Business Intelligence for Construction Firms: Starting From the Bottom

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Business intelligence matters for construction firms, and you need to be doing it. We're here to teach you how.

Last week, we introduced the idea of business intelligence for construction firms in a post. In there, we talked about how applying a little business intelligence to your construction firm can do amazing things for your bottom line. It’s a proven way to make sure that you are using all of your resources to the best of their ability. Waste not, want not was the general idea.

But there is so much more to say than just “construction firms should use BI, it would really help them out.” We’re here to give you some expertise in the field and help you answer that all-important question.

How do I do it?

It's a fair question because it's hard to know exactly where to start. Everyone talks about great BI is all the time, but no advice for how to practically start doing. That's what we're here for.

To help you out, we'll try to read your mind a little bit and answer some questions you might be having in a few steps.

Step 1: Do I even need business intelligence?

You might be saying to yourself “my firm is too small to justify any kind of expense on business intelligence outside of quickbooks or the accountant I’m already paying.”

Don’t fall into that trap- odds are you are in an even better position to take advantage of business intelligence than your giant, corporate counterparts. Remember that for every $1.00 spent on Business Intelligence solutions the return was $1.13.

The answer is no, you’re never too small for business intelligence. Even a small investment at an early stage could mean the world for your business.

Step 2: Where is my data to start off with?

Maybe you’re one of those business who has been using the same pen-and-paper ledger for years. But here’s the facts- to see the full benefits of business intelligence you need to be gathering data in a digital format.

That means a chart in your filing cabinet just won’t do anymore. It needs to be in a spreadsheet or some other digital storage medium.

What if all of your charts and spreadsheets are done by hand? Good news- there are simple digitizing programs like ozgrid to help you out. Trust us, it’s worth it. Once you have all your data in a digital source you can start actually doing something with it.

Step 3: Great… now I need to hire someone.

Nope. A lot of businesses, especially medium-small ones, feel that they need to hire someone to set up and run their business intelligence solution. But that is thinking backwards to the days when data analysts held all the power here. They don’t anymore- it’s all about software now.

That’s right- you can download software that will take the data your firm is already producing and turn it into amazing bits of actionable insight. Here are three solutions for any size business.

Tableau- for the biggest businesses out there. This tool is so open-ended and powerful that a skilled technician could spend an hour or two with it and make dozens of high-quality charts and graphs. Domo also fits in here.

Qlik- Good for medium businesses, this one takes a limited amount of data know-how and can give you some fantastic insights. It excels at bringing data in from various sources and making connections between them.

VisualCue- Great for the medium-small operations, VisualCue is probably the easiest to set up and use. Its easy color-coded interface makes the insights literally jump off the screen.

And the great news is that all of these software solutions scale with the company, so you won’t be spending an arm and a leg for it.

Step 4: Where does this data come from?

Good point. The data comes from what’s called your operations- those day to day activities that your employees report on. Without exception data that can be analyzed by a BI tool comes in the form of numbers, so all of your data needs to be numerically represented.

There are some tools out there that will scan documents or social media for certain words and use those to populate some chart or graph, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. If you’re just starting out on the BI journey then you need to be concerning yourself with numbers first. For construction firms, we recommend tracking (in digital form remember) the following:

  • Manpower reports.
  • Open RFIs.
  • Outstanding submittals.
  • Hours worked.
  • Employee hourly wage
  • Cost of materials
  • Amount of materials
  • Cost of delays
  • Number of safety incidents
  • % of projects behind schedule
  • Number of days behind schedule.

All of these points can be captured in terms of a number which can then be analyzed historically and compared/contrasted for even greater insight.

Step 5: But… I can’t track those numbers

Now we’ve come to it. All those numbers, facts, and figures we mentioned above have to come from somewhere. You can’t just make them up, that’s cheating.

To find out where the best data for construction business intelligence comes from join us next week!

Find the rest of our Business Intelligence for Construction Firms Series here: