Morta: Custom Information Hub

Automating data flow to improve accuracy, remove risk and enhance decision-making.

Last updated: 22nd November 2021

Date uploaded:

Approved for use

Innovation Lead: Liam Winder
Project number: 105873
UKRI funding: £261,225

Website:
morta.io/


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Summary

The successful delivery of assets relies on accurate, reliable information. Yet too often, complex projects use disconnected spreadsheets, documents and systems that contain thousands of data points that can be inaccessible, inconsistent and prone to error. Morta led a project with Mott Macdonald to develop an end-to-end Custom Information Hub that blends the familiarity of spreadsheets with the utility of a database. Organisations can use this to connect information from different sources and automate time-consuming manual processes. It gives organisations a golden thread of data and an audit trail throughout the programme, as well as the confidence that all necessary checks are taking place. Organisations can collect information into a cloud-based information hub that acts as a single source of truth for the entire project team to work to - one that lives with the asset not only during the build itself but for its entire lifecycle.

Innovation type: Digital, Process
Organisation type: ACE (Architect / Consultant Engineer), Innovative SME, Supply chain

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Project pioneers

Mo Shana'a began his career in construction working for a large Middle Eastern contractor. He saw a disconnect between on-going digital transformation efforts and the current state of data in the industry that is often manually collected and analysed in spreadsheets. His Masters in Engineering for Sustainable Development reinforced that net zero could only be achieved with reliable, accurate data. So he co-founded Morta with Matthew Morrison to help organisations across the built environment digitise, connect and automate processes.

The problem

Despite hundreds of systems available in the market, a lot of organisations across the construction supply chain continue to rely on spreadsheets due to their customisable nature. Crucially, as a result, projects and organisations become dependent on manual processes that are time-consuming and prone to inadvertent human error. This makes it more difficult for organisations to have the right information that they need at the right time to make effective decisions, introducing risk to the organisations as well as missing out on opportunities for improvement. 

Vision

Morta's Custom Information Hub gives organisations the ability to increase productivity and leverage their information to identify opportunities and mitigate risks. By replacing spreadsheets and documents with Morta tables and processes, organisations can structure their information making it more accessible, consistent and easy to query. Information from other parties or systems can be collected using APIs. This eliminates the risk of human error, ensures timely transfer of information, and creates an audit trail for the entire lifetime of the asset. The supply chain can work with a single source of truth on a programme and organisations can have confidence that their information is being assured and is fit for purpose. 

Key Insight

Mo observed that, despite companies making huge investments in software systems, teams still heavily relied on disconnected spreadsheets and documents. Not only did this result in time-consuming manual processes, but he was especially alarmed when he learnt that 90% of spreadsheets contained errors and 50% have operation defects according to Forbes and various sources. During his MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development at Cambridge, Mo became convinced that poor information has overarching consequences to society - everything from designing sustainable buildings, to delays in critical infrastructure to the lack of audit trails and accountability when things go wrong such as the Grenfell disaster. Motivated by this opportunity, and after meeting Matt, the pair co-founded Morta with the belief that software shouldn't dictate how construction companies work, they should dictate how it works. 

First step

The first step for Morta was to speak to 150 organisations about their software needs and experience. It was during these interviews that Mo and Matt met the leadership team at Mott Macdonald who shared the same passion to leverage information better. Mott Macdonald believed that information is key to supporting a platform-based approach to construction and net-zero outcomes.  The two organisations partnered up to deploy the Custom Information Hub platform on a large commission that Mott Macdonald was delivering for the Department for Education (DfE). they writing the output specifications in line with the government’s Construction Playbook, seeking to harmonise, digitise and enable machine-readable requirements. This Custom Information Hub would form a key step in the Department for Education’s aim to standardise its designs for schools and automate the assurance of the delivered assets against its requirements. 

Barrier

Using spreadsheets and word documents is putting construction projects at risk. People have to remember to manually collect information and update spreadsheets. This introduces risk and wastes valuable time. It also makes it difficult for companies to share and reuse information to identify opportunities for improvement. With access to reliable, accurate information in a single hub, they can automate day-to-day decision-making, and leverage information to drive positive outcomes. 

Digital Innovation

Morta allows users to create a Custom Information Hub that has the familiarity of spreadsheets and documents, and the utility of databases. In doing so, it helps organisations structure their information, check information quality, connect information silos and automate processes.  It works by pulling data from multiple sources to create a single source of data across all programme partners. It can run automated error checks to clean and qualify the data, and it can also create a detailed and transparent audit trail between the users of the platform. It replaces resource-intensive processes and smooths the workflow between different partners and contractors. It also has the potential to remove risk in a project by making data more visible to all partners throughout the project. The platform is split into four core modules: Tables; Processes; APIs; and Webhooks. 

