Internet, cell phone and cable providers are having a field day offering ‘bundles’ appearing to cost less, but are likely costing more. According to market research firm SNL Kagan, the average revenue per user for cable grew from $119.24 to $161.12 as of October 2015, an increase of more than 35 percent.

The average cell phone plan is about $130 per month today. Combined, we spend on average $300 per month for cable, Internet and cell phone service. In exchange for paying these hefty fees, we give service providers permission to collect our data. 

Data is the collection of facts and statistics for reference or analysis. Below is an excerpt from a poem that better explains the value of data:


The rich men—they grow richer everyday

The rich men—they grow stronger by the day

The rich men—they grow wiser in all our ways

Because they know

They know where we go and who we know

They know what we like
and what we don’t 

They know where we live
and what we give

 © Battisti 2016


Construction Data

What data should subcontractors collect? Commonly I hear that subcontractors collect estimating and job cost data and use that information to bid new projects. In other words, subcontractors look at old estimates and old job costs and at times apply production rates, unit pricing or other such information to a new job that is similar.

How useful is applying old data to a similar job? I’d say somewhat useful, but there are so many variables that in the end its really just historical information that may or not help. So, again, I ask, in the following order:

  • What data should subcontractors collect?
  • How will subcontractors collect important data?
  • How will subcontractors use important data?

To answer these three questions, let’s first realize that project data is the most valuable data because it’s compelling. 

The most important data collected by general contractors is the information subcontractors provide such as a subcontractors daily report. The second most important project data is related to the construction schedule. The third piece is the data associated with RFI’s, change orders, and constraints. For the sake of time, let’s consider only daily report data.

Daily Report Data

The data included in a daily log is something that can be used against subcontractors or to support subcontractors. As you know, most subcontractors fill in the blanks on daily report noting weather conditions, number of workers, and possibly where their work is being performed.

This is useless data for subcontractors, but very useful data for general contractors and owners because it doesn’t address those things that negatively impacting a subcontractor. If subcontractors want to benefit from data collection they must capture data that’s worth collecting. For example here are a few key data points subcontractors should capture in their daily logs:

  • Planned manpower verses actual manpower
  • Planned phasing verse actual phasing
  • Planned work sequencing verses actual work sequencing
  • Constraints
  • Schedule deviations
  • Schedule updates

Data Collection Methods

Again, ‘data is the collection of facts and statistics for reference or analysis.’ If you’re not a believer in collecting construction data, you may want to turn your eyes towards the data storage industry. Currently, data storage is roughly a $50 billion dollar a year industry which will grow to about $70 billion in the next few years. If that doesn’t tell you that data is valuable I don’t know what else to say other than the fact that big technology companies are investing heavily in construction related software that includes project data collection.

Once you identify the data you want to collect, you then have choices in how it’s collected and it all depends upon your budget. You can choose between high or lower end project management software, or you can go to digital forms. In either case, the data must be in an electronic format and must be searchable, sortable and exportable.

For smaller contractors, digital forms work great and are very cost effective. You can create your own forms or take your clients form and turn it into a digital form. Once the form is created you can search, sort and export data from your forms, and the learning curve to create these forms is minimal. Lastly, you can choose to have all your forms saved in the digital cloud. Search digital forms on the internet to learn more.

Using Data

Because data is the collection of facts and statistics for reference or analysis, subcontractors can use data to support their positions. For example, collecting data showing the difference between planned manpower and actual manpower allows subcontractors to present a very compelling story to the general contractor and owner.

Collecting project data related to deviations from the original schedule allows subcontractors to present a compelling story warranting serious consideration to both the owner and general contractor.

Collecting real time project data helps subcontractors analyze the eventual financial outcome of a job and team performance. A common problem among subcontractors is optimism. Owners, estimators and project managers are generally very optimistic when a project starts. When project variables occur such as a lack of information, and or manpower, phasing, sequencing or when other such deviations occur, owners and project managers become less optimistic. 

 Being optimistic about a project is a good thing, however when problems occur there shouldn’t be a reason to be less optimistic if you’re collecting the right data. Accurate data gives subcontractors the ability to keep their team and their client accountable. 

Keeping a client or a project team accountable for their actions or inactions shouldn’t create conflict or confrontation. Project data collection is simply the collection of facts and statistics for reference or analysis used to keep people/clients accountable, informed and to improve a projects outcome.

In 2016 Oracle announced that it is acquiring Primavera, a project management and billing business, by buying Textura, a cloud based contract and payment management solution for construction. The $663 million all cash purchase is a done deal thereby creating a new global engineering and construction unit for Oracle.

The rich men grow richer every day because data is so valuable. The biggest boom for the rich men was when they figured out how to collect data on the likes and dislikes of both individuals and businesses every minute of the day and night.

For example when you’re shopping online the rich men collect data on what you like or what you’re interested in. Knowing this they can then offer you similar products as options hoping you will buy one of them.

Data is knowledge, and data collection in construction is coming on strong for a variety of reasons. Subcontractors just need to figure out what data they want to collect, implement a data collection method and decide how they want to use the data.

Yes, the rich men knew. Do you?