emerge.

A lot of project managers will describe that cost in terms of time, or hours spent on unproductive work.

The team at RIB Software in Germany cites industry research that found the vast majority of data captured in the engineering and construction sectors goes unstructured (90 percent) and mostly unused (96 percent).

Here’s the kicker: Their research indicates that more than 1 in 8 working hours “are spent looking for project data and information.”

Imagine asking someone “Would you hand me a 3/8-inch wrench?” and they take 20 minutes to find it. Every time. That’s the kind of productivity loss we are talking about here.

The team at Unearth Labs puts a dollar figure to these costs. They write that in 2018, U.S. construction companies spent $177.5 billion on unproductive work. Further, those companies lost a little more than a third (35 percent) of their time “dealing with distractions.”

Put Those Figures in a Competitive Context

If every single construction and trades business faced the same kind of inefficiencies, you might be able to chalk those costs up as table stakes for doing business.

But not every business loses so much time and money on wasted work. The subcontractors you’re bidding against might not have these issues with organized data, for example.

“If your competitors are organizing their data, then they can easily search through it,” writes Robert Cepero, CEO of South Florida-based IT company Bleuwire. “Thus, your competitors can easily beat you by analyzing their customer data.”

So, in addition to productivity losses, unorganized data can cost you a competitive advantage in your own market.

Don’t Forget Rework Costs

One more cost is worth mentioning here.

When your data is disorganized, it can cause communication problems, especially between field teams and office teams. A foreman and a project manager can easily get out of alignment on a construction project when they’re working from separate sources of truth, for example.

And this can create expensive problems.

Citing data from 2018, Peter Marchese at Construction Business Owner reports that communication issues are “responsible for 48% of all rework, accounting for $31 billion in costs that year alone.”

Lost productivity, lost competitive positioning, rework — these combine to reflect the true cost of trying to manage construction projects with unorganized data.


Why Does Construction Project Data Get So Disorganized?

There are multiple stakeholders on a project who generate their own data.

And if they do attempt to organize that data, they often do so according to a logic that only makes sense to them. They have their own systems for tracking information, for coding files, for storing files.

That tendency creates information silos. When you have information silos in an organization, then potential sources of knowledge and insight get filed away into incomprehensible structures that are too difficult for others to navigate.

This tendency exists in most organizations, no matter the sector or industry they work in. And the only way to overcome it is to set unified standards for cataloging, storing and managing the data that a company produces.

How to Create Processes and Structures for Organizing Data

If all of your data existed as paper records, then you would need a physical library, with shelves and a cataloging system, to organize it.

If the data you generate is digital, however, then you need some kind of software to help organize it.

Ideally, that software would do the following:

  • Centralize your data. This means pulling it out of all the silos your stakeholders have created and bringing it into a single platform that everyone can access. This gives the entire team direct, real-time access to whatever information they need, whenever they need it. Retrieving a daily report becomes as easy as pulling a 3/8-inch socket wrench from a toolbox.
  • Let people send information and files to one another. Here’s how you solve the communication problem. When a foreman wants to send photos to a project manager, for example, it would be inefficient to just point them to the centralized database. Instead, the foreman needs to be able to post the photos and send them on to the project manager. That’s what makes collaboration easy and nearly instantaneous.
  • Capture everything. You don’t want worksite data falling through the cracks. So, the software’s interface needs to make it easy for anyone to log, track, email and store project data.

A few years ago, we began working with Geauga Mechanical, a mechanical contracting company based outside of Cleveland. Their team was having trouble with the “capture everything” part of getting company data organized, particularly time sheets.

The field teams were calling in their hours or handing in written timesheets, and the accounting team was spending a half day every Monday reviewing and approving those hours. That’s a good example of what it looks like to lose time on unproductive work.

Since Geagua Mechanical’s teams started using eSUB, the process of submitting, reviewing and approving time cards takes minutes, and it can be done from someone’s phone.

It also helped the accounting team clean up task codes. Before, a lot of work got tagged broadly as duct installation. Now, the team has a much more precise understanding of how field teams are spending their time. This helps the company’s executives estimate job costs more accurately and keep work forecasts in line with the reality on the ground.

Get Organized

If your teams are struggling with sharing construction project data, unable to get people in sync or spending too much time on unproductive work, eSUB might be able to help. Contact us today to schedule a demo.

Images by: Dylan Gillis, KOBU Agency, Christopher Burns