Forward-thinking construction contractors recognize the need for project decisions to be supported by data analytics. A truly data-driven contractor means advancing all aspects of the construction project—from project planning to commission.
With project failure rates remaining troublesome, many construction project managers are turning to data for help. Proper use of field data can eliminate the guesswork of decision-making and helps project managers provide better guidance to key stakeholders. Data also proves valuable to help project managers schedule work, allocate resources, increase efficiency, reduce costs, and more effectively manage risks.
Construction contractors can leverage data through construction business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA). Construction BI combines software and processes to gather, store, and analyze big data from many sources (planning, field, suppliers, accounting, etc.) and convert that data into helpful project information.
Business intelligence (BI) is the descriptive form of data analytics. It leverages past and present data to glean insights into what has happened or what is currently happening during projects. BI gives construction firms, project managers, and other stakeholders access to real-time metrics to support better and faster decision-making and achieve increased visibility into projects, processes, and results.
On the other hand, Business analytics (BA) is considered predictive, focusing on the “why” to make more informed predictions regarding construction projects. With BA, data is analyzed to predict challenges better and adapt to provide improved outcomes.
Here is how integrating data analytics into construction practices can significantly benefit your projects.
A challenging area for construction contractors is managing resources because they are scarce, varied in skill sets, and continually changing, making it difficult to plan and resource across projects. Projects often compete for the same resources like skilled labor, equipment, or materials. Data is vital in driving effective decision-making around resource availability and allocation. The success of projects rests on matching skills, allocating the best resources, and scheduling the right resources.
Having access to data from projects enables project managers to manage projects better and improve future ones.
Construction firms using standalone Excel sheets rather than BI tools, such as Rhumbix Field Analytix that can integrate with their project management tool, are often disadvantaged. Integrated BI tools can help manage resources, such as labor, project scheduling timelines and identify risk factors that are potential obstacles. Project managers can use data to develop resource management KPIs such as resource conflicts or on-time task completion indicators.
BI can help contractors discover and improve inefficient workflows or technology-based efficiencies, thereby alerting project managers or other stakeholders to take action and improve how project teams collaborate and communicate. By uncovering and addressing inefficiencies, project teams can focus on higher-value work and faster delivery of projects. By enhancing field-data collection processes, project managers can more easily identify bottlenecks and other process-based obstacles with a fraction of the time of traditional reporting. Applying business intelligence can isolate ineffective or inefficient processes and improve overall decision-making efficiency. It also helps develop KPIs such as “planned” versus “actual” time spent on tasks, human errors, or the number of change requests.
Risks can come in many different forms and arise from both internal and external sources. The threat a risk can pose can be significant, impacting the performance of a project, portfolio, or a company’s entire program. Many companies remain in reactionary mode regarding risk and compliance rather than getting ahead of potential risks using BI tools.
Risk and compliance management are among the most critical areas where BI can play a crucial role in identifying issues. Data provides contractors with factual information that can isolate many types of risks from past, current, and future projects. Data insights allow contractors to rethink current risk management strategies and move beyond being reactive.
The key to gaining actionable insight is determining the types of data needed for effective decision-making, especially during uncertain times. It’s essential to carefully evaluate the features of BI and BA tools to make sure they provide Project Management with the relevant real-time insight to support your company’s project and portfolio goals.
Essential features to consider:
Having the maximum amount of BI and BA features built into or integrated with project management tools shouldn’t be a top priority; instead, it’s more beneficial to focus on having the right features (purpose-built for contractors):
While the BI features and capabilities might vary, construction contractors should ensure that capabilities essential to improving their particular project–prior, during, and outcomes are emphasized in their data strategies. This typically is a company-wide initiative and involves multiple stakeholders to support. Doing so will enable them to leverage business intelligence effectively in gaining actionable insights, whether that is a matter of resource management, risk assessment, or establishing more efficient processes and communication.