Picture this scenario: You look ahead at a planned project, consider the customer and think, “OK, we’re going to get delayed here. We’ll need to manage expectations and overtime throughout the effort.”

Sounds too familiar, doesn’t it?

In actuality, the lack of concrete data about those concerns means that you’re just on the lookout for problems, and not controlling the project with precision or establishing stronger schedule and budget forecasts.

With construction companies now having access to groundbreaking tools to help gather and analyze data, you can get the information you need to pinpoint potential project problems and enact controls proactively. Here are four tips to help you do so effectively:

1. Don’t just collect data. Build it into operations.
Establishing a construction plan and working to execute it has long been extremely challenging for the simple reason that organizations have lacked tools to get managers relevant information in a timely fashion. Now, users have mobile devices and apps that let them collect and create information with ease, but businesses lack the backend systems needed to organize that data and deliver it to proper stakeholders.

If a site manager is dealing with a staff shortage that is causing a delay, it isn’t enough to simply log that delay in an isolated system. Instead, you want your project manager to be automatically notified about the delay so as to adjust schedules, orders and other timelines right away, and get ahead of any future problems. This is only possible when data is naturally organized within workflows, so users not only can track information, but also use it in organic ways.

2. Take advantage of modern reporting
Creating a formal report on operational performance used to be a nightmare in construction—and it still is for many builders. You need to gather invoices, paper-based files, digital spreadsheets and similar sources of data, and compile them into cohesive reports with visualizations that make data more actionable.

The process was so clunky that you could really only do it for major reports at predetermined intervals. If a project manager was discussing a construction plan and thought, “You know what, this customer is asking us to go through a lot of approvals before building. How long will that hold back our project?” You couldn’t really do much to answer that beyond provide guesstimates.

Modern enterprise resource planning systems, however, can let you create a custom report with specific, user-defined parameters that help you identify delays based on various data types. In this instance, you could search the system for historical data on project delays caused by waiting on client approvals and compile a report that averages out the duration of the delay based on waiting times.

With that information, you not only gain a clearer estimate of what to expect, but identify specific projects where delays were especially notable and delve into your records to identify the root causes of those problems.

Having identified the specific issues that cause project delays during approval cycles, you can then create workflows and reminders in the ERP platform that will notify users to send extra emails to clients or vendors, create an extra internal approval for plans or adjust supply chain procedures to accelerate operations once approval is given.

Digital technologies make custom reporting easier than ever, and you shouldn’t neglect the options at your disposal for planning.

3. Establish automated alerts
Improving collaboration during projects is a starting point, but day-to-day control can still be difficult as details slip through the cracks. This is where automated alerts and notifications become invaluable. With an ERP system that has embedded project controls, you can set parameters for acceptable operational conditions and automatically notify personnel if they are breached. Similarly, you can create custom workflows that alert users when a task requires their attention.

For example, you’ve planned a project and you know it would not be fiscally viable if you exceed the materials budget by 5 percent. You want your site managers to be able to order what they need quickly to keep everything on schedule, so you eliminate approvals for each purchase order. However, you can set alerts to notify you when cost benchmarks have been reached so you can intervene and control spending. In the same way, you can use alerts and digital checklists to monitor regulatory and internal policy compliance.

4. Make controllable projects the norm
Challenges in project planning, monitoring and control are all widely accepted in the construction industry. But it’s time for that to change. Building Design and Construction reported that digital transformation is opening the door for stronger processes and data management in the sector. Similarly, a Dodge Data & Analytics study found that mobile capabilities are having a dramatic impact on data penetration in construction settings.

Technology is changing how you can plan and control projects. Contact CMiC to learn more about how and discover what we can do to help.