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There’s Data in Decision Making

By: Harkins Director of Scheduling & Analytics Patrick Hennessy

It is no secret that the construction industry has seen a boom in technology in the last 20 years. Organizations that were previously using pen and paper to complete daily reports, inspections, and submittals have entirely moved these processes to the cloud. A major benefit of performing these tasks online in a cloud environment is the storage and control of the organizational data that is produced. Data that was previously filed away in a cabinet, never to be seen again, is now at the fingertips of Harkins’ decision-makers. We are actively using our data effectively by giving our leaders real-time information, combined with trends and historical facts, that lead to data-driven outcomes. 

When we committed to integrating data into our daily decision-making, we first focused on the low-hanging fruit. We asked ourselves, “What data is accurate and standardized across our portfolio, from region to region, and project to project?” and “What data can make an immediate impact to our organization?” The answer for us was simple: our safety data. Thus, our Safety Dashboard was born. During our initial investigative and brainstorming phase, we quickly realized our data integrity was poor and that efforts needed to be focused to standardize our processes and procedures across the entire organization, driving an improvement in our data integrity. This led to standardization efforts, the creation and distribution of SOPs, and training to ensure that these processes and procedures were being performed correctly. Today, we have a variety of solutions that provide real-time analytics across different divisions and teams, from individual projects to our entire organization at a portfolio level, to our human resources and risk management departments.  

The biggest challenges we have faced in our data integration efforts are mistrust in information and fear of too much oversight. To breed trust within our organization, we look for “light bulb” moments, such as a previously unspoken user giving positive feedback or telling a story of a situation where the insights helped make a decision or solve a problem. By capitalizing on these contagious moments, we can dramatically enhance the progress of data integration. In addition, fostering a culture of trust is essential. When there is a culture of trust, the concerns of too much oversight are eliminated. Organizational transparency breeds an unparalleled culture, particularly in analytics. 

In the future, Harkins plans to explore more advanced machine-learning methods and algorithms to help us predict risk before it becomes a thought, by using to an entirely proactive approach. Much of the construction industry is reactive to situations on the jobsite, leading to loss of productivity, profits, and more focus on present issues instead of the ultimate end-goal. We are constantly looking for more ways to tap into our data to help inform the decisions that we make, in hopes that we can soon have data-driven solutions assist in all decision-making processes.