Construction technology is quickly advancing, with solutions available for just about every aspect of a construction business. However, some contractors find that using multiple solutions can be a time consuming and frustrating process. The use of multiple, non-integrated software solutions by the project and financial teams to capture the same project information such as project budgets, subcontracts, etc. creates a “double entry” environment which creates waste.
The good news is that technology doesn’t have to be a source of frustration — there are changes being made across the industry to help make it as easy as possible for you to implement the solutions that make the most sense for your business. Some technology providers have helped streamline the integration process by taking new strategic technical directions while some are utilizing open construction platforms for data and service collaboration. Industry-leading providers also see the benefit in partnering with other top technology vendors to deliver the best solutions to the industry.
When top technology providers team up they can deliver a single point-of-entry solution, eliminating dual entry, saving time and effort for both your project and financial teams, while reducing errors and ensuring data integrity. These partnerships are all about helping improve the lives of construction professionals who rely on different solutions to do their jobs. The technology providers commit to providing support and resources to make their integrations as seamless and beneficial to their clients as possible.
In addition to individual vendor commitments and partnerships, there are currently initiatives under way to help make it easier for all technology vendors to work together. Some vendors support a Universal Construction Integration Platform. Right now, a vendor may integrate well with a few key players, but using a universal integration platform would ensure they could integrate with new solutions down the road and fit the ever-changing needs of the industry. With a universal integration platform, the provider builds and maintains hundreds of connectors, while data is universally configured so that it can be translated to any platform, system, or application.
Some technology vendors are also active with the Construction Progress Coalition. The Construction Progress Coalition (CPC) is a non-profit organization uniting Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Professionals, Technology Solution Providers, and their governing organizations. CPC is pushing for a shared language to define project interoperability standards. It’s transforming the future of digital project delivery through a Common Data Exchange (CDX).
Common Data Exchange
CDX is the connective tissue between open-source data exchanges like the Portable Document Format (PDF), Industry Foundation Classification (IFC), Extensible Markup Language (XML), and Application Programming Interface (API). It is a communication framework leveraged by AEC project stakeholders to decide what data is critical, who needs to provide it, and how to implement it through CDX-Listed standards and technology integrations, producing a CDX-Validated workflow.
Industry adoption of a CDX would give you more freedom in using the best solutions for your business. Construction firms generate a lot of data and most of it often lies in a single system. This can be an issue when looking to switch to a different solution. You could find yourself in a situation where you lose interoperability and can’t access your existing data with your new software.
You could experience similar issues when adding on a new solution. If your new solution doesn’t integrate with your existing solutions, you are forced to double enter data and lose efficiency.
A Common Data Exchange (CDX) would use a standard format for storing and exchanging information. A technology provider wouldn’t have to worry about all of the different formats other providers support; they could store the data in the format they chose and would only need to worry about translating the data into the CDX format. Once a CDX becomes an industry standard, data can easily be imported and exported between different systems, encouraging collaboration across the industry.
Guidelines for PDFs
In addition to the push for a CDX, a grassroots effort has been underway since 2013 to develop Guidelines for Construction PDF Documents. PDF documents remain the de facto standard for electronic file sharing between Design, Build, Inspect, and Operate (DBIO) professionals but not all PDFs are created equal. The CPC brings together builders and designers to share PDF best practices, pain points, and lessons learned to produce crowd-sourced answers to the real-world challenges the industry faces. Through its work with industry professionals, the CPC developed Guidelines for Construction PDF Documents v.1 and is currently accepting comments on the version 2 draft. It will remain a living document that is periodically updated based on industry needs.
The construction industry has certainly benefited from great technological advancements, with more new technologies on the horizon, but disparate solutions alone cannot address industry challenges such as a qualified worker shortage and increasingly more complex projects. The industry must unite and push for increased efforts to develop open source integration standards, simplify data transfer, and increase collaboration across the industry.