The demand for data centers has never been higher. According to data from OpenreachUK, internet usage more than doubled last year as digital spaces replaced physical ones, new apps helped keep people safe and digital transformation accelerated in every industry. This increased digital reliance is here to stay: the pandemic accelerated an existing shift to digital and many of the new work and lifestyle patterns formed during lockdown will last well beyond the crisis.

The high demand for data is good news for the growth of the data center sector but it puts huge amounts of pressure on data center operators and developers. The industry’s desperate need for physical infrastructure to underpin its growing online world means data centers are being built with exceedingly short timeframes, particularly as customers move to contract capacity in advance, leasing space in centers that are still under construction. For developers, late delivery is no longer an option, with hefty fines potentially levied for failure to meet these tight deadlines.

Aspen Construction workers move a segment of cement pipe on the airfield construction site at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia,
– U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal

These aren't the only pressures faced. Data center builds are highly intricate operations which involve multiple stakeholders and a high value, multi-level supply chain which extends even beyond the already complex team of designers, contractors, suppliers, consultants and professional services associated with traditional projects. Then there’s the rise of ‘build to suit’ projects, where large customers commission entire data centers to their own bespoke requirements.

Working to unique requirements whilst coordinating multiple parties under immense time-pressure is no mean feat. But it is the construction phase of a data center project that is the most complex and critical. It’s during this stage that deficiencies in design and delivery become most evident, and also where the greatest liability lies for cost and time overruns. With clients, operators, main contractors and trades all performing critical roles that need to be carefully coordinated throughout the construction phase of a data center project, how can they continue to work in harmony throughout a project’s lifecycle to ensure success in the face of increasing time pressure and project complexity?

The short answer is the right technology. The need for data and an increasing reliance on technology is what’s driving data center demand - it is also what can help developers meet it.

Today’s construction platform technology and collaboration tools give data center operators and all relevant stakeholders the ability to capture data from the field and gain visibility into their project performance. With it, they can better collaborate and make smarter decisions to meet compressed timelines, manage highly complex projects and deliver successful data center projects safely, on-time and within budget.

What’s more, in an industry where supply chain collaboration is key, everyone wins. Owners can gain access to high-level overviews of their portfolios and can easily see the status of all projects; main contractors are better able to manage projects using a single source of truth thanks to access to real-time information and purpose-built tools for construction; while, specialty contractors can effectively track their workers’ hours and avoid rework by referencing the most up-to-date drawings.

Those in the construction industry, and in particular owners, are experiencing direct benefits from platform technology. In fact, our most recent ROI Report found that 76 percent of owners surveyed agreed that such technology can help them identify areas for improvement on a construction project to ensure efficiency. While, portfolio managers for owners save 10 hours per week, on average.

The exponential growth in demand for data is creating a wealth of opportunities for data center developers. But the sector isn’t without its challenges. Compressed timelines, myriad stakeholders and high degrees of project complexity make building data centers an ongoing challenge. This sheds light on the need for the entire industry to be proactive about looking for solutions to streamline their work and reduce the opportunity for errors. Platform technology, combined with careful attention to legislation and regulations, is the way the industry can meet these challenges and build the data centers of the future.