  • Tables replace spreadsheets and enable effective data structure, allowing users to organise, view and add information in a tabular format. Users can power-up their tables with 'in-cell validation' to check data quality and python-based 'scripts' to automate complex calculations. 
  • Processes typically replace Word documents supporting information which cannot be stored in a tabular manner and allows users to complete sections and respond in a pre-defined manner.
  • Webhooks and APIs allow users to implement complex automation services based on 'trigger' events. 
  • APIs allow organisations to pull and push data into other systems such as Power BI or 3D Model software. 

Collaborators

Morta was the lead on developing the platform, and Mott Macdonald partnered with the team to implement and test the platform. They worked and tested the platform for different use-cases with the Centre of Digital Built Britain (CDBB), the University of Cambridge, The Environment Agency, The Department for Education, The Manchester Foundation Trust, Arcadis and Bond Bryan Digital. 

  • Arcadis
  • Bond Bryan Digital
  • Centre for Digital Built Britain
  • Department for Education
  • Environment Agency
  • Morta Technologies
  • Mott MacDonald
  • The Manchester Foundation Trust
  • University of Cambridge

Lead support

Innovate UK and the Transforming Construction Challenge supported Morta and Mott MacDonald with investment to develop and test the digital platform. The team also drew on support and advice from Construction Innovation Hub and Centre Digital Built Britain, particularly around aligning the platform to the Construction Playbook and role-modelling Morta's Custom Information Hub as an example of a digital platform that can support more reliable, quality of data.

Long Term Vision

Ensuring that the right information is delivered to the right party at the right time is key to unlocking efficiencies and successful outcomes in the built environment. In the short term, Morta’s Custom Information Hub enables organisations and projects to create an integrated information system that supports decision making with a holistic view across relevant factors and the right information available in making decisions. Organisations can then leverage this information to automate manual-time consuming processes, while maintaining a detailed audit trail of who did what maintained throughout the life of the asset. In the long term, organisations can re-use this information to identify opportunities, mitigate risk, and forecast performance. 

Human Stories

Individuals cannot keep up with the thousands of checks they have to perform, often relying on memory and spot-checks leaving tremendous room for errors. Morta's Custom Information Hub removes the need to manually collect, check and analyse thousands of data sets. This saves valuable resource and leaves skilled teams freer to use the information to make good, timely, accurate decisions and achieve successful outcomes for the project, organisation or asset. 

Powerful Processes

The platform empowers professionals to build and customise their information hub to perfectly meet their needs with tools that are familiar as spreadsheets and documents. The platform is divided into four core modules: Tables, Processes, APIs & Webhooks and Dashboard. Tables and processes allow organisations to structure information they would’ve previously created in excel and word, making it more accessible, searchable, and easy to query. Information can be pulled or pushed from other systems, and therefore stitched together seamlessly in a single hub. Automation can be used to assure the integrity of the information and analyse it, while creating a detailed and transparent audit trail between users of the platform. 

Fascinating Facts

Morta's Custom Information Hub improves productivity by enabling professionals to focus on making decisions and improving outcomes. For certain processes, such as assuring information deliverables and reviewing payment applications, Morta has automated over 90% of the tasks involved.  Morta's Custom Information Hub is reducing the cycle time of checking cost claims from three weeks to two days on a $1.66Bn project that involves 30+ contractors. To do that, it has connected over a 150 data sets including financial, field and project data-sets.

Benefits

Assurance
Morta's Custom Information Hub enables automated assurance of deliverables against requirements. Crucially, with the increasing complexity and volume of data-sets, individuals cannot keep up with the thousands of checks they have to perform, often relying on memory and spot-checks leaving tremendous room for errors. Automated assurance means all parties can have confidence that the necessary checks are being performed while reducing the time for checks from weeks to hours. 

Productivity
Morta's Custom Information Hub improves productivity by enabling professionals to focus on making decisions and improving outcomes. Organisations have used Morta to automate up to 90% of processes such as cost reconciliation and checking deliverables against requirements. Specifically, this removes the need for:

  1. Checking information quality
  2. Collecting and aggregating information from different sources
  3. Manual, ad-hoc analysis

Time
Morta's Custom Information Hub reduces the cycle time of time-consuming processes. Examples of this include reducing the process of checking cost-claims from three weeks to two days on a $1.66bn cost-plus project. Moreover, the same technology is being applied to check asset information against requirements, reducing the time from 24 days to three days.