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Editing for Success: Applying Hollywood Wisdom to Projects

I’ve long been a believer that a good movie is 90 – 120 minutes long. Sure, there’s the occasional storyline that can keep my attention for longer than that, but generally speaking after a couple of hours I’m getting pretty restless. One of the reasons I rarely go to the movie theater these days is that films seem to be getting longer and longer, and unlike watching at home I can’t press ‘pause’ in the theater!

 

It turns out that I’m not alone. Celebrated film director Sir Ridley Scott, who directed films including Alien, Gladiator and Blade Runner recently spoke about the ‘bum ache’ (‘butt ache’) factor of films. Too long sitting down and apparently movie-goers will get uncomfortable, and this is something that he takes account of in his editing. A classic case of “less is more”, and a director being empathetic to his audience.

 

Less Is More

I know virtually nothing about movie production, but I’m guessing that it is probably technically easier to produce and distribute a long film than it was, say, 40 years ago. I gather that in the past films came on multiple spools, all of which had to be physically duplicated and distributed. Apparently since the early 2000s, films have been distributed digitally to theaters. With fewer constraints, you could have a ten hour film if you really wanted it.

Yet being unconstrained isn’t a good thing. I’m guessing few people are lining up to watch the ten hour film “Paint Drying” (which is a real film, but was a protest against the cost of censorship). The fact that it’s possible to do something because a constraint is removed doesn’t mean that it’s actually a good thing to do. Sometimes constraints can foster creativity.

 

From Hollywood To Projects: Time As A Constraint

I’m guessing that you probably don’t work on Hollywood movies, but there’s a direct parallel with projects here. After all, a Hollywood movie brings together a collection of specialists for a period of time to create a deliverable that will generate benefits for its sponsor… which sounds strongly analogous to a project!

One constraint that you and I probably come up against frequently is time.  There never seems to be enough, and time is always the thing being squeezed. It is easy to become somewhat jaded to this, and either just accept the deadline (but implicitly know that it’ll never be met) or rally against it.

Certainly, calling out unrealistic deadlines is an important thing to do. Yet, in some circumstances an alternative approach is to test the constraint and see how it balances against others.

 

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Let’s imagine that a sponsor has set a deadline of 1st January for the launch of a product or project deliverable. We feel there’s a risk that this is an arbitrary deadline, so we start to tactfully ask “if it was two weeks later, but 10% cheaper, would that be beneficial?”.  If the sponsor says “Absolutely, yes!” then we know that they probably value the budget over a fixed deadline.  Or we might ask “How about we delivered it on that date, but the quality was lower?”. They might answer “No! Absolutely not”, at which point we know quality is paramount. We might ask these types of questions about all sorts of things, including scope, timeframe, deliverables, style of delivery and so on.

What we’re doing here is understanding which are hard constraints that genuinely can’t change (or, there would be a significantly negative impact of breaching) and those that can potentially bend. Not achieving regulatory compliance by a mandated date, where the regulator is strict and there’s a significant fine, might be an example of a hard deadline. It’s better to pay more now, and dedicate more resources to ensure compliance. Other things which appear to be constraints might be more malleable.

 

Product Management and Business Analysis as Film Editing

Once the hard constraints are identified, it’s tempting to be deflated. Rarely are we dealing with a situation where there’s too much time, resources and budget. Yet another way of looking at this is to think about the movie theater experience… sometimes less is more. Much as an ambitious scriptwriter might have a scene cut because it’s not essential to the story (or the location is too expensive to hire), we can ‘edit’ elements of a project or product in or out.

This probably sounds obvious, I mean scoping and prioritization is crucial. Yet, too often scoping and prioritization are carried out somewhat in isolation. It’s easy to end up with an incoherent set of features, or (worse) to find that only the person who shouts the loudest gets what they want…

 

If we reframe this as a process of ‘editing’, then we are keeping in mind the coherence and desirability of the product as a whole. Imagine asking twenty people for their favorite ever scenes in movies. Perhaps one mentions a scene from Wargames, another from the Barbie movie, another from Love Actually and so on.  Now imagine making a film out of these ‘best’ scenes… it wouldn’t make any sense.  The same can be true of a product too. If the features aren’t coherent it can become somewhat of a Frankenstein’s monster that is difficult to use and doesn’t really serve any single purpose well.

