AEC and the Data Economy

digital abstract of the AEC and the data economy

The strategic importance of data.

Data is the new currency in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. Digital design and engineering methods—such as infrastructure digital twins, 3D/4D surveying, asset lifecycle analysis, and more—are generating more data than ever and sparking further innovation. Here we’ll cover AEC and the data economy.

The data you produce, access, and analyze could boost profitability or turn into a new revenue stream. But you need to be strategic about using it. What and how do you manage data today? Who owns it? Are the right people seeing the right data during and after projects? It comes down to your ability to use data and information to glean valuable insights that are useful in the marketplace. In this article, we’ll explore how to improve data management and how to turn your data into new revenue opportunities. 

Growing amounts of digital data and the need for data storage.

According to reports, the average AEC firm stores 2.5x more data than industries such as real estate, retail, manufacturing, and life science. That’s almost 150% more data to manage, store, and manipulate. And, the amount of stored data is growing in volume and usage, according to the AEC Data Insights Report. On average, firms increased storage by 31.2% from 2017 to 2021. In addition, AEC firms interact with these files more often than other sectors, leading to usability, access, and management issues. Storing and accessing all this data comes at a price, so it’s even more important to use the data to produce value for the organization.

What is the data economy?

The data economy is a global digital ecosystem in which data is gathered, organized, and exchanged by organizations to derive value. Within AEC, digital design files and big data from the internet of things (IoT) have created a global supply and demand for live data, data services, and applications, and the value created from them. Digital twins, asset lifecycle analysis, and other innovations are products of the digital economy. Firms can then use the data captured to generate insights that inform a more personalized and rich client experience or cultivate new revenue streams.

Preparing for success in the AEC data economy.

In a data economy, data is your currency and the most important thing you can own. To succeed, think about three key principles.

Create a data culture.

Research from IDC shows that organizations realize the full value of their data when they have a data culture. To foster a data culture, your teams need to understand what data is available, how to access and use it, and how it relates to solving problems. Be wary of impressive looking dashboards that don’t solve critical business problems—or worse yet, lead you to a poor decision because of faulty data. Instead, teams need to be on board with using data to solve problems or fulfill a customer’s needs. You also need confidence in data quality across the organization. This requires a data culture that values:

  • Engagement. Get executive sponsorship and have project leaders comfortable running meetings off live dashboards, not static PowerPoints.
  • Development. Include data management training and learning in job descriptions, competency modeling, and even onboarding.
  • Enablement. Ensure employees are trained on the technology as well as governance best practices.

Foster collaboration.

Data collaboration, the process of gathering and sharing data from multiple sources and using it across the organization, is the biggest differentiator for leaders of the data economy. According to Gartner, organizations that share data externally with partners generate three times more measurable economic benefits than counterparts that don’t. AEC firms that collect proprietary data can monetize this data, creating new product offerings or supplementing existing offerings with value-added data components. Additionally, you can use client data, at an aggregate level, to create a proprietary data library and further foster innovation.

Secure your data.

You likely generate massive amounts of data with modern design tools and processes. Some of it is your data, and some of it is your client’s. Regardless, make sure the data is secure as you use it across the organization. Ensure your project team has secure access to the right information at the right time. Consider these practices to extend data governance:

  • Govern and deliver project information based on roles to ensure consistency within fluid teams.
    • Safeguard your data with secure, federated login that controls access to information based on user identity.
    • Collaborate with supply chain partners using clearly defined data access and task lists.
    • Enforce industry and project standards such as ISO19650 with automated graphical workflows.
    • Manage data updates with smart workflows and templates that ensure information is filed correctly.

Harness the power of data to generate revenue.

AEC firms are churning out unprecedented levels of data. There is an opportunity to create value, but first, you must look closely at the data underlying the design to figure out how to reuse or repurpose the data for clients. What insights can be gained from your stored data? Can you use it to create recommendation engines for clients regarding late deliverables, issues with designs, new risks, or cost objective misses?  Or could you perhaps host digital twins tied to IoT devices and provide a service to host the digital twin, maintain it, and drive operations and maintenance?  To succeed, be flexible and creative, and foster a data culture, encourage collaboration, and champion data security at all levels. AEC firms that play an active role in the data economy are bound to deliver more personalized customer experiences and monetize data to generate new revenue streams.


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