How to Use the Data Pyramid in Preconstruction

There are innumerable challenges in preconstruction: escalating material costs, labor shortages, and project delays. Attempting to produce an accurate cost for a project months, if not years, before the project actually breaks ground, is a monumental challenge.

Attempting to predict the future cost of materials and labor is daunting. It’s almost like trying to predict the weather in the temperamental month of October. However, in both estimating and weather prediction, we have historical patterns and personal experience to lean on. To predict the weather on October 29 this year, would you start by examining The Farmer’s Almanac? Or trying to remember what you wore last October?

Between software programs, historical data, and personal experience, we have access to mountains of data. Data analysis has become a highly valued activity in preconstruction. But how do we develop an accurate forecast from a pile of numbers? Let’s determine how to sift through data to make a reasonable prediction about the future.

The DIKW Pyramid   

DIKW Infographic-1

A model to make sense of mountains of data is called the DIKW pyramid, or data pyramid. The DIKW pyramid is a relationship hierarchy that takes a mass of raw numbers and transforms them into an actionable plan. It helps us understand the world. The DIKW pyramid is a way to make informed predictions about the future.

What are the components of DIKW?

DIKW is an acronym that moves from Data (D) to Information (I) to Knowledge (K) to Wisdom (W). Let’s break down the four components. We will use the analogy of the weather in October.

D-Data is a raw jumble of signals and symbols. It is pretty useless on its own. (Temp 56)

I-Information is just organized data. Here we have some structure. Information answers the questions of “who”, “what”, “why” and “where” and “when”. (The average temperature on October 29 is 56 degrees.)

K-Knowledge is when we can derive meaning from information. Remember we took data, then organized it into information, and have layered on meaning in a way that we can learn from. The information now has context. (My body temperature drops when I walk outside in 56-degree weather.)

W-Wisdom. Wisdom is actionable. We can forecast the future based on the patterns identified in the past. We got here because we wanted to move forward from our raw data to a place of understanding. Now we can take action and make educated decisions based on the information presented. (I will dress warmly in a sweater and scarf this October 29 because the 56 degree temperature makes me shiver.)

All put together, DIKW is a model to move from raw data to wisdom, so that we can take action and make decisions.

How Does It Relate to Preconstruction?

While wearing our hand knitted A.F.C. Richmond scarf let’s explore three ways the DIKW pyramid can apply to our world of preconstruction.

1. Secure squeaky-clean data.

In preconstruction, it is critical to have clean data. As seen on our pyramid, data is the foundation for everything that comes after. Avoid assumptions by feeding quality data into your estimates and software programs.

Bad data is costly. A recent article by Autodesk estimates that, “Avoiding rework triggered by bad project data could save the global construction industry over $88 billion annually.” Start with quality, clean data. Quality data sets project teams up for success and eliminates wasted time. Dependable data leads to quality decision making and more accurate outcomes.

2. Load the right tech tools in your toolbox.

Leveraging the right tool is especially important in three specific situations. Use the correct tech tool when organizing and analyzing data, when interfacing with a remote workforce, and when synthesizing large data sets.

Remember that information is just organized data. Ensure you have the technology tool that allows for both organizing and analyzing data in one place. Instead of uploading and downloading files into different programs, look for an all-in-one solution. DESTINI Estimator integrates with Autodesk, Procore, and ConstructConnect, allowing for a seamless flow of information. Everyone prefers a home over a motel room. Give your information one place to live.

In today’s era of  team members scattered across the country, ensure everyone can access data and collaborate in real time. Don’t give your team a reason to ask the dreaded question, “What was the latest file version named?”. Leverage tools like DESTINI Estimator that allow multiple users to work on the same estimate at the same time.

Doing a take-off by hand of the Burj Khalifa is like trying to remember the temperature last October. Don’t try to muscle through it manually; lean on your tech tools to help. Some tech tools like Excel can’t handle the complexity of today’s bids. Look for programs that were designed to handle large amounts of data.

Load the right tech tools in your toolbox when organizing and analyzing data, working with a remote team, and managing large amounts of data.

3. Use your analyses to improve future predictions.

Once you reach the pinnacle of the pyramid (wisdom), consider what to do with this newfound intelligence. How can you apply what you learned to the next estimate?

Rather than recreating the same columns and tables for each bid, create templates to save time. Create a checklist of tasks that you routinely do for your takeoff. Host a project retrospective to discuss what went well, and what could be improved for next time. Use wisdom to move your process and your team forward.

Whether it is preconstruction or weather prediction, we look at the past to predict the future. We can take data and make sense of it using the right tools. The data pyramid is one of those tools that helps us create meaning out of data. Consider using the DIKW pyramid on your next estimate, or, if you really want to, use it to pick out your clothes mid-October.

Ready to take control of your data?

While the data pyramid is a helpful foundation to understand how to make the data you're generating work for you, it can't get you all the way across the finish line. If you're interested in learning more about tools that can take you from data generation to data analysis, click the button below to schedule your demo of DESTINI Estimator construction estimating software. 


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