by Karl Vantine, Chief Customer Officer at Contruent
Improving visibility and collaboration can make a huge difference on project outcomes. Here, we delve into three ways you can do this: (1) centralizing data and documentation, (2) tracking progress in real time and (3) using visual reporting.
To appreciate the full potential of these strategies, think of all the projects in your portfolio that are currently in motion. Then ask yourself some questions:
- What are today’s deliverables for each one?
- Are you able to look at the data and confidently know the exact status of your projects’ progress?
- Can you easily locate project data when you need it?
- Are their cost or schedule performances showing signs of needing to catch up?
- How quickly can you access data to make immediate decisions? And do you understand what the data is actually indicating?
- How about resource allocation? Are you overstaffed in one area on the jobsite but shorthanded elsewhere? Are materials and equipment where they should be? If not, how does this impact the project?
- Are there any change orders or developing or ongoing problems to address?
Now answer those same questions — but from the perspective of your project teams and stakeholders.
Compare the two sets of answers. Would everyone be on the same page? Could you effectively manage the project and collaborate with everyone? Would teams be able to understand what’s happening with the project and work together productively with the information they can see?
The answers have a direct effect on project outcomes. Now let’s look at the ways you can amp up visibility and collaboration so you can improve upon those outcomes.
Centralize Data, Documentation and Communication
First things first: to truly support project visibility, you need a specific place where projects can “live.” Because each one is a work in progress, it benefits from having a single source of truth (SSOT) where everything is located — contracts, drawings, schedules, inventory, change orders, approvals, inspection checklists, performance metrics, etc.
Your best bet for a reliable SSOT is construction project management software. This industry-specific software is designed to centralize and work with vast amounts of capital project data and documentation as they evolve, making it far easier to find, access and retrieve what you need when you need it.
And that software can serve as an SSOT and forum for project communication. All the clarifications, questions, discussions and decisions are just as much a part of the project record as blueprints and metrics. When you and your project teams have transparency into the same information and a channel to interact, individual productivity and collaboration become more effective.
Imagine how this kind of access to information and to each other can benefit your projects — less confusion and time spent scavenging for details, fewer misunderstandings, and more comprehensive 360o problem-solving by leveraging collective expertise from multiple disciplines with diverse perspectives.
Track Progress and Performance for Real-time Project Insights
Project visibility is more than just accessing and viewing information; it’s seeing progress, performance and risks as they evolve throughout the project life cycle. That means having visibility into the objective data that details what’s going on behind the scenes.
The proof is in the metrics, specifically earned value management (EVM) performance metrics. EVM is another set of eyes for you, tracking real-time progress and performance along the cost and schedule continuums.
It’s made up of three variables — planned value, actual cost and earned value — that, when plugged into different equations, deliver the four cost and schedule metrics below that you can rely on for real-time insights into the critical nuances of ongoing project health. Don’t worry; you won’t have to do any math. If you’re using that SSOT software from above with EVM functionality, it does all the calculations for you using data from the estimate and from the field during construction. The resulting numeric values represent what’s happening in each metric area.
- Schedule performance index (SPI) shows how efficiently you’re using your time with regard to the planned schedule. When the numeric value equals 1 you’re on schedule; greater than 1 is ahead, and less than 1 is behind.
- Cost performance index (CPI) indicates how efficiently you’re spending against the budget. A value equal to 1 is on budget, greater than 1 is below, and less than 1 is over.
- Schedule variance (SV) calculates the difference between where you are and where you should be in the schedule. So a value equalling 0 is on schedule, higher than 0 is how far ahead you are, and lower than 0 is how far behind.
- Cost variance (CV) measures the difference between where you are and where you should be in the budget. Like SV, 0 is on budget, higher than 0 is how far below budget you are, and lower than 0 is how over budget you are.
SPI and CPI, in particular, are sensitive to all kinds of changes, decisions, corrective actions and risk factors — from both inside and outside of the project. Their values constantly oscillate up and down; when they make unexpected, sharp or long-term shifts, you should pay extra attention. These could be signs of a trending or developing risk to the project that could throw it off course financially and/or time-wise.
Having this real-time visibility gives you and the project team a heads-up to collectively explore causes and make consensus decisions on how best to move forward. Because EVM metrics are free of bias, they become a consistent framework that supports a reliable data-driven approach to collaborative decision-making.
Present Data Using Visual Tools for Better, Faster Comprehension
Does spending time and effort scouring rows and columns of raw data for insights into project progress and performance sound appealing? It sure doesn’t. And it’s not efficient either.
Visualization tools solve this challenge, bringing data visibility to you, your project team and stakeholders in forms that are far easier to grasp. One of the most common tools is the dashboard; you should be able to find this in construction project management software. Dashboards condense complex raw data (including those EVM metrics) into simple formats, from bar charts to line graphs to S curves to diagrams. You could consider these to be very small-scale visual reports.
Using such easily recognized graphic structures provides a universally understood way for everyone to immediately make sense of the project — what’s going well, what’s heading into questionable territory and what needs immediate attention.
One concern that may come up is determining what data to surface, especially when you have different audiences requiring different data. Customize them. Select the key performance indicators (KPIs) each audience wants in the format(s) that make the most sense and have dashboards created just for them. Now, each group has visibility into the information they need for more focused collaboration on the kinds of decisions and actions they make.
Contruent Enterprise delivers these functionalities with construction project management software that improves project visibility while strengthening collaboration among teams and stakeholders. Contact us to find out how we can help your projects.