Another thing about editing is that it involves compromises and making difficult decisions. I’d guess actors probably hate having their biggest scene cut. And script writers probably hate being told they can’t have that on-location scene in Barbados due to budgetary cuts. But, it is the editing that means that the film makes money (achieves its financial outcomes) while also providing an experience that the consumer wants (achieving another of its core purposes).

 

I suspect this is a balance that we all tread on our projects and products, and bringing it to the fore and making tradeoffs transparently and purposefully can only be a good thing!

Best of BATimes: Nine Key Skills That Every Good Business Analyst Needs

Being a successful Business Analyst means you have to have a variety of different skills and be adaptable to a changing environment. Every Business Analyst will bring their unique blend of skills and experience to the role, of course, but I’ve highlighted below what I think are the most common skills that a good BA will need. Feel free to add in the comments any other skills that you have found helpful in your BA career.

 

1. Understand your objectives.

Being able to interpret direction is important. If you don’t fully understand what and, more importantly, why you are being asked to do something, there is a risk that you won’t deliver what’s required. Don’t be worried about asking for further information if your brief isn’t clear.

2. Good verbal communication skills.

It is essential that you are a good communicator, regardless of the method of communication. You must be able to make your point clearly and unambiguously. It is also important that you know how to ask insightful questions to retrieve the information you need from stakeholders. For example, if your stakeholder isn’t a technical specialist you may need to ask your questions in plain English – avoiding jargon and acronyms. Being able to communicate information at the appropriate level is vital – some stakeholders will need more detailed information than others.

3. The ability to run stakeholder meetings.

Although using email provides a useful audit trail, sometimes it is not enough to communicate with stakeholders via email. Don’t underestimate the value of face to face meetings to discuss problems in more detail and clear up any queries. Often you will discover more about your project from a face to face meeting where people tend to be more open about discussing situations. You can always follow up a meeting with written confirmation if an audit trail is required.

4. Be a good listener.

Listening skills are key to being a successful BA. You must be able to listen and absorb information. This will allow you to analyse thoroughly the information gathered to specify requirements. It’s important that you don’t just listen to what’s being said, but are able to understand the context of what’s being said – the motivation behind it, the circumstances behind what’s being said, and even what’s not being said. Voice tone and body language can help you understand the message behind the words.

 

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5. Hone your presentation skills.

It is likely that at some point in your career as a BA you will need to facilitate a workshop, or present a piece of work to a stakeholder or project team. Consider the content of your presentation and make sure it matches the objectives of the meeting – there is no point in presenting information about implementation methods if the meeting is being held to discuss requirements gathering. These presentations are not only for you to present information. They can also work as an excellent way to extract more information or clarity from stakeholders if you are unclear on something or are looking for more detail on a particular area of the project.

6. Be excellent at time management.

A BA must have excellent time management skills to ensure that work is completed on time and the project does not fall behind schedule. Multi-tasking is an important skill, but you must also be able to prioritize activities – understanding which are more critical than others – and concentrate on them. Remember that you need to manage your own time and activities, but you may also need to manage other people’s time if you are dependent on them for information. Make sure that they know when you need them to deliver.

7. Documentation and writing skills.

Requirements documents, reports, specifications, plans and analysis. As a BA you will be required to deliver a range of different types of documents. You will need to ensure that your documents are written in a clear and concise manner, and at a level that is appropriate for your stakeholders. Avoid nuances specific to a particular workstream as they may not be understood by all stakeholders. As an inexperienced/beginner BA, it is unlikely that you will have experience writing requirements documentation, however, strong writing skills are an excellent starting point. Experience will lead to clear and concise requirements documentation.

