Itransition experts believe that an ERP’s ability to centralize disparate data flows across the enterprise is one of the main reasons for such popularity. Centralization helps construction organizations facilitate data management while making data more visible and accessible.
Such improvements in data management can help decision-makers make data-driven business decisions. This advantage may result in increased operational efficiency, more intelligent resource allocation, and reduced business risk.
This article provides several tips on how an organization can maximize the benefit of its construction data with the help of a corporate ERP.
Integrating ERP data with business intelligence (BI)
A construction ERP solution often provides default built-in analytics functionality, for example, features for data visualization, KPI tracking, and report generation.
In some scenarios, this basic functionality is sufficient to meet the business needs from the analytics perspective. Nevertheless, an organization may require more specialized and advanced analytical tools, such as business intelligence, to extract the maximum benefit from its data.
As an option, an organization may integrate a construction ERP with an existing BI solution or develop a custom BI module and integrate it into an ERP. After that, all the information collected by an ERP (for example, inventory, logistics, or procurement data) may be processed and analyzed with business intelligence.
In practice, such integration may enable a construction organization to use various BI techniques.
This technique helps process large arrays of unstructured data and study it to identify hidden patterns and trends, as well as determine the relations between different data sets. For example, data mining can help to analyze text, numerical, or image files that contain critical construction data.
In practice, a construction organization can use data mining to track the condition and health of buildings, bridges, or any other construction. In particular, organizations may identify emergency risks in advance in order to eliminate them timely.
A few years ago, Chinese researchers implemented data mining to track the condition of one of the bridges in Hubei Province. In real-time, experts track parameters such as temperature, deflection, and pressure with sensors and use data mining algorithms, resulting in more effective bridge maintenance and exploitation.
Apparently, construction is a very complex, difficult to predict, and, therefore, risky process. Nevertheless, organizations can utilize BI capabilities to make construction more predictable and, consequently, increasingly safe and cost-effective. In particular, organizations can analyze construction data with the help of predictive analytics.
For example, an organization can analyze historical data related to the budgets of its past projects to predict what amount of money would be required for a similar construction in the future. Alternatively, an organization can analyze data on the consumption of certain materials to plan the supply better, thus preventing under and oversupply.
Ad hoc analysis
This business intelligence technique allows organizations to receive high-quality, detailed data for solving specific and non-standard business tasks.
In short, this is how the approach may work in practice. Suppose a construction process goes slower than usual, and a manager suggests that the machinery causes the problem. In this case, an employee may generate a report on the performance of particular machines and, if the report highlights some inefficiencies, fix them.
Connecting additional data sources to an ERP
If a construction organization uses customer relationship management (CRM), human resource management (HRM), or some other corporate software, decision-makers may consider integrating it with an ERP. After all, the data collected by these software systems can fuel analytics, helping employees gain a more comprehensive picture of their business.
For example, integration between CRM and ERP can help employees better understand how customers interact with a construction business. By analyzing data from both software systems, managers can plan construction operations based on customer trends, thus enabling better service and, as a result, customer satisfaction.
In addition, a construction organization can consider integrating ERP and HRM. With such an integration, HR professionals may generate reports based on ERP data to allocate the workforce more accurately in areas such as construction, warehouse, and logistics management.
Training and educating employees about ERP analytics
Among other things, it is essential to note that effective analytics, especially when it implies using techniques such as data mining, is only possible with the right skills and competencies. After all, an organization can have the most sophisticated and powerful analytics tools, which may fail to bring value if no one knows how to use them properly.
Therefore, before initiating a BI-based project at an enterprise, we recommend ensuring that employees are ready to use data analysis in their day-to-day work. Decision-makers can start by discussing the following issues with corporate managers and data specialists:
- What KPIs are the most critical from the point of view of our enterprise resource planning?
- What types of ERP data may be valuable for meeting our business goals?
- Can our employees access, analyze, and interpret all this data?
- Can employees use specific BI techniques on a daily basis?
- Should we improve employees’ data analytics skills? How?
Depending on the answers to these and other questions, an organization should consider initiating a series of employee training in order to close the most critical skill gaps. Alternatively, decision-makers can hire specialists such as data scientists and thus mitigate the skill shortage.
Considering expert ERP consultancy
Among other things, we would recommend consulting with ERP professionals who have proven experience in the construction industry and solid expertise in analytics. Such experts can help an organization clearly define its business needs, identify the most valuable data sources, assess the existing analytical tools, or help enrich the corporate tech stack with additional solutions.
An ERP is an indispensable tool in the tech stack of any growing construction organization. ERPs unify disparate construction data flows, simplifying data management and increasing enterprise transparency. Moreover, ERPs provide tools for data visualization and analysis, thus enabling more intelligent business decisions.
However, organizations can put some effort into maximizing the value of their construction data. In particular, organizations may integrate ERP with business intelligence, connect additional data sources, educate employees on ERP analytics, or seek advice from professional ERP experts.