This month in our 4 Questions interview we spoke to our very own Chief Analyst, Steve Shelley. Steve has worked at Barbour ABI for over 25 years and is the analytical brains behind so much of Barbour ABI’s analysis and monthly reporting. He discusses the brand new National Infrastructure & Construction Pipeline (NICP) delivered in partnership with the Infrastructure & Projects Authority, along with the evolution of the data analysis that Barbour ABI can provide.
Once you’ve finished seeing what Steve has to say, access the new National Infrastructure & Construction Pipeline (NICP).
Hi Steve, can you tell us what your role at Barbour ABI is and how your work benefits our clients?
I’m the Barbour ABI Chief Analyst and I sit within the economics team. I’ve been at Barbour ABI for 28 years now, which I think makes me the third longest serving member of the entire business!
I started in research at Barbour ABI and then became project manager at a time before we were ever widely seen as analysts.
Around 2010 we began to focus more upon how we could shape our data towards analysis, and then once we started working with the ONS we became more widely seen as analysts, rather than simply data providers.
It’s been interesting to see the change over the years, where in the past construction businesses didn’t want to share information with anybody. Now we’re seeing that businesses are much more willing to share information as the industry has recognised over the years that sharing this data has benefits for both the sharer and the receivers.
If an architect gives us information on their current projects, they make themselves massively more visible to potential partners who will want to work with them in the future, which I think a lot of businesses didn’t realise in the past. The willingness for construction businesses to share their data makes my analysis that much deeper and more useful than it ever could be without that buy in.
I’m the link between what customers can and can’t get from our typical web app. I am the person who can pull the data from our back end and get the bespoke answers that others can’t get from our data. I work across all departments of Barbour ABI and then do lots of work with our government partners and the ONS, for instance. Pretty much any data request will come to me at some point!
How does having a dedicated Economics team give our clients a unique experience?
When we formed an economics team it didn’t suit me to go and be the Chief Economist and become the face of the business!
That’s why myself and our Chief Economist Tom Hall work so closely together. We spot trends and do some digging to see if it’s of interest to our clients or the media and then Tom will do more research and analysis and present his findings on panels and to the media.
The data is so much better and cleaner than it was in the past. Our offering has massively improved, but it’s all based on the same concepts that grew the business initially years ago: telephone research from real people who work in Cheshire Oaks digging through projects and finding answers from the horse’s mouth.
What benefits for our clients does Barbour ABI’s work with departments such as the IPA, ONS or BEIS have?
The GIS mapping work that we do now with government departments, such as the IPA or BEIS wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago, but now we can showcase very complex data in a way that is easy to digest for all users.
Making such huge data sets appear accessible and attractive to users has meant that we have received lots of brilliant feedback from those projects. Being able to present data in something other than a massive spreadsheet makes it so much more appealing. Seeing where the major big ticket infrastructure projects are in such a simple way allows clients who are interested in those projects to forecast their budgets, plan their workforce requirements and so much more in their areas of interest.
The connection with the ONS is also a massive source of pride for us as a business. That’s a huge badge of honour for our data – and everything we do for them comes from the exact same project data that all of our customers receive.
What can we do for customers that they don’t know and what do you see improving even more in the future?
I think since the pandemic people are seeing how much value there is in the data. Firstly, they’ve had more time to work with it and understand it. Secondly, they’ve needed to use the data because they had less upcoming work in their pipeline, typically. And, importantly, people are getting more pressed for strategy, and for answers and plans that are based in data, as businesses need to justify why they are spending money more than ever.
I think more improvements in the mapping and interactive geographical features will make our data more visually pleasing and accessible for all users. I think more people will grow to understand what they can get from the data. Businesses are becoming more aware of how they can build forecasts from the data instead of just purely using the sales leads data – the leads data is fantastic, but is just the tip of the iceberg for what we can do with our data! The analysis of our data will only grow with a bigger team and more users who want to dig into the numbers to find the answers that they specifically need.