8. Stakeholder management.

It is essential that you know how to manage all of you stakeholders and know how much power and influence they have on your project. Stakeholders can be your strongest supporters or your biggest critics. An experienced BA will be able to analyse how much management each stakeholder needs and how they should be individually managed. Do they need face to face meetings and detailed information or are they content with high-level reports? Are they supportive of your project? Knowing the answers to these key questions will help you to manage your stakeholders and the wider project. Can you influence them directly or do you need to influence someone who can influence them.

9. Develop your modelling skills.

As the saying goes a picture paints a thousand words. Techniques such as process modelling are effective tools to convey large amounts of information without relying on text. A visual representation allows you to get an overview of the problem or project so that you can see what works well and where the gaps lie. A typical process model will have several different levels of detail to allow a BA to engage with stakeholders in a language that they understand.

 

Published on: 2015/09/07

Beyond the Finish Line: Understanding the Art of Value Enablement

We recently needed some repair work done to the roof of our house, so called some local roofing firms. Understandably, roofers don’t always answer their phones immediately (I guess they are often out on site working), so we left voicemails for three different roofers.

Out of the voicemails we left, only two of the roofers replied. Both came round, inspected the roof, and explained what needed to be done. They both said they had availability and would send over a quote showing how much the work would cost. However, only one of the roofers actually sent a quote. We accepted the quote and I’m pleased to say that the work is now complete.  But this got me thinking about business, business analysis, and value-enablement more generally.

 

Close, But Stopped Short

Let’s examine the approaches that the different roofers took. The first one didn’t reply. We might argue that this is bad customer service, but if they knew they were busy and had no shortage of business, then not replying might be an acceptable thing to do. It might not be a good long-term approach, but it doesn’t waste any of my time or their time. So while I might have preferred them to drop over a quick reply, I can understand why they didn’t.

The roofer who I really don’t understand is the one who came out, inspected the roof, but didn’t follow up with an estimate. They were so close to actually getting the work, but they failed because they didn’t carry out the final task. They’d spent time (and gas) driving out to see the roof, only to implicitly ‘give up’ by not following up. I found this really puzzling!

 

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When Is Value Enabled?

This led me to think about value in a broader context, and I think it has some interesting parallels with business analysis. The roofer did all the work to potentially enable some value for him (payment) and for me (a fixed roof), but stopped just before a crucial moment.

In a project or product context, usually we are building (or changing) something with the purpose of enabling value for a range of stakeholders. The value that is enabled may vary for each stakeholder group. A retail bank releasing an app might provide convenience for its customers, while also saving money (and increasing profit) for its shareholders. For the app to be a success, it needs to balance the different perspectives on value. If it’s inconvenient, or hard to use, it’ll backfire—it might actually increase the number of times people call the call center, meaning operational costs increase. Knowing what different groups value is important so that this balance can be struck.

Yet as well as knowing what value can be enabled, it’s important to know when that happens and what the precursors are. Imagine a bank released a self-service banking app but didn’t advertise it to its customers. Sure, some early adopters might find it in the app store, but there would be a range of people who would use it if they knew about it that probably aren’t actively looking for it. Delivering the app without a communications and engagement plan alongside might end up being similar to the roofer who didn’t send a quote… it stops just short of the line for value enablement.

 

Finding The Finish Line

It is worth fostering discussions over what needs to happen not just for a product or project to be delivered, but what needs to happen for value to be enabled. It is too easy to stop just short of the finish line and declare success prematurely. “On time” and “on budget” are important aspects, but “on strategy” and “on benefit” are things that make a long-term difference. In the fog of urgency, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of these.

As James Clear comments in his book Atomic Habits, there’s an old saying that “the last mile is the least crowded”. Perhaps that’s just as true in a project and product context, and by focusing on the last mile and cultivating conversations about value we can help achieve better results for our stakeholders and communities. And surely that’s worthwhile?

 

Baking Success: Unveiling the Sweet Similarities Between a Small Baking Business and a Business Analyst’s Role

Embarking on my journey as a baker just under two years ago, I have joyfully crafted birthday cakes, engagement cakes, baby shower confections, and more. Recently, I faced a culinary challenge that pushed my skills to new heights. This cake wasn’t just another creation; it was a test of my abilities, filled with many “firsts” that transformed my approach to baking. From applying a white chocolate ganache coat to mastering a full fondant covering, I encountered unexpected hurdles that required constant adaptation.

