Project analytics begins with the contractAugust 20, 2019
It’s no secret that successful projects are the products of well defined contracts between the Owner and Contractor. However, often overlooked is how much value a contract has in project analytics, particularly in regards to stakeholder alignment and data engineering, such that owners can apply new industry methods to telling the story of where projects are headed.
While it is difficult to quantify upfront what opportunities and cost savings project analytics may yield, it is practical certainty that without an amenable contract for analysts to flex against, project analytics cannot get off the ground successfully.
Generally, contracts have been rehashed from boiler plate templates that have not kept up with technological times. In construction industry they speak nothing to low level systems access, software interoperability, cross-company systems integrations, vendor APIs or databases. Nor do they speak to any affirmation of owner or clients responsibilities in data access, data pipelines or data governance. Contracts more specifically are written to ensure reports telling what happened are done timely alongside a responsibility matrix, rarely with an appreciation or understanding of ensuring the ability to tell where projects are headed are in place.
So where does this leave project analytics? Project controls department’s battle ongoing throughout a project with clients or owners to have well structured, un-encumbered systems access, only to be referred to the contract which promises nothing.
While cyber security and sabotage is a valid concern; databases, local web hosts, and web-based interfaces can block and restrict access to specific users, domains and gateways and record all transactions. In the network server world, next to nothing has been overlooked when it comes to restricting access to certain corners of the network – the control is very granular and targeted.
The current news climate reports ongoing data breaches where majority of these revolve around social media or credit card systems, but it’s easy to paint this with a broad stroke and deem it as universal across all data. Reality is, project analytics data is not a priority target for hackers as there is little monetary value in the information.
With a carefully crafted contract and understanding of the data analytics tools available, the project analytics is the easy part as an individual no longer needs to be a masters level statistician or know proofs to apply concepts, it is largely now a plug-and-play data analytics world.
A few calls to action
If you’re sitting in an organization competitively bidding work, or winning work, engage with contracts departments early for ?. Ensure you read the relative sections for reporting requirements, and provide the necessary red lines that reflect your data requirements. A simple slide deck to share with lawyers, perhaps even referring them to this article may get teams thinking about expanding boilerplate verbiage. Emphasize that in fears of cyber security, intellectual property, and so forth that it may be beneficial to have an intellectual property lawyer write those sections instead of a commercial lawyer. These individuals are heavily trained in protecting companies while facilitating data exchanges. Put the onus on others to remove your red lines; you can only do so much as to outlay what’s required to be successful, but convey relentlessly as to why you need what you’re asking for. Share infographics, share mock forecasts, and put a compelling slide deck together on what others in industry are doing. Convey, rightfully so, that data analytics is the future, it is here to stay, and your company is either on board or will be left behind. Treat it like a sales brochure, sometimes people need to be sold on an idea first in order to run with it.
The front end effort before a project begins on selling an idea will pay dividends during the life of the project, and make your work life much easier. I’ve crafted a few mutually exclusive contract passages that may set your organization on the proper path:
- Contractor shall ensure the cost of the Work under the Contract is made available on a date agreed to with the Owner, and provided in a structured comma separated value (CSV) format extracted from Contractor’s cost management system.
- Contractor shall provide Level IV schedule data under the Contract on a date agreed to with the Owner, provided in a structured comma separated value format extracted from Primavera P6 or Microsoft Project Planner.
- Contractor understands they will be provided with Owner database access, and it is Contractor responsibility to maintain database data as part of reporting requirements.
- Contractor, as far as practicable, shall support Owner database warehouse system and its underlying schema by understanding Owner requirements for data analysis.
- Contractor agrees that all cost and schedule employees shall be oriented with Owner’s indoctrination on data science fundamentals.
If you have any suggestions on other contract language, or your own experiences, please share your opinions below. Remember, a proper contract is a key step to establishing a legally binding stakeholder alignment.