With many stakeholders and data streams involved, capital programs can be difficult to manage—even with software and other technology in place. To make the best decisions and anticipate potential problems, you need access to the right data at the right time.
Automated reports provide the information you need when you need it. That end result may sound like a dream come true, but to achieve it you’ll need to work backward from the point of data collection.
"KNOWING WHAT YOUR STAKEHOLDERS NEED TO KNOW TO MAKE GOOD DECISIONS REALLY SETS THE STAGE. DEFINING THOSE METRICS PLAYS A BIG ROLE IN HOW THE DATA IS GOING TO GET STRUCTURED WITHIN THE SYSTEM.”
-Gary Younger, director of program and project controls at Northeastern University
Collecting the Right Data at the Source
First, look at your organization and determine what kinds of data you need to capture. “Knowing what your stakeholders need to know to make good decisions really sets the stage,” says Gary Younger, director of program and project controls at Northeastern University. “Defining those metrics plays a big role in how the data is going to get structured within the system.”
To generate an accurate report, you need accurate—and current—data. Reporting needs to be built into the day-to-day activities of your teams. Some data collection can be automated, but other information will need to be entered by humans. “It’s really important to capture data at the source, whether that’s a system or a person,” says Peter Urban, vice president at KFA Inc., a technology consulting firm. “When you’re setting up an application, you have to make sure the information is being captured from the real creators in real-time. If you don’t, there will be a lag in your data flow and a greater risk of inaccuracy.”
Capturing real-time data from real people is simplified with the adoption of a project management system, especially if it integrates well with your organization’s other software systems. A project management information system such as e-Builder Enterprise becomes the sole source and data entry point for everyone involved in a project—from stakeholders to contractors, subcontractors, project managers, and even executive-level directors.
Maximizing Adoption Success
Running a capital project without project management software is complicated and time-consuming—but motivating your team to adopt new technology can also be challenging. Work backward from team members, ensuring the system is configured to provide benefits to all the participants. “Include your vendors and team members in the design processes for filing and other systems,” Urban says. “It’s really a culture shift, and to make that successful, you need to consider everyone’s needs.”
To maximize success, Younger suggests starting small. “When you’re adopting a new system, people need to build trust in how that system handles data,” he says. “I’ve found it’s better to start with collecting a smaller set of data that’s accurate and provides immediate value. Once trust in the system is established, you can widen the scope.” Cost reports or process tracking are good places to start, as they yield data that keeps stakeholders appraised of key project elements like budgets, commitments, and invoices.
Within a project management software solution like e-Builder Enterprise, you can also set up the system to catch exceptions. “As a system administrator, I help clients look for things that are out of the norm within their data, such as a process that’s aged beyond an expected time limit,” says Urban. “We make sure we set up automated alerts for those things so teams will be notified immediately when they occur.”
“WHEN EVERYONE ON THE TEAM CAN SEE WHOSE COURT SOMETHING IS IN AND HOW LONG IT’S BEEN THERE, IT MOTIVATES PEOPLE TO GET THEIR WORK DONE.”
-Peter Urban, Vice President at KFA Inc.
The Value of Automated Reports
Like automated alerts, automated reports should arrive unbidden, according to Urban. “Reports shouldn’t just be available at the click of a button,” he says. “They should be pushed to me before I even ask a question.”
Ultimately, automated reports increase visibility and transparency within your capital programs. They help you understand how work is progressing, whether you’re meeting budget goals, and how your vendors and contractors are performing. “When everyone on the team can see whose court something is in and how long it’s been there, it motivates people to get their work done,” Urban says. Automated reports can also help project managers see deficits and surpluses, allowing them to move funds between projects while still maintaining an overall budget. “Having this data at your fingertips saves you time and allows you to make better decisions.”