The construction industry isn’t usually the first one you would think of for innovative adoption of technology. As director of product and partnerships at JBKnowledge, a leading provider of IT solutions for the industry, Adam Denno is doing his part to change that. And he knows how necessary it is given how global construction has become. “There used to be a saying – Faster, Better, Cheaper – in the construction industry,” he says. “You have to have the ability to move with market demand, and we are seeing increased stress starting to come from outside of the domestic markets.”
More than ever, Denno relies on D&B’s predictive analytics to make critical connections on customers – completing a picture on who these companies are and how they operate. He knows it has become imperative that JBKnowledge have a clear understanding of its customer data, and Denno endeavors to create that customer clarity.
In this edition of Data Dialogue, he describes industry pressures and how data and analytics continue to play an increasing role in corporate success.
In a time of growth, how do you keep up? How do you stay ahead of where things are going?
That's a million-dollar question, and you have to continue to evolve your delivery methods. Our partners are continually stressed with finding the right opportunity to pursue construction. A typical margin is 2 to 3 percent. During the downturn there was a hypercompetitive nature in going after work, reducing margins, reducing fees to secure work, and staying afloat.
As the U.S. construction market continues to grow, a lot of other economies globally are seeing stagnation or even a decline in what their construction markets are experiencing. So we are starting to see outside contractors come in to our markets. Case in point: Here in New York if you look down the way there is a large development project headed by a recognized Chinese outfit. That’s something that we hadn't seen during the downturn.
So we have clients ask us when the impact of foreign competition will start to come into play. I can take a walk down the street right now and say, “It's not coming. It's here. And it's going to continue to grow. That’s going to increase the stresses on the ability to find capable contractors, laborers and owners for these projects that are growing.
You spend a lot of time understanding the dynamics that your customers face. How are you using data, technology and analytics to truly understand your market?
It's a great question. In construction, we’re historically very slow to adopt technology and the consumption of data. Recent market reports find construction investment to be right around 1% of technology revenue. If you look at complimentary markets like insurance or banking, that's upwards of 7 to 8%.
So construction is slow to adopt technology, but that's changing because it has to. With the help of Dun & Bradstreet, we want to give the end user information in a much quicker, better and more consistently.
Due diligence is an important part of working with your customers and making investment decisions. Why is Dun & Bradstreet part of your portfolio?
Historically I've been an analyst, and I love to look at numbers and make inferences. I love to connect the dots. I love to have the ability to make a more informed decision moving forward. What I've done recently is really take a step back and look at the accuracy of the foundation of those models, which is pure data. I've learned that Dun & Bradstreet is a significantly strong component of that model.
We need to have a foundation to begin with, so what we've done at JBKnowledge is work with Dun & Bradstreet at the front end of our data model to ensure that when we start to collect data from clients, businesses, owners, architects and engineers, we have them go through an initial Dun & Bradstreet cleanse through D&B Direct. That allows us to ensure that there's one accurate record that's current and actionable.
From there we are able to generate a profile on those companies and link them to our master database in master data format for our clients. Again, the D-U-N-S Number is a significant component of that relationship. It's a unique number that, outside of social security numbers and federal identification numbers, you need to create a true family relationship, provide a holistic view of what your dollar spend is, and see what your relationship is with that company as a structure.
So working with Dun & Bradstreet as a global leader in company verification and credit is a huge component.
Quicker access to more consistent and reliable customer information is key to moving ahead in the construction industry, Denno concludes. “There is an evolution in the consumption of data,” he says, “and we look to Dun & Bradstreet as a partner to make that happen.”