Digital Transformation: A Case Study — Building New Standards for the Construction Industry
Do you remember when you had to physically go to the library to do research for a report or project, look up words in a heavy dictionary or maybe you’ve seen a movie where a detective searches through a box of old papers in a basement somewhere? If so, then you can probably imagine what it must have been like in the early days when someone went to CRB for information.
Founded in 1959, the Swiss Research Center for Rationalization in Building and Civil Engineering (CRB) is the national competence center for standards in construction. It has evolved over time (together with “werk, bauen + wohnen” and the Federal Statistical Office) to include construction research, such as documenting building costs, plans and enabling statistical reports on unit costs of building projects throughout Switzerland.
It’s pretty easy to picture rows of shelves, stacked with boxes and papers, full of valuable information for the planning, construction and management of buildings. In an effort to bring their offering into the 21st century, CRB has decided to embark on a digital transformation to provide online access and a platform where customers can explore, compare and discover information.
If you look up the definition of “digital transformation” (good luck finding that in an old leather-bound dictionary!), you’ll find something like this: the process of using digital technologies throughout the business to change how you operate, meet changing business and market requirements, and to deliver the best value to your customers. Although it involves technology, the focus of digital transformation is really about the changes to the business goals and strategy — and CRB’s project is a great example.
Goals and strategy
CRB’s goals included delivering more accuracy and consistency across the information they provide, creating new standards, documenting and tracking costs, providing an index to adjust for inflation on historical data, offering transparency for architects and improving trust among its members by exploiting the power of data.
Starting from scratch they began to build a digital databank that customers could easily access online. By digitizing the enormous amount of documentation, books and articles, CRB has been able to provide its members with instant access to a complete range of cost data on realized objects. This currently includes around 1000 projects of all construction types, rather than a mixed selection from limited and inconsistent sources that in the old times would take days to receive.
With a step-by-step plan of action, CRB chose to deliver simple core information at the start and to make improvements over time. Every six months a new release incorporates updates and client feedback; the fourth release is coming soon.
Quantum, information design and the analysis tool
Besides presenting the facts and figures, CRB wanted to strategically expand their offering and bring some understanding of the “big picture” with a do-it-yourself analysis tool. Wanting expert help and a fresh view — specifically from outside the construction industry — they came to Quantum for help with the design and creation of the tool.
As well as providing an accessible way for CRB’s users to freely see and explore trends, outliers and patterns, it was equally important for the solution to incorporate regular updates and a growing database of information.
By embedding Tableau software in a web application, Quantum was able to create a cost-effective solution that
• offers a user-friendly interface for flexible data handling,
• efficiently incorporates CRB’s data,
• uses clear visualizations and filters for compelling and informative dashboards,
- provides quick access to information and
- performs cost calculations.
Users can select a structure or project by geographical region, how it was built, how long it took, the people involved, cost per square meter, etc. and quickly retrieve all the necessary Information.
That’s right: no expensive, customized software was used, and yet the tool offers plenty of customized choices for data discovery. With a limited investment, CRB now has a powerful new online solution that allows customers to perform interactive comparisons, cost calculations and visualizations in which they can document their own projects and compare against the databank.
Delivering value to the customer
Currently over 300 customers across Switzerland and Liechtenstein are actively benefiting from quick access to a complete range of information and data visualizations in four languages. You could say that CRB has truly made a Quantum leap in transforming their services as well defining new standards for the industry.
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