by Karl Vantine, Chief Customer Officer at Contruent
Complex projects yield complex data — and a lot of it! Without some order and context, that data can’t help you. Only when processed and organized into something you can understand and interact with can that data tell the ongoing stories of your projects — so you can make more confident decisions and manage more successful outcomes.
So, how do you turn that raw project data into something meaningful and actionable?
You need something that goes beyond what traditional data presentation tools can do. It should keep up with the proliferating network of information that capital projects generate and help you better interpret that data to manage execution and outcomes more efficiently.
This is where the power and promise of interactive dashboards shine. They make the complex simple, translating thousands upon thousands of details into simple-to-grasp visuals. They’re a strategic tool to help everyone understand and quickly act on the data.
Here, we’ll explore the measurable benefits of interactive dashboards — including real-time data monitoring and faster decision-making—and the features and functionalities that make them possible.
Working with Complex Construction Data
As construction project processes and tasks become digitalized, it invites more data to be analyzed and acted on. That’s good for the project (more data = more insights), however, managing and making sense of it may feel overwhelming.
Beyond the overload, much of that complexity is rooted in the technology used to gather and process project data. In many instances, data is strewn across fragmented silos that are cumbersome to access and integrate, often resulting in inconsistent data that is difficult and time-consuming to manually reconcile.
So, when drawing on that information using traditional data presentation methods—such as spreadsheets, text-based reports and common presentation applications—it may be near impossible to get an accurate, reliable gauge of progress and performance to base decisions, action steps and risk mitigation efforts.
These methods aren’t designed to handle the massive amounts of construction data in all its forms. Nor are they known for their real-time interactivity to filter or more deeply explore specific data. And they can lack the flexibility necessary to draw attention to crucial data, trends and patterns.
This all underscores the need for interactive dashboards as an effective, scalable solution that consolidates and presents volumes of complex data in a meaningful, actionable way.
The Power of Interactive Dashboards
Put simply, interactive dashboards are online visual representations of data. This ability to condense and manipulate data into something vastly more understandable makes them ideal for working with complex construction data.
The benefits of interactive dashboards go beyond how they compare with traditional data presentation methods — they revolve around what the dashboards empower you and other stakeholders to do with all that data.
Gain real-time data access. Your data has a lot to say about your project at this very moment. For example, how efficiently costs and schedules are performing. If resources are adequately allocated. How productivity levels are faring. If emerging risks may require attention or action. Dashboards give you immediate access to what you need when you need it to make time-sensitive decisions.
Of course, not everyone needs to access the same data. Each stakeholder group has its own areas of concern. Procurement doesn’t need the same data access or breakdown that a CFO requires; a CFO doesn’t need the same details an engineer does. The right interactive dashboard will enable you to create role-based dashboards geared toward specific groups or individuals.
Improve data comprehension. Have you ever tried to make heads or tails of rows, columns and pages of data only to ask, “But what does it all mean?” It’s mind-numbing. And wildly inefficient. The stories behind the data are lost within the apparent organization.
Interactive dashboards with a user-friendly interface lend simple-to-grasp visual context to it all. By transforming data into familiar graphic elements like charts, S-curves and graphs, it’s easier to observe progress and performance and detect deviations, trends and patterns.
Even though each interactive dashboard pulls from a substantial base of complex data, an intuitive display is designed to help everyone — including the tech-averse and non-technical users — easily navigate to the information and insights they need.
Make faster, data-driven decisions. The difference between successes and setbacks can come down to the quality and timing of decisions. That’s why having the right data to inform those decisions is so important. Rather than wading through a sea of complicated, irrelevant data, interactive dashboards can offer several ways to zero in on what you need to keep the project on track and address issues and risks as they happen.
- Filtering allows you to select or deselect the datasets you want to focus on, such as date ranges, dollar values or specific labor shifts.
- Drill-down functionality helps you dig further into the details for deeper analysis or to identify causes of issues for more effective troubleshooting.
- Custom visualization gives you broad flexibility in what and how data is presented. You can tailor them to display anything you need visibility into specific key performance indicators (KPIs), overdue job tasks, or forecasts and progress of projects within a portfolio. Customization can also be what graphical format, line style and color choices are chosen to highlight specific data points for easier tracking and comparison.
The more focused and relevant the data is, the more effective the decisions are.
Collaborate more productively. Poor communication, miscommunication, inability to access or understand project data, and questions around data accuracy and validity have all been implicated as culprits when cost and schedule outcomes run amuck.
They’re also the kinds of challenges that can hamper the collaboration necessary to keep disappointing outcomes from happening in the first place. Successful collaboration depends on several factors, all of which take on extra importance when they involve complex construction data:
- Access to a trusted, centralized repository of data
- Real-time visibility into project status, performance and progress for data-driven insights
- Standardization of data for consistent interpretation across groups
- A way to home in on just what’s needed to focus collaboration
- A means through which to engage with each other, collectively analyze data and share commentary and insights
Interactive dashboards bring these factors to the forefront, giving complex data much-needed context and usefulness. Ultimately, dashboards change how you engage with that data—and each other—providing an environment that facilitates the consensus decision-making and collective problem-solving necessary to help projects hit their outcome targets.
The complexity of modern capital project data is here to stay. But transforming how you engage with it can empower you to make decisions more confidently and mitigate risks that put your projects on a more solid path toward meeting their established outcomes. Learn about Contruent and how we can help you leverage the full potential of your construction data.