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Data Management in a POST-COVID World

March 23, 2021
By Peg Landry

As architect and engineering (A&E) firms move into 2021 still facing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, lessons learned from working remotely are reshaping project delivery models.

Firms are now considering ways to improve efficiencies to gain competitive advantages in 2021. 

McKinsey & Company predicts that the continuing COVID-19 pandemic will drive an accelerated use of technology in the AECO industry. They suggest that the industry will transform from an overly complex, fragmented, and project-based industry to a more standardized, consolidated, and integrated one.

The pandemic has put a spotlight on disjointed processes for managing and sharing information. Working remotely has forced firms to rethink workflow processes and data management strategies that hamper a team’s ability to share information – across geographies, organizations, and disciplines.

Our “new normal” remote work model creates opportunities to focus on the connectedness of project information.

This requires a shift in thinking.

A&E firms can move to a project information management model where data regardless of where it resides, is available when and where it is needed. This creates an opportunity to utilize information as a business asset rather than consider it as an administrative burden.

Deloitte’s 2021 Engineering and Construction Outlook also cites industry trends that are emerging from the COVID-19 crisis.

 “Connected construction presents a host of efficiency- and productivity-enhancing technologies that can enable new business models and strategies. There may be another disruptive event around the corner that could catch the world off guard. But E&C firms that embrace digital, form strategic alliances, and prepare for the future of work are most likely to be better prepared for whatever comes next.”

Deloitte 2021 Engineering and Construction Outlook

Deloitte also suggests that firms should make technology investments that solve business-level efficiency problems instead of stand-alone project-related issues.

Data is at the core of connected construction. Firms adopting an enterprise-level data management strategy gain a competitive advantage through consistent, reliable, and repeatable workflows across all projects.

Consider BIM integration as a starting point.

Many firms have recognized the importance of improving workflows and processes related to managing building information (BIM). Over the last ten years, the usage and importance of Building Information Management (BIM) solutions have grown rapidly. McKinsey & Company estimates that the demand for BIM solutions will reach $10.2 billion by 2022.  

McKinsey & Company

You can’t get there from here.

Many design firms are looking at BIM as an opportunity to improve project delivery. But the acronym BIM has morphed from Building Information Modeling to a broader definition – Building Information Management. The emphasis is now on the integration of BIM data throughout the project life cycle.

Design firms looking to improve their project delivery model are also looking at innovative technologies such as Digital Twins. Digital building models which mirror the construction environment are being considered as a way to mitigate risk before construction begins. Digital Twin models collect information from a variety of sources including historical BIM information. However, implementation of Digital Twin models will require integrated building information data.

McKinsey & Company suggests improving project delivery by addressing schedule and cost issues further upstream in the construction process:

“Companies can improve efficiency and integrate the design phase with the rest of the value chain by using building-information modeling (BIM) to create a full three-dimensional model (a “digital twin”)—and add further layers like schedule and cost—early in the project rather than finishing design while construction is already underway”

McKinsey & Company, “The next normal in construction How disruption is reshaping the world’s largest

Digital Twins are only as good as the data used to create them. Firms who develop a comprehensive data management strategy will be better positioned to implement advanced technology such as Digital Twins.
Automating the management of construction drawings and documentation throughout the project life cycle is a good starting point. The benefits of an integrated approach to BIM have a ripple effect from the office to the field.

What does “connected” BIM look like?

From design, planning, build, and close-out, the construction process is riddled with a host of point software solutions and data silos. The option to migrate point solutions under one common data environment requires significant planning and resources to implement. Most architect and engineering firms cannot make the time and resource commitment.

Putting document control in the center of design and construction processes, enables firms to easily share information dynamically. This enables design teams to work proactively with the field. It can also reduce the communication delay between the office and the field.

It also includes connected communication.

In addition, a broader Project Information Management solution that automates and integrates email communication provides a complete picture as part of the project record and can reduce response and resolution times to meet project deadlines.

Embracing a flexible data strategy and technology solution that unifies information across point solutions, platforms, and projects, can be implemented at the enterprise level without the heavy lifting required for a migration effort.

The COVID crisis has negatively impacted most industries, however, the A&E industry has an opportunity to embrace remote workforce models to improve data management across the enterprise. As the economy begins to open with the rollout of COVID vaccines, the construction industry can benefit from digital collaboration efforts forced through the pandemic. A repeatable and sustainable strategy for managing project and building information will certainly provide a competitive advantage in our post COVID world.

For more information please visit: Newforma Project Center Document & Building Information Management.