Why Is Real-Time Data
Essential in the Field?
January 14, 2022
It’s well-established that capital projects produce an immense amount of data. Once considered a nice-to-have, data has gone beyond being even a must-have. It’s now a must-do. Data is meant to be collected, analyzed and used. Construction technology, especially cloud-based software and integrated platforms that enable data collection, has made it possible for project data to be actionable in real time. With things evolving at the rate they are in capital projects, having real-time data at one’s fingertips affords general contractors, owners and other stakeholders the agility to assess and respond in the moment — especially in the field, where the application of that data will have the most direct impact. And this can make all the difference in an industry as heavily time driven as construction.
So why is real-time data necessary for what’s happening on the jobsite?
Informs decisions made in the field
Construction projects involve countless decisions every day. Some of the most critical, time-sensitive ones, though, are made directly on the jobsite. And that’s precisely where and when you want to get them right, especially for modern capital projects that involve so much time, investment and risk. Using even the most educated of guesses as a basis for those decisions won’t cut it when so much is on the line. Instead, construction companies wanting to make smarter on-the-spot decisions are seeing the value of turning to real-time data to support the choices they make. How are they doing this? Through connected data. Cloud-enabled mobile technology connects project data to everyone in the field. So, anyone with a jobsite mobile device can instantly call up what they need, where they need it, to keep an eye on progress and potential hiccups.
Real-time data removes the pull of emotions and subjective decision bias that can come into play when an issue requires further assessment or action. Plus, being able to leverage the latest objective data can alleviate some of the pressure of “getting it right.” While data can’t actually make the decisions for anyone, it can guide and justify them. It’s still up to the appropriate project team members and stakeholders to analyze what the numbers indicate is happening on the ground. This helps root decisions in a higher degree of confidence and certainty that capital projects depend on in order to stay within budget and on schedule.
Improves collaborating and problem-solving
Hand-in-hand with decision making is improved communication within the project team and their ability to address developing challenges occurring on-site. Connected data helps here, too, connecting people to each other. Everyone accessing and sharing the same data, including eleventh-hour updates, helps to clear the hurdle of miscommunication challenges brought on by lack of access to current information. That real-time data is critical — because last week’s data won’t help solve today’s emerging problems occurring on the jobsite.
Those sudden changes, developments, disruptions or safety issues surfaced by incoming data need well-considered, timely resolution to keep the project moving forward. They benefit from inviting input from a combination of project team members including general contractors, project managers, procurement, design engineers or craftspeople who contribute their experience and perspective for a potentially faster, more comprehensive solution. This blending of objective real-time data with subjective experience not only strengthens the collaborative and problem-solving processes, but it also creates buy-in and a sense of shared responsibility.
Tracks field productivity and its impact on project performance
Long regarded as an industry best practice process, particularly for capital projects, earned value management (EVM) tells it like it is. Measuring actual construction progress against the budget and schedule estimates established at the project’s outset, EVM uses those estimate numbers as its source data to come up with the individual metrics that make it up: schedule performance index (SPI), schedule variance (SV), cost performance index (CPI) and cost variance (CV).
As job task details are entered from the field into software that tracks EVM, it’s immediately reflected as real-time data in those ongoing EVM values. No two workdays will be the same, so those values are going to respond to naturally fluctuating input. When they’re hovering within the operating range, which was determined before construction began, that’s a good sign that things are moving along as planned. However, sudden or gradual swings outside that acceptable range are a red flag that these deviations require immediate evaluation and action on-site. To bring the EVM values and therefore actual project progress back in line, corrective measures could include hiring more subcontractors if productivity isn’t on pace to meet a hard deadline or accelerating the pace of tasks that are lagging.
Promotes timely, efficient risk management
When combined, the above three advantages of real-time data dovetail nicely into its ability to effectively mitigate risk factors that may impede on-site project progress. How does this work? By proactively tracking the EVM metrics in real time. These same metrics that help track project performance and productivity can also keep surprises from derailing progress on a substantial capital project.
The most efficient way to deliver these data insights on the jobsite is through the software’s dashboard via a mobile app that graphically summarizes metric data for a moment-in-time view of project status. This visual context provides easier, faster identification of not only what’s going according to plan but, more importantly, what trends and risks are starting to take shape. Status indicators serve as alerts that something requires attention. What this does is give enough planning time to course correct, even executing on a contingency plan, before it worsens or even has a chance to become a bonafide problem. The result is real-time, data-backed confidence in knowing what risk-mitigating actions to take at the right time.
Are you incorporating real-time data into your projects?
Granted, the industry is still migrating to the digital age, but more companies are gradually realizing how access to and use of real-time data is impacting their projects. If your construction company is transitioning to a digital way of doing business and anticipates the benefit of what real-time data can bring to your projects, we can help you. Explore our mobile progress app, InEight Progress, which can streamline ongoing data collection from the field in order to deliver insights into individual job productivity and project performance. Then see it in action with a demo and get a sense of what it can do for you.