Few construction industry leaders would say they oppose data integration. Most acknowledge that combining different data types and formats into a central location allows access to complete, current, and accurate information to help them make fact-based decisions instead of acting on hunches. So why doesn’t every engineering and construction (E&C) firm have a warehouse of integrated data? The culprit is often misinformation created by myths about data integration. We will debunk three of the biggest myths about costs, downtime, and complexity below.
Myth #1: Data integration cannot be achieved without high costs
This myth was once true, and some vendors still do quote integration approaches that are not feasible for many E&C firm budgets. But today, integration solutions once available only to enterprises atop the ENR 500 are now available to small and mid-sized firms. Recent breakthroughs in virtualization, iPaaS, and cloud computing have contributed to their lower costs and broader availability.
As defined by Tech Target, data virtualization is an approach to data management that allows an application to retrieve and manipulate data without requiring technical details, like data format or its physical location. As this technology has matured, it has driven total integration costs down.
Integration Platform as a Solution (iPaaS)
Gartner defines iPaaS as a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution, and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on-prem and cloud-based processes, services, applications, and data within individual or across multiple organizations.
iPaaS is ideal for E&C firms. Collaborating and sharing information across multidisciplinary teams including owners, architects, consultants, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers using different systems is the cornerstone of E&C work.
Construction organizations typically collaborate with teams across multiple cloud platforms, so when considering iPaaS, look for a cloud-agnostic solution. Some solutions offer packages with varying costs based on the number and/or complexity of flows (data sources) needed. Custom email alerts may also prove helpful, for example, if an error occurs or if a batch is completed.
Collecting servers in a single room or rack is no longer necessary. Geographic isolation of data sources is actually a business continuity / disaster recovery best practice. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud were growing in popularity even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sharp increase of remote work and video conferencing accelerated their growth.
E&C firms are deploying more hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud arrangements. Essentially, hybrid cloud refers to the combination of private and public cloud infrastructure, and some or many from an organization's own data center. Multi-cloud configurations use multiple cloud providers to meet different technical or business requirements. The reason cloud computing, sometimes referred to as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), is so popular is that it allows for fast scalability, broad availability, and low total cost of ownership vs. managing everything in company-owned data centers.
Myth #2: Data integration requires significant downtime
Even during off-peak times, E&C firms want to avoid downtime. Today’s data integration solutions offer rapid time to value with development-cycle times reduced by as much as 33%. Some solutions may be able to eliminate workday downtime with only brief downtime on evenings and weekends.
Containerization, enabling developers to create predictable environments isolated from other applications, is also used by some solutions. With containerization, consistency is guaranteed regardless of where an application is deployed. Containers only use about 60 lines of code so they can be developed and deployed quickly to minimize downtime.
Myth #3: Managing a data warehouse is complicated
What is involved with keeping a data integration platform running?
The short answer is that it depends, but there are solutions that do not require a high degree of information technology (IT) overhead. Look for solutions that include intuitive dashboards to monitor and troubleshoot integrations, the ability to quickly review flows, rerun flows on demand, or view error details, if any.
If using iPaaS, consider a solution that includes a dedicated client-success (CS) manager. The CS manager puts an iPaaS subject-matter expert on your company team, instantly adding value while eliminating the learning curve for an existing team member to become proficient. And unlike a consulting relationship where the expert stays for a while to train your team but then leaves, a client-success manager is always available to create or troubleshoot flows.
Today’s construction and engineering world requires unprecedented external collaboration, with multiple parties outside your organization at every building, site, and external site. The mobile information, in turn, reduces data centralization, creating a greater urgency to adopt a data integration solution.
Want to learn more? Gaea Global Technologies, Inc. has decades of experience with construction and engineering solutions. Nexus, Gaea’s integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) solution, was designed to automate construction processes across applications. To learn more, visit https://nexus-platform.com/.