As I navigated the complexities of this ambitious project, I realized that I was implementing a form of agility in motion. Much like a Business Analyst (BA) adapts to evolving project requirements, I found myself breaking down the cake-making process into smaller, manageable increments. Baking the layers two days in advance and freezing them, preparing the frosting a day ahead, and meticulously crafting fondant toppers became a harmonious dance of preparation and adaptation.

This experience illuminated the surprising parallels between my role as a baker and the responsibilities of a Business Analyst. In both worlds, adaptability is the key ingredient for success, allowing for the seamless integration of unexpected challenges into the creative process. Let’s delve into the sweet symphony of similarities between managing a small baking business and excelling as a Business Analyst.

 

  • Adaptability is the Key Ingredient:

In the world of baking and business analysis, adaptability is the secret sauce that leads to success. Just as a baker adjusts a recipe based on available ingredients or customer preferences, a BA must be flexible in adapting to changing project requirements, client expectations, and market dynamics. Both roles demand a skillful balance between structure and spontaneity, ensuring the final product meets or exceeds expectations.

 

  • Customer-Centric Approach:

In both professions, understanding and satisfying the customer’s needs are paramount. Bakers pay close attention to customer preferences, dietary restrictions, and flavor profiles. Similarly, a BA delves deep into understanding the client’s business requirements, ensuring that the solutions provided align with the client’s goals. Both roles involve effective communication and active listening to create a product or solution that leaves the customer delighted.

 

  • Requirements Gathering as a Recipe:

Much like developing a baking recipe, a Business Analyst must meticulously gather and document requirements. In baking, this involves understanding the desired flavour, texture, and appearance of the final product. In the business world, requirements gathering entails collaborating with stakeholders to determine the functionalities, features, and constraints of a project. Both processes require attention to detail, precision, and a knack for turning abstract ideas into concrete plans.

 

  • Project Management:

Running a small baking business involves managing resources, timelines, and deliverables – much like a BA managing a project. Both roles require effective project management skills to ensure that everything runs smoothly, from planning and preparation to execution and delivery. Time management, coordination, and the ability to troubleshoot issues are crucial aspects that bridge the gap between these seemingly diverse professions.

 

  • Continuous Improvement:

In the dynamic worlds of baking and business analysis, there is always room for improvement. Bakers experiment with new recipes, techniques, and ingredients to stay ahead of trends and meet evolving customer tastes. Similarly, BAs must stay informed about industry best practices, emerging technologies, and changing market trends to provide innovative and effective solutions.

 

  • Understanding Global Trends and Market Dynamics:

In the ever-evolving landscapes of both baking and business analysis, awareness of global trends is paramount. For a baker, staying attuned to culinary trends such as the rise of veganism or the demand for gluten-free options is crucial. Just as a baker adapts recipes to cater to changing dietary preferences, a Business Analyst must be cognizant of market trends and technological advancements. Incorporating global trends into business strategies ensures relevance and competitiveness. The ability to anticipate shifts in consumer preferences aligns closely with a BA’s role in recognizing emerging market demands, enabling both to proactively adjust their approaches for sustained success.

 

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  • Risk Management:

The concept of risk is inherent in both the realms of baking and business analysis. In the baking business, the risk might involve experimenting with a new flavor combination or trying out an innovative baking technique. Similarly, in business analysis, the risks could range from technological uncertainties to unforeseen changes in project scope. Both roles require a keen sense of risk management – identifying potential challenges, developing contingency plans, and mitigating risks to ensure a successful outcome. Whether it’s predicting how a cake batter will rise or foreseeing potential project obstacles, effective risk management is the insurance policy for success in both fields.

