by Ryan Craaybeek, Director, Solutions Consulting at Contruent
Capital project success is measured by how well they meet established cost, schedule and quality outcomes. While the focus is often on the end game, projects benefit when more attention is paid to the steps needed to get there — because knowing what to focus on in the present directly shapes future outcomes.
The answers lie in performance data. And how you interpret and act on it during the construction phase will show up in those outcomes. Yet, with so much data constantly accumulating, it may be unclear what it’s telling you.
You don’t have to be a data geek to understand it. Intuitive dashboards bring much-needed clarity to the swirl of information. Rather than serving up a bunch of raw data, they convert it into familiar visual formats that present an ongoing, comprehensive view of project performance. This inherent intuitiveness gives even the most technologically challenged a fighting chance of being able to find and interact with specific data.
Dashboards are an essential tool in helping construction managers gain control over and maximize performance.
How Intuitive Dashboards Enable More Control Over Performance
Having control over performance depends on seeing what’s happening now and where the project is headed. Intuitive dashboards offer that clear window. With visibility into project status, progress and budget, you can be more strategic in managing the costs, delays and risk factors that affect performance. Your key performance indicators (KPIs) come into play here.
Core to these visual tools’ value is their ability to zero in on real-time performance by collecting and analyzing two specific KPIs: cost performance index (CPI) and schedule performance index (SPI). These become the guideposts for helping you understand and manage budget and timeline efficiency.
Each metric, represented by a numeric value, evolves as the project evolves. Dashboards help you follow along with a user-friendly interface that translates each into graphical formats that allow you to gauge project health and outlook instantly and accurately.
You’re essentially getting quick-hit answers to pressing questions without having to hunt down and sift through reports:
How well is the project adhering to planned budgets and timelines? With all your data accessible in one place, it’s easier to gain high-level visibility into how your SPI and CPI are acting. Curious about what may be behind a deviating or suspiciously stagnant or lagging performance metric? Intuitive dashboards allow you to dive deeper into the details. That’s where you’ll glean further insights into the whats and whys behind cost and schedule performance.
How are each of the metrics performing over time? Look for trends or patterns in how the KPIs are behaving. They can provide reassurance when things are going smoothly and also awareness of potential issues that would’ve been much harder to discern without having visual context.
Are labor, materials and equipment resources allocated where they should be? Dashboards provide clarity into how and where resources are divided up so you can decide how to optimize their utilization. This visibility helps avert unintended over- or under-allocation that could show up in your KPIs as schedule delays or spiking costs.
What are visualized KPIs indicating about threats to performance? SPI and CPI are highly reactive to decisions, changes and risks — and that’s a good thing because you can use your dashboard as a real-time risk management tool. When either SPI or CPI venture outside their respective safe operating range (outlined before the project began), it will be reflected in your dashboard graphics, usually with a displayed alert. Think of this as early issue detection. It’s a clear sign there’s something to be aware of and act on before it becomes a more significant issue that ultimately impacts budget and timeline outcomes.
What’s in the forecast? History isn’t a 1:1 indicator of the future, but for capital projects, it can provide a foundation for valuable insights into how a current project might unfold. For example, what patterns emerge from your historical data that point to potential performance issues or opportunities to be aware of for improvement? What past challenges can you anticipate in your current project, and how might they impact performance?
By leveraging those data analytics from past projects (trends, patterns, performance data) and incorporating real-time project information, dashboards can deliver realistic forecast models for costs, timelines and resource allocation.
Ask, “What if?” One of the most powerful features of intuitive dashboards is the ability to explore how what-if scenarios could impact performance downstream. This goes beyond what forecasting does by allowing you to simulate situations, decisions and risks that may have played out in different ways in those past projects.
You could explore external factors like material cost fluctuations, seasonal weather delays, forthcoming regulatory changes, or geopolitical influences on supply chains. Or you might focus the what-if question internally by asking what happens if the completion date timeline is shortened, labor resource allocations are shifted from one project to another, or a particular change order is approved or not. Tweaking individual variables within the interface allows you to analyze the corresponding cost and schedule impact.
Both capabilities enable you to manage performance proactively, with dashboards facilitating the data-informed decisions, action steps and contingency plans that keep the project on track to meet expected outcomes.
Improve Performance with Intuitive Dashboards
Intuitive dashboards are strategic tools that provide essential visibility and understanding of the complex KPIs that define project performance. With their real-time data insights and predictive capabilities, dashboards empower you to effectively manage that performance with more confident, data-driven decision making. Having a clear view of what matters, when it matters, enables you to influence the success of your capital projects by emphasizing present efforts for more favorable future outcomes.
Learn about Contruent and how our intuitive dashboards help effectively track and control capital project performance.