A lot of what we do in the construction process is decision making. Just think about how many choices are made each day by your superintendents, project managers, and people in the office. When I speak at construction events, I often tell contractors that decision making is made up of two things: experience and data. The more you have of both, the better your decisions.
So you may ask yourself: “What data can I use to make the most informed decisions?”
The answer starts with understanding your business goals. In fact, it’s a good practice to step back at least once a year and identify which areas you want to focus on in your business. Is it profitability? Do you want to grow top-line revenue? Maybe you specifically want to improve your labor productivity. Then, through an annual “business visibility audit,” make sure the processes and data are in place to measure your progress towards reaching those goals.
Here are five steps to conduct a visibility audit:
- Analyze your current situation
Based on your goals, look at your past performance and where you are today. If you want to increase profits, for example, identify the projects which have the best contribution margins. What patterns and anomalies stand out? Does job location affect your profits? Or is it the type of work that makes a difference? Could it be a particular project manager’s jobs that are dragging down your overall margin?
Once you have completed your analysis, establish benchmarks related to your current performance and how you compare to other construction firms. Several contractors I know establish competitive benchmarks through regular contact with peer groups. Others use benchmarking information supplied by organizations such as the Construction Financial Management Association, which provides a Benchmarking Builder CD Tool.
- Consider “Big Data”
I’ve just described today’s world of benchmarking. In tomorrow’s world, benchmarking will revolve around “big data,” the massive amounts of information – text, audio, video, photography – that companies generate each day. Cloud technology will help to quickly aggregate and analyze big data across multiple construction-related companies who opt into sharing information such as wage and materials pricing or productivity metrics.
- Set your KPIs
Based on your business goals and benchmarks, define key performance indicators (KPIs), such as RFI cycle time, and the time frame you should look at each metric. How often you track a KPI depends on how often the data changes and how quickly you can make course corrections.
- Put processes in place
Once you’ve identified what you want to monitor, make sure your processes can deliver your data. For example, if you don’t currently update your estimates with change orders, you can add that to your workflow to get a truer picture of your estimate-to-actual cost variance.
Do you currently conduct a visibility audit? How do you make sure you have the right data to make the best decisions for your company?
About the Author
Dennis Stejskal has over 30 years of experience developing, supporting and selling software and technology to construction and real estate companies. His comprehensive product knowledge and understanding of customer and market needs propelled him into his current role as vice president of product management for Sage Construction and Real Estate. Dennis has been a member and co-chair on the CFMA Technology Committee and often speaks at industry events, including CFMA, AGC and NAHB meetings and conferences.