Take Your AEC Firm's Business Intelligence to the Next Level

Posted by Bret Tushaus on July 20, 2021

Business Intelligence

By Bret Tushaus, VP Product Management, Deltek

When business intelligence (BI) tools were first introduced 10-15 years ago, those tools used data to help evaluate actuals and metrics related to past performance. But as businesses and technology have evolved, so has the concept of business intelligence. The next step in the BI journey is evaluating business data to predict what might happen in the future and then recommending an action based on that forecast. At its heart, BI is about providing your architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firm the key, actionable insight to drive better decision making.

How to Use Business Intelligence Tools

Business intelligence drives decision making that leads to tangible and positive impacts for your AEC firm’s performance. There are some best practices when it comes to using BI in the right way. These practices come in the form of a four-step, cyclical process – or the feedback loop – so that your business can recognize the impacts of decisions and make adjustments and improvements to drive continued success.

  1. Evidence: Capture, calculate and store data in a consumable way
  2. Relevance: Provide context for the data by setting goals and communicating those goals
  3. Consequence: Compare the data to the goals to determine the best path forward
  4. Action: Act on those decisions while measuring and gathering evidence of the effect of that action

5 Key Business Intelligence Best Practices

When setting out on the BI journey, there are five best practices that any company can apply. Each of these best practices is highlighted below; however, to learn even more about each, watch this webinar. Throughout the BI journey, it is crucial that businesses celebrate successes and identify areas of improvement. There is power in a company seeing first-hand how being data driven is improving business performance – and that, in turn, helps keep everyone in the firm focused on results.

Establish Firm Buy-In

The most common reason BI initiatives fail is lack of support from key stakeholders across the firm. As with any company-wide initiative, buy-in from corporate leaders and management – the top-down backing – is a prerequisite when establishing business intelligence practices. Equally important is the concept of “middle out,” which includes the individuals within your company who are on the front lines doing the work and interacting with the teams. If you get these constituents on board with your BI initiative, it will pay huge dividends. By including these “middle out” individuals as an integral part of a BI strategy, they will influence those around them which will drive adoption and understanding.

Foster a Data Culture

Sharing with the company the goals that have been established and how data will be used to measure performance can positively affect the behavior of everyone across the business. One of the most impactful ways to foster a culture of data is to demonstrate how data can empower teams in tangible and meaningful ways.  

Put it Where it Matters

In your BI journey, it is critical that you are smart about where you apply data to drive behavior. In other words, don’t use data just because you have it; use it where it matters most. Use data in areas that can truly drive improved business performance and better decision making. If you overdo it with data, it can just become noise and will no longer be useful in decision making.

Remember the “Business”

Similar to applying BI where it matters most is the idea of remembering that “business” is the first word in “business intelligence.” Be wary of getting wrapped up in the tool – the technology – behind BI. Instead, the focus should be using BI on the underlying concept of making more informed decisions. Every aspect of BI should come back to the question “Does this help us make more informed decisions that will benefit the firm?”

Start Small

And finally, any company-wide initiative can be intimidating and carry a significant risk for failure if the business bites off more than it can chew. Therefore, when companies start with any BI strategy, it is important to pick something small: a part of the business that can be isolated, a small set of key performance indicators (KPIs) or a specific team. Starting small will give your company an opportunity to better manage testing and learning to equip your teams to take the BI strategy more broadly across the company. Discover five metrics design firm Cube 3 Studio is tracking in this blog.

No matter what step you are on in your journey, it is critical that you celebrate and demonstrate your successes and look for areas of improvement. The more you demonstrate how a well-formed BI strategy is improving company performance through better decision making, the more you will increase buy-in and build that data culture.


 

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How Do I Get Started?

One of the best practices discussed above was the concept of starting small and applying that philosophy is critical as you begin your BI journey. We have broken this down into five small steps which can help establish a foundation and help gain some momentum on which to build moving forward.

  1. Assemble your team: Select team members who can influence and help sell the value of the business intelligence initiative
  2. Identify the relevant metrics: Start with two or three metrics that are most relevant to your firm
  3. Establish goals for those metrics: Determine what success looks like and set the targets appropriately
  4. Select testing ground: Pick a part of the business where you can test and iterate on the BI strategy
  5. Build your visualizations: Agree on the format and type of information that will support the chosen metrics and goals
 

"When business intelligence is used in the right way, it can drive effective decision making that can create a tangible, positive, impact on your company's performance."

 

By following these best practices and keeping the feedback loop open, you will establish a discipline within your firm that will not only enable you to drive better decision making, but also will help you broaden your usage of BI across all parts of your company.

This expanded application of BI will also expand performance improvements and will establish a cyclical, self-propelled BI discipline that will make your business more informed than ever. As a data-driven business, you will be able to make impactful decisions to improve the state of the business and ultimately take your firm’s business intelligence to the next level.


 

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About the Author

As Vice President of Product Management, Bret Tushaus is responsible for leading the product strategy, roadmap and product management teams for Deltek’s Vision, Maconomy, Ajera, People Planner, PIM and WorkBook. Prior to joining Deltek, Bret spent 15 years at Eppstein Uhen Architects and holds a Master of Architecture from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Connect with Bret on LinkedIn