 

  • Visual Thinking:

In the world of baking, the visual appeal is as important as the taste. Creating aesthetically pleasing cakes involves a form of visual thinking, where bakers conceptualize designs, color schemes, and decorations. Similarly, Business Analysts employ visual thinking when crafting process flowcharts, diagrams, and user interface designs. Both professions rely on the ability to translate abstract ideas into tangible visual representations that effectively communicate complex concepts. Whether it’s envisioning an elaborate cake decoration or designing a user-friendly interface, visual thinking is a powerful tool that enhances creativity and clarity in both baking and business analysis.

 

Conclusion:

Despite appearing dissimilar at first glance, both industries align on fundamental concepts such as versatility, prioritizing customers’ needs, meticulousness, and a steadfast dedication towards enhancing one’s performance constantly.

 

Just as a baker meticulously crafts a cake, considering evolving culinary trends and customer preferences, a Business Analyst navigates the complex landscape of project requirements, global market dynamics, and technological shifts. The parallels are striking – both professions demand a delicate balance between structure and spontaneity, transforming challenges into opportunities and setbacks into stepping stones.

The recipe for success transcends the boundaries of specific industries. The amalgamation of these skills – adaptability, customer-centricity, attention to detail, continuous improvement, global awareness, risk management, and visual thinking – creates a masterful blend that resonates across baking and business analysis. Whether you’re sculpting a delectable cake or orchestrating a cutting-edge business solution, the essence of success lies in skilfully blending the right ingredients to create a masterpiece that not only delights but endures in the ever-changing landscapes of taste and technology.

Five Ways BAs and Inventory Managers Can Make Jobsites More Profitable, Together

Business analysis is a critical skillset and operational imperative companies need to prioritize as they look to be profitable and understand how they can make measurable improvements as they scale. This fact is not lost on corporations, either—for example, 72% of manufacturing executives said that they considered advanced analytics to be important, according to a report by BCG.

The construction sector, meanwhile, consistently finds itself in a precarious state in terms of profitability no thanks to employment challenges, influx materials pricing, and the disjointed nature of the construction ecosystem. For example, experts estimate job growth in the construction industry is projected to be at a stagnant 1.1% for ten years (Data USA via Finances Online). Underperformance, Autodesk concludes, is an industry-wide norm with 72% of firms saying projects have taken longer than anticipated—and 44% of firms putting longer completion times into their bids, according to data from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). In fact, merely 25% of projects came within 10% of their original deadlines, a KPMG report found.

 

The World Economic Forum (via Autodesk) estimated that a 1% reduction in construction costs could save society $100 billion globally. As the construction sector ecosystem looks to execute projects in a quickly changing environment, these existential challenges warrant organizational changes to better negotiate the trials and tribulations at hand.

We also have to consider the average construction company’s costs to better contextualize these challenges and opportunities. If we assume that the average cost of a construction project is comprised of overhead, materials, tools and equipment, and labor, then focusing on what you can control will help move the needle toward greater profitability. For example, while you might not be able to affect the cost of materials, you can negotiate work to accommodate the resourcing you currently have, and you can make plans for improving internal processes to drive greater efficiency.

 

I’ve previously written about how project managers in the construction industry should embrace change management, as well as how the industry might adopt big tech’s displaced software engineers to address industry digitization problems, and how the construction industry looking to adopt lean management principles may borrow some of the similar practices from agile software project management.

Studies show that business analysts are more prone to support collaboration in agile projects.

With this in mind, in this article, I look to unpack two roles—the Business Analyst and the Inventory Manager—and discuss how a collaboration matrix between these roles can help construction companies work leaner, more efficiently, and drive greater profitability over time.

 

The Role of the Business Analyst & Why BAs May Be a Critical Construction Industry Hire

Considering construction’s profitability concerns, the role of a business analyst (BA) from the corporate environment is one that construction companies may look to fast-track.

Responsible for “bridging the gap between IT and the business using data analytics to assess processes, determine requirements, and deliver data-driven recommendations and reports to executives and stakeholders,” a BA in a construction company setting can “offer valuable insights to enhance financial planning and resource allocation,” reads the job description for a Senior Construction Business Intelligence Data Analyst role at CBRE Group, a global commercial real estate company, which was available at the time of writing this article.

