Five ways to drive exceptional performance with data
We outline five ways to exploit data to drive improved business performance across your infrastructure programme.
New data insights are bringing about changes in predictability and capital efficiency. Adopting tools and techniques to make the most of these opportunities is the first step towards a new world of efficient and effective infrastructure.
Gain insight from your cost base
Business intelligence describes the facts and insights created from existing raw data that enable managers to make more informed, evidence-based decisions. The easiest starting point is to analyse your cost base. All organisations produce basic accounts to record income, expenditure, assets and liabilities, and this provides a readily available source of data.
This approach can specifically benefit the infrastructure sector because in many regions it is highly regulated, with a constant focus on capital efficiency to deliver maximum public services at minimum cost. Being able to explain the reasons for expenditure in a clear, compelling and persuasive manner is critical.
Predict the future
A branch of data science called ‘machine learning’ can help you to more effectively predict the assets that are likely to fail before they actually do.
It is also possible to fuse your own data with external data sources to support your decision-making. For example, you might want to gain better visibility of financial risks in your supply chain. So rather than just downloading credit reports for your first-tier suppliers before you award a contract, why not map your entire supply chain and introduce automatic credit and financial data feeds for these organisations? This will give you continuously updated and aggregated financial intelligence that keeps pace with your constantly changing supply chain, helping you to anticipate and mitigate risks before it’s too late.
Make your capital programme intelligent
An intelligent capital programme is one that integrates and presents live and accurate information – schedule, cost, quality, risk and progress being the most common – to support decision-making.
Programmes should use data visualisation tools to explore and experiment with data, working with management to understand what information they need to make better decisions. Once the content of a dashboard has been agreed, production can be automated by creating live feeds from the systems that generate the data.
Infrastructure organisations do not always compete for customers but they do compete for resources and capital, be it private investment or government subsidy. To be exceptional, their performance needs to significantly exceed that of peers. This means comparing yourself to other organisations in your sector, or indeed outside.
As the old clichés go: if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it; and you need to make sure you are comparing apples with apples. Capturing schedule and cost details in the right structure from day one, along with the right contextual information, will enable you to draw valid conclusions and identify where to make improvements.
Visualise and analyse data geographically
Infrastructure by definition has a location. Most organisations use geographical information systems to understand and map the location of their assets. However, this information is rarely shared with the broader organisation – a missed opportunity.
Incorporating external data sources into scenario modelling through the use of application programming interfaces (communication protocols that enable you to draw live data feeds from third party databases into your own applications) can enable you to make much quicker and more accurate decisions.
For example, you can automatically calculate the quickest route for an engineer between a series of jobs. If you are planning to set up a materials stores facility, you can instantly calculate the precise driving distance and time to each of your schemes of work depending on a number of stores’ location options. You can then balance the transport costs and carbon usage with the facility acquisition costs. If you are building a new road, railway, water mains or energy distribution line, then you can incorporate data on land topography, geology, population or acquisition costs.