The construction industry has a data interoperability problem. When a project is created, the information doesn’t flow into the ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. So, the information has to manually be entered into the ERP. But then that information is not available in the project management system, requiring more manual intervention. 

People need to dedicate time to make those manual information transfers. If it’s not done immediately, the information is out of date. This affects the work of people who need that information to create invoices, receive orders, do scheduling, store files, etc. They don’t have access to the most recent information because of data fragmentation. Employees can spend significant time transferring data manually when interoperabilities don’t exist. This is a costly problem across the industry, and every industry struggles with it: finance, human resources, manufacturing, industrial, healthcare, consumer data, and even sports.

The goal of interoperability is to take the fragmented data, connect it, give it visibility, and make it useful. In the construction industry, connecting data across software programs streamlines systems.

There are hurdles to bridging this data gap. People are comfortable with the solutions they use, even though it’s difficult to get data out. They know there are consequences of trying to connect data: if it doesn’t work, they’ve wasted money, and margins are already thin in construction. That tends to make people conservative in their software trials.

In fact, that is a reasonable way to handle business. It’s unfair to expect companies to migrate away from the ingrained systems they’ve been using and are comfortable with. Their solutions are time tested. The better plan is to bring them into the current state of open APIs.

One way to do that is to move workflows online for integration and interoperability. Data can be exchanged among different products and applications when it is translated so existing information can be mapped to other systems. That translation enables interoperability. Data can be exchanged among systems and flow between them in easy, predictable, standardized ways. Ideally, the process should be seamless, happening behind the scenes so the user isn’t aware of it.

Interoperability is intuitively attractive. The concept sounds good and makes sense. However, companies need to be motivated by a specific problem they’re trying to solve before they are likely to pursue it. They need to ask, “What problems are we trying to solve?” If manual data exchange is one of those problems, they can begin with the end in mind and work backward using interoperability to solve it.

A valuable benefit of interoperability is the ability to divert time being spent on manual data transfer processes and spend it elsewhere being productive – a savings of time and money.

A shift of mindset needs to take place. Construction companies need to quantify the costs of their manual data transfer situation. Customers can drive demand for software that makes interoperability possible. Software manufacturers need a willingness for their tools to become an ecosystem for open interoperability.

Bridging the Gap podcast, episode 179 with guest Tom Reno "Interoperability Isn't a Threat"​

Tune in to Bridging the Gap podcast episode 179 with Tom Reno as he discusses how interoperability provides a chance for growth in the construction industry.

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