Consider CBRE’s job posting for some of the job-specific functions a Business Analyst in the construction industry may entail:

  • Applying advanced analytical techniques to conduct prescriptive, diagnostic, descriptive, and predictive data analysis on diverse construction-related data, incorporating data from Quickbase, eBuilder, SAP, and Google Sheets.
  • Developing dashboards, meticulously maintained [… that] provide real-time insights into construction project data while ensuring these dashboards are user-friendly, intuitive, and deliver vital information to project collaborators (e.g., stakeholders).
  • Generating regular and ad-hoc reports for the leadership team, highlighting essential performance indicators, project status, and emerging trends, while translating sophisticated data into practical, actionable insights, incorporating earned value measurement concepts to evaluate project performance.
  • Providing meaningful support for annual capital planning by conducting comprehensive analysis of historical data, project costs, and resource allocation, offering valuable insights to enhance financial planning and resource allocation.
  • Developing and maintaining strategic forecasts for construction projects, demonstrating data analytics to identify trends and make informed predictions about future outcomes, incorporating earned value measurement techniques to assess project performance and forecast project completion accurately.
  • Providing data-driven insights that support critical business decisions, helping to improve operational efficiency and profitability.

 

Construction forecasting is one critical business process a business analyst may help owners more accurately predict through advanced analytics, historical trends, and advanced technology management (e.g., artificial intelligence).

When they collaborate with other critical business functions (e.g., inventory management, discussed next), greater outcomes may become more easily within reach.

 

The Role of the Inventory Manager in Construction Projects

An inventory manager in the construction industry (aka: tool crib manager, tool room manager, asset manager, equipment manager, etc.) is responsible for the strategic direction, allocation, storage, and flow of all the physical assets needed to perform construction work—e.g., building materials, tools, vehicles, and equipment.

An inventory manager assures jobsite materials, tools, and equipment arrive on jobsites as they’re needed, are in working order (e.g., tools are properly serviced, materials are not damaged, etc.), and are returned or rerouted across projects as needed to prevent slippage and excess asset turnover.

With an inventory manager at the helm of the construction supply chain, companies might realistically see a 10-12% reduction in labor cost originating from avoiding non-productive idle time or downtime—that is to say, when materials are where they’re needed, manpower doesn’t need to search for them or idly wait for their arrival.

 

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How BAs and IMs Can Work Collaboratively to Drive Better Profitability Outcomes

Now that we’ve discussed what a Business Analyst role may look like in the construction sector, as well as the role of an inventory manager in the same sector, how might these cross-functional teammates work together to drive better profitability outcomes?

Here are five ways:

 

1. Procurement Strategies

A business analyst, tied into company forecasting, can work closely with inventory managers to establish objectives for procurement strategies and capital investment as well as determine needs based on ongoing inflight projects and company annual goals.

Together, they might reasonably achieve strategic themes when approaching inventory-related financial commitments and implement cost-saving measures, including:

  • Appropriate Safety Stock Purchasing – Together, a business analyst and inventory manager can cross-pollinate company-specific analytics related to equipment purchasing, historical trends of project needs, and existing commitments in order to reasonably define policies for shelving inventory and planning for needs (i.e., how much to buy, when). Such a collaboration can help prevent excessive inventory procurement that would otherwise lead to unnecessarily rising overhead, while it can also help facilitate proper procurement to prevent inventory stockouts. What’s more, using advanced analytics via artificial intelligence can help predict future needs.
  • Proactive Inventory Audits to prevent needless spending over project lifecycles as well as to provide better long-term inventory management outcomes.
  • Deploying cost-centric, advanced inventory management strategies like just-in-time inventory. This method prioritizes strategic, lean operations in order to deploy only what’s needed when it’s needed, preventing excessive inventory procurement (and like above, preventing unnecessarily rising overhead). The method also requires inventory managers to proactively intervene to prevent jobsite hording, hence why inventory tracking (e.g., Bluetooth tags, GPS trackers, etc.) is critical.
  • Performing XYZ analysis to calculate: fixed demand (X), fluctuating demand (Y), uncertain demand (Z). Determining these inputs can help inventory managers more effectively achieve more positive outcomes by ranking the frequency and predictability of demand for items over time.

