Insights into the ideas and innovations that are transforming project planning and delivery

  • April 11, 2017

Insights from Analyzing Thousands of Construction Projects

Over the years Aconex has been used on thousands of projects around the globe. During that time we have amassed an extensive database of project information. We recently delved into that data to identify trends and insights into project operations. In this blog post, we focus specifically on the main contractors and share the fascinating insights we discovered from analyzing their projects.

Insight #1: Collaboration delivers measurable benefits over time

Throughout the data we saw that collaboration improved the efficiency of key construction processes. For example, the following chart, depicting data from three large main contractors, shows how, over a period of five years, they dramatically reduced their average turnaround times for RFIs.

Among most of the main contractors analyzed, as adoption of the Aconex platform increased and as organizations become familiar with it, they started to become more efficient. Notably, the real driver of these efficiencies is project-wide adoption of the platform. Without all parties collaborating on one single platform, it’s impossible to drive these efficiencies across your processes.

Insight #2: Delays in the design phase nearly always affect the construction phase

Information flow delays in the architectural or engineering design phase have a negative effect on the construction phase.  Several factors may contribute: poor or incomplete designs prior to the award of the main contractor; an organization that was slow to respond during the design phase being just as slow to clarify information as the project moves through construction. The following network map shows the flow of information among parties in the early design phase of a large construction project, managed on Aconex.

Green lines depict normal expected behavior; red lines show slow communication and long response times, compared to this main contractor’s average response times. The next image is of the same project as it moves into construction, note how the initial poor flow of communication spreads to other organizations as the project community grows.

This could be a warning sign that the project is off track. It’s important to be able to identify communication issues early and resolve them, to ensure that the project isn’t destined for negative schedule or commercial deviations. This will severely limit the project’s ability to take advantage of innovation opportunities.

Insight #3: The volume of RFIs and technical queries directly correlates with the number of variations raised

Our analysis uncovered a causal relationship between the volume of RFIs and TQs on a project and the volume of variations raised, particularly early in the project. If you see many design or contract related queries being raised at the outset, clearly something is wrong or going to delay the project later when schedule and cost are the biggest focus. Effectively identifying this can be quite a challenge for main contractors managing multiple projects at a time. When you can visualize these processes across your projects, you can spot these early warning signs. This is crucial to project success.

Insight #4: Standardization is only part of project success

A recent Aconex report on the ”State of Construction Project Management Technology” identified one of main contractors’ biggest challenges: being able to standardize processes across their portfolio of projects. However, our data analysis concluded that standardization might not be the sole answer. Consider the following graphic of a main contractor managing a structural drawing review process on two different projects. structural-drawing-review This main contractor has long experience with collaboration and has moved toward process standardization. Yet although the contractor has dramatically reduced the average time to complete a structural drawing review, clearly they still see variability and anomalies from project to project. So even as you strive for process standardization, in real life you must recognize that variability and adaptability create significant differences in outcomes. This makes it crucial to be able to effectively measure and understand the source of this variability and take corrective action at the earliest opportunity.

Why you should develop process benchmarks, and what’s needed to do it

As alluded to earlier, standardizing project processes is really just the first step to driving more successful project outcomes. You need to be able to account for real-life variability and have systems in place that provide early warning signs when things are not tracking as expected. Main contractors should develop benchmarks for their standard processes to gauge those typical process timeframes. With these metrics in place, the next skill is learning the triggers and timing for taking action to steer the project back on track. To achieve this, you’ll need to adopt a single project-wide collaboration platform that can capture these data points. With both in place, you can develop a set of benchmarks to identify when a process is outside of tolerance, enabling you to intervene and prevent an irrevocable impact on the project. To see how the Aconex platform helps contractors around the globe take advantage of data analytics across their projects, contact us today.

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