Business Intelligence in Heavy Construction. Where do we start?

In HCSS Intelligence, Lantern Posts by Marc Krichman

Every construction company wants an easy-to-use dashboard that displays all that’s important to the business. This includes KPIs, trends, and other BI concepts. Very few companies know where to start though. After being involved with several companies which successfully implemented HCSS Intelligence, a new Business Intelligence tool by HCSS for heavy construction, I’d make two recommendations: first, assign someone from the management team to drive the project and second, start small and build.

Assign a Management Driver

Typically, what makes construction companies successful does not live in the collective minds of the IT team, yet this is the team which is most often brought in to drive a BI project. A good IT team is skilled at managing technical projects and maintaining the technology infrastructure, but they are not operationally equipped to discuss what’s important in the management of construction projects. For this reason, successful companies find a project driver from the operations/management side of the business. As this driver also represents the ultimate customer, they are best positioned to gather the business metrics at all organizational levels and then drive the project from there.

Create a Project Team

Just like a construction project, it’s definitely a best practice to create a small team to drive the project to successful completion. A BI team should include the driver, an executive sponsor if available and someone from IT. This team makeup provides an emphasis on the business. Even though the IT person may be responsible for some technical work, this makeup ensures the ownership of the project skews to operations and business, instead of technical.

Educate developers on the business

When describing KPI’s and metrics to whoever is writing the reports, take time to explain why the metrics are important. It’s also important to discuss any expected action the user would take if the metric is too high or too low. This time helps developers and after all the better the business metrics, the better the results.

Start small and build

Another aspect to BI projects where companies stumble is starting in the wrong place. Warning signs involve new reports or new processes. Habits are very difficult to break so starting with a small existing report which needs something to shine is a great place to start. In another post earlier this year, we suggest starting with simple process-based reports. This works for many companies because it’s simply reporting on business processes the teams should be doing in the course of their job responsibilities. This also prevents the all-in-one dashboard with too much “stuff.”

Starting with too much “stuff” on a dashboard is a bad idea

Like any successful project, walk before you run by starting with process-based reports and simple metrics. The executive team is likely already using metrics to manage the business. Their top 3 is a great place to start. If you want to surprise them, choose a few of the following:

  • Job cost vs revenue
  • Job cost vs budget
  • Job cost compared to forecasted cost at complete
  • Total budgeted work
  • Listing of top/bottom performing project managers (cost to budget)
  • Listing of top/bottom performing project managers (cost to forecasted at complete)
  • Listing of top/bottom performing jobs (cost to budget)
  • Listing of top/bottom performing jobs (cost to forecasted at completion)
  • Rework items with totals (weekly, monthly, etc.)
  • Top gains and loss

Use Lantern Data Systems to help with Custom Reports and Dashboards on HCSS Intelligence

HCSS partnered with Lantern Data Systems to provide construction industry-specific business consulting around the use of data. We have many years in the construction space and can help by providing recommendations to your business intelligence, dashboarding, and data warehousing strategies. We also author or modify custom HCSS Intelligence reports and dashboards.