Project Information Management Best Practices to Avoid the Risks and Costs of “Bad” Data
Becky Shultz, host of the Digging Deeper podcast, interviews Tara Anderson, Newforma’s Director of Customer Success. They discuss the role data plays in risk management including the risks of “bad data”. Tara also shares how Project Information Management software can be used to capture more “intelligent data” and ensure that it’s readily available when needed.
Here is a quick recap of the episode…
What is construction risk?
When people think about construction risk, most people think of risk associated with jobsite safety impacted by OSHA requirements, or risks related to ISO compliance.
There are also operational risks including scope changes, unknown site conditions, labor shortages, or unexpected material costs. Many firms are experiencing the aftermath of Covid-19 with supply chain issues and a workforce that is in a state of flux. Getting the right information – good information – early to mitigate these types of risks can significantly minimize the impact to schedule and budget.
Risks associated with bad project data is usually not top of mind. However, data is fundamental in a risk management strategy.
For example, if a defect in construction occurs, having documentation of when and where the defect occurred, the reason why it occurred, and who is responsible for resolution is critical for risk mitigation. In addition, having all associated information including email communication, images, and the chronological data trail provides a complete picture of decisions made.
Risk and litigation can only be mitigated with good data.
What is bad data and what is its impact?
Many people consider inaccurate data to be bad data. But inaccurate data is just a small part of it. Data that is incomplete or disconnected from related data is a bigger a problem. Fragmented data is only telling part of the story. If data doesn’t follow a path that connects all of the decision-making processes and outcomes, managing risk becomes extremely difficult.
Many firms work across multiple applications throughout the design and construction phases and across disciplines. This results in project data living in silos. Consequently, getting a complete picture requires piecing together data across disparate systems.
It is also not uncommon for project information or history to be stored in someone’s head. With our current work environment in a state of flux – everyone on the move – relying on any one individual for project history is risky. With today’s unprecedented fluctuations in the workforce, staff changes are the norm. If a person with critical project information leaves the firm, the information walks out the door as well.
Tara shared a story from a Newforma customer, “We recently had a customer with an office running over 30 active projects where 10 out of their 12 employees left the firm within a six-week period of time. The office was basically closed until new people were hired. If the firm did not have an enterprise data management strategy and a Project Information Management solution, they would not have been able to bring in new staff and find the information needed to keep the active projects moving forward.
How does a company implement best practices to break away from data silos?
Having a Project Information Management strategy is similar to having an insurance policy. It’s not very exciting. But it is critical in protecting the firm from risk. If your project information is stored in a standardized way, you can then search and find the information you need, providing the flexibility to work in today’s constantly changing environment.
Standards on how information is stored, how people find information, and what information is required including communications across projects is key. For example, if everyone is tracking RFIs the same way across projects, or they need to find an answer on the status of a submittal, they know exactly where to go. There is consistency.
Many firms defer the decision on what software to use to the PM. This may work for a specific project, however, as a long-term strategy, there is risk. Without consistency on how information is stored, accessed, and shared across the firm, staff members will continue to struggle to find the information they need.
Benefits of standardization
Standardizing information across projects vs. project-to-project offers several benefits.
However, standardization should not be confused with centralization. They are two different things. Firms can continue to use the software applications that work best for the task as hand, but interoperability between applications coupled with standardization of what data needs to be stored and how to find it provides firms with the flexibility needed to deliver successful projects.
Preventing information silos also includes connecting communication. Meeting minutes or notes associated with the project are also a key piece to the overall project picture. Email communication often contains information related to decisions that should be considered as part of the project record.
It’s about making the data more intelligent. This requires having chronological order to information – an intelligent sequence. It’s about being able to connect information regardless of where it was generated or where it resides.
Mitigating risk requires having an audit trail so that you can prove who said what, when did they said it, and proof that the information was sent and received.
Can you provide any examples of how this has been implemented in the field?
Newforma likes to focus on the interoperability and connectors to information. Not every company works the same way or works with the same types of products. For example, a contractor may be using Procore to track submittals and RFIs, but the design team maybe using Newforma. The flow of information is integrated and automated. There is no learning curve or manual upload, or download required. This keeps the consistency. If I’m on the contractor side I always use Procore, if I’m on the design side, I always use Newforma. This makes interactions easier and faster, cutting down risks and mistakes.
So, our connector strategy is one of the most effective and best ways to allow team members to use the tools that they feel most comfortable with but maintaining the consistency and connectedness of data.
What about scalability – is this most beneficial only to large firms?
Everyone can take advantage of this. Even small projects still have people working in their own applications and they still have the need to have information connected. It doesn’t have to be stored in a centralized place, but it needs to be accessible in a standardized way. Having the data connected is important regardless of size of the project.
Any other insights?
Don’t ignore data. Giving project teams ultimate flexibility in storing data is not optimal. Most people want a standardized approach for their firm. Think about data management as part of the overall risk strategy. Examine your current data strategy – if there is no connection between data it is not intelligent data.
There’s so much change in the workplace, having a standardize approach is about being efficient, and keeping projects moving forward.
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