The ability to share digital data effectively is a critical factor that impacts the success of digital transformation in the design and construction industry. This includes both the ability to share data within different departments in the same company or across multiple companies involved in the same project. New research from Dodge Construction Network, together with Trimble, published in the “Connected Construction SmartMarket Brief” series, reveals that owners, architects, engineers, general contractors, and specialty trades are utilizing digital workflows to share project information. 

The findings show, though, that internal connections are far more common than external ones, with nearly half of all respondents (48%) sharing 50% or more of their project data internally using digital workflows, and nearly one quarter (24%) doing so with other stakeholders on their projects.  

“In an increasingly connected world and with the rapid adaptation of remote work due to COVID, construction companies are looking for ways to more efficiently, securely, and quickly share data with key stakeholders,” said Pete Large, senior vice president of Trimble Construction. “This research project with Dodge shows that teams and projects utilizing digital workflows saw a substantial increase in project quality, supported by faster delivery and decreased delays related to rework. By sharing the findings of this research, we believe these insights can help construction professionals understand how connected construction is used on a practical level.” 

The study also explores, in detail, the various processes for which digital workflows are employed and the benefits of using them. In order to fully capture all these details, five new Connected Construction SmartMarket Briefs have been created, in addition to the one examining the owner's perspective published earlier this year. Four of them focus on the design and construction industry practitioners who participated in the study: architects, engineers, general contractors, and specialty trade contractors. The fifth provides an overall look at all the respondents to the study, and it examines, in detail, the difference in response between those who are already highly engaged in these processes and those who have more limited engagement. 

Some notable findings from each of these individual reports describing different personas and types of organizations include: 

  • Architects lead the industry in their use of multicompany digital workflows, with one-third deploying them. 
  • Engineers are deepening their engagement with workflows for specific design practices with 83% of users are planning additional investments digital workflows. 
  • General contractors that focus on vertical (building) construction are utilizing more digital workflows for their construction operation processes and reaping greater benefits than those who largely engage in civil construction. 
  • Specialty trade contractors are currently utilizing digital workflows most frequently for administrative tasks, but their biggest planned investments are for utilizing workflows that will help them with construction operations and crew management.  
FIGURE 2. Benefits frequently experienced by specialty trade contractors from using digital workflows.

Despite the differences in their degree of use and how they engage with digital workflows, owners, architects, engineers, general contractors, and specialty trade contractors all report the same key benefits from their use:  

  • The key benefits for both companies and projects are more informed decision-making and increased efficiency of internal processes.  
  • The primary benefits for improved project outcomes are an increase in quality and faster delivery. 

An expected benefit revealed in the findings is that those using digital workflows have much more insight into how those processes impact their projects than those who do not use them. This finding was made clear in the close examination of the use of digital workflows for many common administrative, planning, and construction operations processes that the respondents perform.  

"It is quite likely that the increased insight that comes with the use of digital workflows is one of the main reasons that so many report being able to make better-informed decisions," said Donna Laquidara-Carr, industry insights research director at Dodge Construction Network. "What is more exciting, though, is that this finding suggests that the digital transformation of the industry may be able to finally help the industry achieve the productivity gains that have proved so elusive over the years." 

More information about how digital workflows are used, the benefits of their use, the connections between project team members and the potential for increased adoption of these workflows can be found in each of the reports: