Transforming Construction – Big Data, Business Intelligence and Analytics

Transforming performance of projects with cloud technology, leveraging Big Data, Business Intelligence and Analytics to enable early warning notifications, risk analysis and prediction of outcomes

This blog reviews how software-as-a-service and specialised niche Business Intelligence solutions such as Acuite Project Intelligence are democratising data across businesses of all sizes and reviews the potential for business intelligence and predictive analytics to transform the performance of construction projects.

Building and maintaining a profitable construction company in this day and age is tough business.  The average profit margin for most commercial construction projects is a meagre 5% and in many instances, just managing to break even on a  project is considered a good outcome as crews remain in operation, cash flow continues and the business has an active project they can use in their portfolio.

In the case of an event that negatively impacts either the time taken to deliver projects or escalating costs can often mean the bankruptcy of these companies.    

The ability for a construction company to mitigate risk on projects and understand early warning signs that a project may require some corrective measures is now highly important.    Where other industries such as manufacturing and retail have a range of risk profiling, business intelligence and reporting toolsets to assist in tracking performance,  most construction companies find this dubbious due to the complexity and dynamic nature of their operations. Additionally, most construction firms cannot afford the level of investment in the tools, technology and people resources required to bring and customize these methods into their operational business models yet the opportunity data presents to the construction sector is massive.

The sheer volume of information generated during a construction project is huge and hard to manage.  Just being able to collect the basics around task performance, health and safety compliance and quality assurance can become a full time role for the project manager meaning they’re spending less time on site, actively managing the project to a beneficial outcome.  When the amount of data captured across the entire history of a construction company is taken into account, it becomes infinitely more complex and in many instances,   as soon as a project ends site sheds are shifted to the next project and this data is ultimately archived and lost, meaning it cannot be used to assist in any benchmarking or subsequent lessons learned analysis for new projects.

As previously mentioned, the cost of implementing these systems and hiring the highly skilled resources required to do the analysis is prohibitive for most companies across the board, however software-as-a-service designed specifically for the construction industry is creating a paradigm shift.   Similar to how Xero has changed the way the world views accounting software,  or Skype reduces the cost of contacting people around the globe via voice communication,  new cloud based companies are helping businesses utilise and understand their data better.

Acuite Project Intelligence was founded in mid-2014 with a focus on providing rich deep insight on projects to construction companies via an affordable software-as-a-service cloud platform that integrates data from many of the widely used tools in construction such as MS Project,   combined with comprehensive modules allowing for registering defects and QA as well as health and safety incidents across the entire lifespan of a construction company.       Where previously collecting all of this data and providing insight and analysis would be highly complicated and require specialised resources, it now happens as part of being on the Acuite platform through a series of easy to understand dashboards that review construction projects across five key performance indicators – Time, Cost, Health and Safety, Quality and Relationships.        Underlying these key performance indicators is a risk notification engine that reviews risks and opportunities across the entire project in order to assist project managers as they manage a live construction project.

Acuite Project Intelligence also allows companies to set their own benchmarks around what good performance looks like,  utilising results across multiple construction projects in flight in a single dashboard to show company health across all projects with the ability to use the data points from completed projects to assess in flight projects for lessons learned – i.e how many health and safety incidents happened during heavy rain, what are the the recurring causes,  how good was a contractor for being able to solve defects,  how responsive was the architect in returning updated drawings in response to requests for information.     These indicators mean that in a quick glance, a project manager can see whether his project is healthy or if it needs immediate attention.

The future includes a series of predictive analytics tools to further the level of risk notification and opportunity identification across the platform, while also including a series of tools that help with compliance reporting around health and safety and also to better manage contractors and vendors.     As this is a managed software application, the only thing construction companies need to provide is access to data in order to gain rich insights that can be used to ensure that their projects are delivered on time, within budget and lessen the chance of incidents that have a negative impact on the company.     One of the key design considerations around these toolsets is empowering project managers with advanced analytics without them knowing they’re actually using them through intelligently designed user interfaces that help prescribe actions rather than produce tables upon tables of data that cannot be understood.

By taking many of the tools used in large corporate enterprises to assess their own performance around projects and making them affordable, easy to understand and part of the day to day activities of a project manager,  Acuite Project Intelligence hopes to be one of the many software-as-a-service platforms taking the best of big business and distilling it down to an affordable, usable level for medium enterprise.