A common data environment (CDE for short) is a centralized platform designed to compile, manage, administer, and distribute important documentation for everyone working on a construction project. Simply put, it is a single source of information that promotes collaboration between teams working on different aspects of the operation.
A modern CDE is digital, and is usually patterned after the traditional building information modeling (BIM) workflow. It can include key items such as the project schedule, contracts, change orders, and so forth.
There are several reasons why a contractor may decide to utilize a common data environment. These include:
● Centralized information. Having a "single source of truth" on any construction project can streamline workflows, result in better decisions, and forestall preventable mistakes. A CDE fills this need reliably and effectively.
● Improved efficiency. CDEs cut back on the need to manually enter (and re-enter) data. In turn, this results in fewer opportunities for human error, and quicker access to key information for team leaders.
● Better collaboration. Any time a project features a reliable, centralized source of information, project leaders and team supervisors can more easily collaborate with one another, and coordinate their schedules and workflows for maximum efficiency.
● Higher security. A common data environment enables authorized admins to have maximum control over sensitive data.
There are a few key questions you need to ask before making the leap to a common data environment on your next construction project. These include the following factors:
● Where should you start the implementation? It might be difficult for your employees and subcontractors to quickly make the switch to an entirely new information system. With that in mind, you need to ask yourself where the rollout should begin. Should it start in the field? Should it begin with upper management, and then trickle down? Where would the system make the most immediate impact? How will you handle the training program? All of these are serious considerations that need to be addressed early on.
● What and how are you going to standardize? As anyone in the construction industry can attest, no project can be successful without the use of standards. The same is true of a common data environment — it will never be successful unless you set up data standardization first. Thus, you need to consider where your reporting lags behind in this regard, and which processes you should standardize first. You also need to analyze how best to standardize across your entire company.
● How can you get buy-in? The rollout will likely be an entirely new experience for most (if not all) of your team leaders, employees, and sub-contractors. Therefore, you need to identify which stakeholders must buy into the new direction, and how best to achieve their support. Consider running a pilot program with the program before full implementation, or sharing a cost-benefit projection with your team.
If you decide to implement a common data environment on your construction projects, you'll likely find that your teams will collaborate more easily, your processes will go more smoothly, and your business will grow more quickly. Explore the different options available to you, and determine whether a platform that gives you a CDE would be a wise investment for your company.
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