 

2. Job Costing

In addition to financial forecasts and reporting, business analysts can work with inventory managers to adopt a job costing solution. Job costing in construction refers to the proactive process and steps taken to track the associated costs and revenue of a given project throughout its lifecycle.

The process can be used in inventory management, where inventory managers can apply rental rates (daily, weekly) to equipment that is deployed to the field (either individual or bulk inventory that’s been kitted/bundled and sent at once). Job costing software then calculates the cost accrued for each day (or week) those items are in the field.

 

This process can help:

  • Inventory managers better account and monetize on the equipment they send to their network of jobsites.
  • Financially incentivize borrowers to return equipment in a timely manner, reducing the “time on site” of a particular piece of inventory as well as the need for additional safety stock, unnecessary rerouting of equipment from other jobsites, etc.
  • Provide additional revenue streams to construction businesses.

 

3. Reporting

In addition to the business analytics dashboards that a construction business analyst might build for a business owner as discussed in the above-mentioned job description, inventory managers can work hand-in-hand with business analysts to provide additional reporting opportunities, including:

  • Tool Management Reports – reports about ongoing usage of inventory (e.g., average “days on site,” as we discussed above, to help make improvements on how inventory is used in the future; service-related alerts, to help proactively take charge of equipment maintenance, improve longevity, and decrease overhead; inventory assigned by jobsite or person, to increase accountability; etc.)
  • Asset-specific reports, such as utilization on some smart power tools, which can help diagnose problems before a jobsite-halting breakdown occurs as well as provide quality assurance to customers and inspectors that installations were performed to specification.

 

4. Interoperability

Construction interoperability is the practice whereby construction systems (e.g., software platforms, apps, processes) interact with each other and the extent to which they possess the ability to operate seamlessly and share information between each other.

A KPMG report revealed that only 16% of executives surveyed say their organizations have fully integrated systems and tools—a serious problem when we consider how fragmented the construction ecosystem is. Consider, too, that only 36% of firms have implemented a process for identifying bad data and repairing it (Autodesk/FMI report).

 

Together, inventory managers and business analysts can start to build system interoperability that can both provide a single source of truth and prevent cost driving incidents like rework (e.g., from the same Autodesk/FMI report, 14% of all construction rework may have been caused by bad data, creating $88.69 billion in avoidable rework globally).

Possible interoperable systems include:

  • Connecting data flow between a project management system (e.g., Procore, Autodesk Construction Cloud, Contractor Foreman, Houzz Pro) and architecture, design, and civil engineering (e.g., Revit, AutoCAD, SketchUp, Bluebeam, Autodesk BIM 360, Civil 3D, ArcGIS, Bentley STAAD, etc.)
  • Connecting data flow between inventory management systems and mission-critical systems (e.g., project management, design, etc.)
  • Building digital twins (e.g., asset twins, component twins, system twins, process twins) to provide holistic views of cross-network activities, predictive analytics, and real-time data and simulations to aid in decision-making.

 

5. Planning for Addressing Technical Debt

Technical debt is a phenomenon whereby dependencies one introduces when deploying new software and hardware solutions lead to operational slowdown.

A colleague and I have outlined five ways construction companies can prevent technical debt. A business analyst and/or construction technologist may work hand in hand with an inventory manager to prevent technical debt relative to construction operations from piling up – e.g.,

  • They may work with IT to deploy cloud-based systems (i.e., real-time collaboration).
  • They’ll deploy inventory tracking hardware to ensure real-time inventory activity is recorded.
  • They’ll ensure mobile apps integrate with construction ERPs.
  • They may work with the cybersecurity team to ensure proper MDM deployment and data security best practices relative to inventory.

 

Bottom Line

The construction industry faces some dire operational challenges.

While construction companies might not be able to affect the cost of materials, they can focus on factors they can control—e.g., improving internal processes, empowering the team to work more seamlessly together.

When working collaboratively, business analysts and inventory managers can help companies operate more agilely, more strategically focused, and they can help achieve greater profitability over time.