The GDPR and the Hackitt Review may deal with very different areas but both call for systemic change in business processes and putting people at the heart of decision-making. Jonathan Hunter, chief operating officer of Elecosoft, looks at the similarities between the new European law and a post-Grenfell world
GDPR is to the advertising sector what the Hackitt Report is to the construction industry: a wake-up call.
Both are rightly demanding a systemic change in the way professionals work, approach projects and manage data. The key now is to put people back at the core of the thinking process and decision-making.
Power to the people
Profits, productivity, performance. Returns, revenue, results. Key concepts that are high on the agenda of any project manager in advertising or construction. With economic pressures to cost-effectively deliver, professionals sometimes have to make decisions at the expense of the end user. The GDPR and the Hackitt Report both call for a shift in priorities and highlight a collective responsibility to create healthier environments.
On the one side, the EU law protects its citizens’ privacy by defining the collection and the use of their personal data.
Most consumers are not aware of their digital footprints, nor the reason why companies would be interested in keeping track of their browsing habits. Since 25 May, companies gathering and keeping information on their customers and prospects have to be transparent and honest on the ‘why’, the ‘how’ and the ‘what for’.
This means that there will be no more cheeky stalking without the user knowing and agreeing for personally identifiable data to be collected for targeted advertising or marketing. Companies are now liable and accountable in case of malpractice or incompetence.
Moreover, from a business point of view, GDPR acted as a sector spring cleaning, enabling firms to concentrate on having relevant, quality details rather than piling them up for the sake of it.
On the other side, Dame Judith requests a tighter focus on project tracking to guarantee residents’ safety.
At the moment, many builds are still delivered by fragmented project teams working in isolation. Also, when there is too much documentation, it becomes difficult for each player to have a clear understanding of the status and next step of the project.
Similar to (safely) keeping data on customers’ behaviour patterns online to provide better customer service, having a Common Data Environment will drive up standards, with an increasing move to digital recordkeeping across all stages of a building’s life, from planning and construction to day-to-day running and refurbishment.
Detailed archives, a digital logbook for each building of exactly what’s been installed and when, along with maintenance records, will become an essential part of construction estates management, as well as making building control inspections a much more technology-based affair. These archives will outline clearly everyone’s roles and responsibilities, helping to ensure that no specification is overlooked and building regulations are met and (hopefully) superseded.
These logbooks will help all parties (client, contractor, designer, specifier, planner, etc) have detailed and precise insight at each stage of the building lifecycle.
The power of time and teamwork
A systemic change of this nature will, of course, not happen overnight. The construction industry has seen this with the introduction of the BIM mandate.
Even though its usage has increased by 12% compared to last year, only 36% of the NBS national report’s respondents trust what they hear about it.
Business processes have to change and so must the sector’s attitude. The key here is collaboration. Collaboration between the government, industry bodies and trade professionals, which can be facilitated by embracing new technology.
BIM, for instance, has transformed the way that architecture, construction, engineering and facilities management work together. Combined with further collaborative software tools, each expert can be fully involved and can see their own impact on the project in real-time. Adding the elements of teamwork and engagement creates a new type of responsibility, ensuring that every decision will be taken in accordance with the main objective: creating fit-for-purpose, healthy and safe buildings.
Is this wakeup call timely or indeed the right alarm?
Where GDPR is a new law, the Hackitt Report is still at a review stage and this is a clear advantage for the construction industry as it can learn from the practical mistakes the European Commission (EC) made when forming the GDPR legislation. Only a few days after the legislation came into force, the EC itself breached it by having personal data of hundreds of people leaked from its website.
A collaborative approach is again necessary for developing new regulations for the planning and control of buildings. The government will consult construction industry experts before making any regulatory changes, to guarantee a smooth transition.
The industry will need time to adapt their processes and acclimatise their businesses to new procedures. However, digitalisation in construction will pick up pace, as building owners, insurers and inspectors increasingly demand an ongoing real-time record of exactly what has been installed and its maintenance. We expect purchasers to start to require these records too as part of their due diligence.
Chief Operating Officer
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