The sheer amount of data produced in the architecture, engineering, construction and operations (AECO) industry coupled with digitalisation has made using a Common Data Environment (CDE) to manage project information an essential piece of the process. With multiple stakeholders and various information formats, CDEs provide a central location for data management and a single source of the truth for AECO projects.
However, it can be tricky to determine which option is best for your project with so many different solutions and providers to choose from. Picking the wrong CDE could cost you time, money, and significantly slow down your construction project, so it’s important to understand your needs and carefully weigh the options before making a selection.
Selecting the best Common Data Environment 101
The best Common Data Environment should allow you to collect, store, and organise all project data and documentation (including information created in the BIM environment) while streamlining and facilitating administrative processes, and collaboration, in all mobility, between the different stakeholders involved in the process of your project.
This blog provides an overview of what to consider when looking for a CDE provider and our downloadable CDE checklist outlines the criteria to consider for finding the best common data environment for your project.
Key criteria for choosing a Common Data Environment solution
Technical aspects of your CDE
To properly support your BIM approach and respond effectively to the needs, constraints and specificities of your construction and engineering projects, certain technical criteria must be met.
Connectivity with your existing or future information systems (existing integrations and APIs), compliance with standards (ISO 19650), and functionalities in terms of document management (naming system, available formats, management of revisions etc.) are all important factors to consider.
With many construction and engineering projects requiring access to information on the go, a Cloud-based solution is fundamental.
Accessibility via a web browser should be a minimum requirement but it may also be beneficial to have a CDE that’s mobile device-compatible and can be accessed by employees, partners, or suppliers through different types of profiles (remote allocation and management of access rights in CDE).
Since some stakeholders are external to your organisation, you will also likely need a CDE that allows you to manage access rights for inter-company collaboration. Finally, among the “must-haves”, your CDE should be able to take into work with different types of information formats (office documents, photos, images, videos, etc.) otherwise, it will fail to provide a complete picture of the project.
Project expertise of the CDE provider
While the technical aspects of a CDE are essential, the biggest difference between one CDE solution and another is the company that supports you – before, during, after your deployment. It’s important that your Common Data Environment provider is not only a simple supplier, but as a strategic partner.
Also, make sure that your CDE provider has sufficient experience and expertise in terms of support services — whether that be regarding getting started with the solution, traditional support (bug fixing, service client, etc.) or continuous improvements (analysis of processes and workflows, implementation and monitoring of updates, etc.).
Business expertise of the CDE provider
A CDE is a central element of any AECO project so it must be possible to integrate it with other types of software. For example, integrating BIM and cost management solutions can allow you to get the most out of your CDE. Selecting a CDE partner specialised in the AECO sector will give you a range of interconnectable tools that meet your specific needs.
Choosing the best Common Data Environment for your projects therefore requires evaluating not only the CDE solution and the associated technology, but also taking into account the skills (integration, development, etc.), experience and the expertise of the Common Data Environment provider.
Thinkproject offers a range of CDEs that are already tailored to AECO projects and industry needs. These can all be integrated with our other software solutions, covering BIM collaboration, contract management, budgeting and forecasting, and asset and maintenance.
For a more comprehensive outline of the key criteria for selecting the best CDE for your particular needs (scalability, data security, automation of simple and complex workflows, on-site mobile app, etc.), download our CDE checklist for a thorough look into what your CDE provider should offer you.