Leveraging your project archive data to replicate project success
January 21, 2022
By Peg Landry
You have just completed a project, and it was a huge success! The project was completed on time and within budget. It’s time to move on to the next project.
It would be great if we could create a blueprint to replicate the success across all projects. But it’s complicated. Projects are not cookie cutter. Each project has a unique set of variables including site conditions, project teams, and contract requirements, that make it difficult to replicate success. But project success can be defined in many different ways.
How do you measure project success?
Delivering a project on time and within budget is great, but what about other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that measure quality, client satisfaction, and profitability?
In order to measure project success, you need to analyze the data. The Construction Dive article “How key performance indicators reduce schedule and budget overruns”, explains that KPIs are only effective when data is collected and analyzed to improve company operations. “When that happens, construction firms can reduce schedule and cost overruns, leading to higher profit margins and more winning bids.”
Although each project is unique, the workflow and communication processes for how teams manage project information are usually consistent. The key to understanding how well your information is managed may be hidden in your last project’s data archive.
But project archive data is often shelved unless litigation arises. It might be time to dust it off.
Unlocking performance data from your project archive.
Looking at your project history or archive data might seem like a time-consuming and tedious task, but it may uncover inefficiencies or breakdowns in your communication or workflow processes.
My daughter was a soccer goalkeeper and always wrote the note on her gloves “next ball”. We can’t go back and correct the past, but we can focus on improving the “next” project. Identifying where, how, and why cost and schedule overruns are occurring on a project enables project teams to uncover and address communication and process breakdowns. Issues identified from one project can help teams to not repeat the same mistakes.
Start with the low-hanging fruit. There may be a few high-impact RFIs and change orders from a previous or similar project worth analyzing.
For example, in the Change Order history below a $350,000 change order for a rebar stands out. The associated data may determine how the problem occurred.
Following the digital paper trail for this change order may reveal critical errors that occurred in the design, documentation, or review and approval processes. This provides your team with insight that can be used the next time around through improved documentation, training, or more upfront team communication.
Analysis of other key project data such as punch list items may also help identify root causes of quality issues.
Don’t forget the email trail to uncover team communication gaps.
Email threads should also be part of your project archive and linked to the associated items such as change orders, RFIs, and punch list items. Emails are most often the primary source of communication. By including emails as part of the archive, teams have a more complete record of the project. This is particularly important if litigation arises but I'll save that topic for another blog!
Even a high-level overview of the email chain for a high-impact item may reveal delays in communication resulting in mistakes and rework. By filing emails to the project, you now have a complete record of the project and a complete project archive. Filing emails to the project also provides access to this communication for all stakeholders in the project.
Getting the most from your archive.
Many automated construction management systems provide a digital archive when the project is completed. The owner or purchaser of the construction management software platform used for the project is usually the owner of the archive. But many software providers include provisions for the purchaser to provide archive data to other external team members. This is easier to negotiate at the beginning of the project.
Having an archive is one thing. But do you have access to it? Project archive data is often stored in the same location as active project data. In a recent study conducted by Newforma and Dodge Data and Analytics, 50% of respondents indicated that data storage for archived project data is typically conducted using a dual approach with both internal servers and a cloud-based system.
Very few firms (3%) store archive data off-site which means your archive data may be hiding in plain sight!
Q: Where do you store your active project data? Select one
It’s even better if the archive information can be analyzed in conjunction with active project data. Having the ability to compare notes past and present may help your team solve problems faster. You might have already solved the problem once – why reinvent the wheel?