Editor’s Note: This is part three of a series highlighting real customer stories shared during our Digital Contractor Roadshow events.

Data Analytics vs Gut Feeling – A Discussion

Data analytics is a buzzword in the construction industry today. It seems most construction companies realize a need to make more informed decisions, backed by data. But there are challenges that arise when putting into place a strong analytics program to collect the data that matters. Some contractors have been in the business for so long that they feel they understand the trends and the ebb and flow of the company better than any analytics tool ever could. So how are construction companies actually leveraging data and analytics to make better decisions for their firms?

We asked this question of Mike Thomas, IT director at Barth Electric and Michael Preyss, CFO of Garmong Construction Services at our Digital Contractor Roadshow event in Indianapolis a few months ago. They gave us excellent answers from their own experience.

We’ve heard a lot about data analytics in today’s presentation. How is your company leveraging data, analytics and crew reporting, to make the better decisions?

Thomas: We hear the words data and analytics. They almost sound like buzzwords to a lot of people. To me, it means a lot of things. A lot of companies are probably doing data analytics at what we call the descriptive statistics level and don’t realize it. So, when you run those reports, it gives you your totals, and averages, variances, estimate against action, all that sort of thing. That’s looking in the rearview mirror. The next step would be predictive analytics and that would be taking not only what has happened but trying to determine what you can do with that. In other words, not only planning what’s going to come down the road but having the software and the technology there that helps you and prompts you — almost like Siri, or your autonomous driving cars that say, “Okay, here are all these scenarios that make sense.” This is the decision support system. Now you take that data, you make your decision from it.

We’re just scratching the surface of our descriptive analytics and what we need to do now is refine classification of what data you’re going to actually capture. Be consistent about it, get clean data in, so that you can do analytics with it and make better decisions with it.

Preyss: Data analytics is something that … to your point Mike, is a buzzword. It’s one that we throw around a lot in meetings in large part because … we scratch the surface on data analytics and I’d say we do so without realizing it. My company is a multi-generational, family-held business, so we have the benefit of a longitudinal sense of where things have been and where they are likely to go, because we’ve seen it over decades; and for those of you in those types of businesses, you may hear your leadership team say, “I’ve been here. I grew up here. I know what’s going to come, because I’ve seen it before.”

Oftentimes I wrestle with this because I want the numbers to back up the gut feel. Is the data coming behind and supporting whether or not this is really going to go the way you think it will…or the way it went last time?” And that is a legitimate pushback on both sides. My data can suggest a potential outcome; but I don’t have 20, or 30, or in our case, more than 90 years to fall back on to support my assumptions.

The exciting part is, is we can now start to look at the numbers and we can do sensitivity testing and we can look back a year ago, or six months ago, and see if our predictions came true. Sometimes, I’m way off, but the fact that we can look back and say, “We thought we were going to be here and we’re within 25 percent of where we thought we were going to be a year ago.” That’s exciting to me. Call it geeky, but I think it’s really fascinating to try to see how the math can come alongside and support the pulse of our leadership. As we continue to refine our models, my hope is we can find a predictor that will continue to tighten up that gap.

Preyss summed up his response with the following: Data analytics, good. Gut feel, not so good. If you can marry the two, good enough for now.

Where does your construction company stand when it comes to analytics? Are you using the right data for informed decision making? To learn more about Viewpoint solutions to help you improve on reporting and analytics visit our website.

Posted by Samantha Biever

Samantha grew up visiting her dad on job sites, which sparked her initial interest in construction. After graduating with honors from George Fox University, she pursued this interest by becoming the Marketing Specialist at Viewpoint where she enjoys being part of a team that is transforming the construction industry.

  • Grant Mongin

    Data is so important. What gets reported gets done

  • Shannon J

    We think that data tracking is extremely important to making sure we are successful in the future.

  • Holli Virgil

    Analyzing is also a great way to predict the future.

  • Ariel Davis

    We rely on data tracking for sales planning each year.

  • A.J. Patel

    Data analysis is so important

  • Erin Wood

    I LOVE data analysis, I wish my company used data analysis more often. To see the ups and downs and trends and have the facts behind them is so important

  • Matthew Lacey

    Very interesting! Data analytics has always been a passion of mine. Looking forward to reading more articles like this.

    Matt

  • Melanie Petersen

    To be successful, you must know where you have been, where you are now, and where you will be in the future.

  • Mary Riley

    My company occasionally uses data analytics for a historic perspective, but it will be interesting to see if they evolve with the industry and begin to use it for predictive purposes.

  • Teresa

    We also use analytics to look back, but have only begun to use the information to look forward

  • Darrell Robinson

    Predictive analytics are currently used to a great extent by those firms with a credit/collections department (not collecting solely by PM). How long does XYZ customer normally take to pay their invoices? So we don’t contact them until that time has passed.

  • Diana Vaughn

    I used to do a lot of data analysis and trending charts for the company, but I am also a believer in using your instincts and gut feelings.

  • Caleb

    Using data analytics to confirm gut feelings has been a valuable part of my role. It is helpful to show why or how a gut feeling is correct.

  • janice

    I agree that gut feel is important, however, I see too many individuals solely relying on this when the environment and company/customer behaviors have changed and statistical and historcal analysis can be of benefit.

  • Tim Sommers

    Using data analytics is a good tool. However, like any decision relying on data a good dose of instinct and experience always complement good data.

  • Tracy Scott Rasmussen

    We have generally used data analytics for perspective of the past, we are now moving towards using the tool for future forecasting.

  • Steve Bolton

    Ask 10 people what their gut feel is on a project status, and you most likely get 10 different answers. Rely on the numbers shown on an analytics dashboard and you put all your trust in an algorithm. Combine the numbers with judgement and experienced analysis, and you’ve got a winner.