Like love, looking for the right data system isn’t easy

Choosing a data system can be like falling in love. But then, breaking up with your data system isn’t easy, say Bentley Systems’ Phill Nightingale and Mark Coates.

Think back to when you first fell in love with someone.

There was that first connection. You wanted to know the details of everything going on in their life. You began to learn more and more about that person while also finding out more about yourself at the same time. There was the insecurity that you felt when you didn’t know what the other person was thinking or doing. You wanted to spend all your free time with them. They made your life better.

But perhaps you’ve also experienced the pain of falling out of love. The swirl of emotions: the shock, the frustration, even the denial. The differences in what you both want out of life or what you’re looking for became too irreconcilable, and the relationship no longer worked. Perhaps you spent too much effort in trying to fix things and it led to a messy breakup. Perhaps you both realised that it just wasn’t going to work out early on and parted ways amicably. Regardless, the breakup still hurt.

Kind of sounds like the relationship that we have with our data, doesn’t it? And that includes the data in our businesses. Because like our romantic relationships are to our personal lives, our data systems are an important part of our businesses. They house the information that we need to do our jobs, do them well, and make progress. You don’t want to settle for a data system that doesn’t truly solve your problems.

Searching for data systems Is like searching for love

When business and people are examining project data, they’re looking for ways to make their life better—just like when they’re looking for love. The way that you search for a data system can mimic the way that you search for a romantic partner, including looking for:

  • A greater insight into common themes of how you both spend your day—in this case, it’s your business, programme of work, and project.
  • A much greater connection and visibility into what’s going on every day.
  • Greater insight into yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses.
  • New opportunities and empowerment to visualise those new possibilities.
  • Awareness of threats and signs that something isn’t right.

All these things that you look for when choosing a data system are things that you look for when trying to find love. Conversely, if searching for data systems follows the same path as when you’re searching for love, it makes sense that changing a data system can feel like a difficult break-up. Knowing this similarity, therefore, can help you understand the best way to go about searching for a data system - and the best way of breaking up with your data system, should you need to.

Falling in love with your data system

Having the right data can help solve the problem of rising insurance premiums to make working from home during a global pandemic more seamless, as data is important to how we run our businesses. Finding the right data plan, however, can be tricky. Like falling in love, there are stages that you go through to find the perfect plan and then, when you’re ready, commit to it.

These stages are:

  • Familiarisation – You start getting to know your data system.
  • Attraction – You see the benefits of the data system and only see the positive parts.
  • Awkwardness and insecurity – You feel like you won’t be able to cope without that data system.
  • Increased intimacy – You begin increasing your usage of the data system with more projects uploaded and an increasing desire to engage more.
  • Exhilaration – You feel like your data systems give your insight and visibility into your projects, your business, and you.
  • Commitment – You agree psychologically to make a long-term commitment to your data.
  • Union – You sign up to a contractual agreement and sometimes make a public declaration of your contract with a data provider.

Breaking up with your data system

But like all relationships, the relationship with your data provider doesn’t always work out like it should. Sometimes, you wake up and realise that the relationship you have with your data isn’t the one that you want.

We’ve seen many examples of when a relationship between a business and its data system has soured. There are the smaller issues, like a lack of connectivity or continued rework. But then, there are the situations that can not only hurt your business, but also lead to loss of life, such as the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, the collapse of the Viadotto Polcevera Bridge in Genoa, Italy in 2018, and the Whaley Bridge dam in Derbyshire bursting in 2019. At this stage, you realise that you might be headed for a data divorce.

Just like when a romantic relationship begins to take a turn for the worst, there are phases that you go through, eventually leading to you recognising that things aren’t working out and moving on.

These phases include:

  • The shock phase – You slowly realise that after all this time, your data system doesn’t help you to know your projects and your business as well as you thought. There’s a dawning realisation that you don’t know your data system that well either.
  • The denial phase – You deny that the problem is as large as you think—even when the evidence points to the fact that something is wrong, and others are also pointing out problems to you.
  • The mad phase – You try to fix the relationship with your data system but then realise that you’re not getting anywhere.
  • The acceptance phase – You realise and understand that it’s time to leave your data system.
  • The moving-on phase – You realise that it’s time to look at other data systems.
  • Breakup stage (or the conscious disengagement phase) – You uncouple from your data system and begin preparing for a new relationship.

Making the commitment

In a recent Bentley-commissioned survey, the number of systems used to deliver a project can be somewhat excessive. You are only truly ready for a data-system relationship if you first know your business intimately; your strengths and weaknesses, where you need support, and how you can support others.

Only high-quality data capture and mining can give you that knowledge to genuinely and intimately know your projects and your business, enabling you to identify new opportunities.

If this isn’t the relationship you have with your data, it’s probably time to find a data system that you’d like to commit to.

Phill Nightingale is senior account manager and Mark Coates is strategic industry engagements director, UK, both at Bentley Systems.

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email awalker@infrastructure-intelligence.com.