How to use data analysis In project management

Grayce Analyst, Alex Cole shares how effective data management can increase project success.

With worldwide revenues for business analytics expected to hit the billions of dollars in 2019. And project management revenues expected to hit the trillions of dollars in 2020. It’s no wonder these two disciplines are high up the optimisation priority list for many large-scale organisations.

The ability to optimise project success through leveraging big data and analytical capability will be key in allowing organisations to be able to keep up with an ever-increasing demand for change. The question then arises – how do we use our intelligence wisely?

First and foremost, it’s imperative that organisations understand what data they need to capture and why they need to capture it. With a wealth of data to choose from it’s all too easy to start drowning in the sheer volume of information at your fingertips.

Once the what and why have been established next we need the how – how we will transform this data into something we can use. The ability to extract the relevant parts of the data and analyse it to show clear and impactful trends which provide answers as well as questions is key to driving action of the back of insight. As said by Daniel Keys Moran, 'You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.' It is this ability to create information from data which will drive organisational progress.

Companies are using already using data to determine project success enabling them to definitively answer questions like – did we do what we set out to do and are we still doing that? But on top of just measuring project outcomes, data is now beginning to play a key role in both driving more effective project management throughout the project lifecycle and informing strategy and direction. From organisational strategy to project strategy, the relevance, effectiveness and success of these strategies will be driven by robust data and understanding.

Improving project outcomes

If we first look the use of data in project management – the job of the project manager is largely based on estimation, be it scheduling, resources or cost the PM needs to establish the risks on a best guess approximation, which can lead to failure.

Deloitte’s report on Predictive Project analytics provides some startling characteristics on what level of failure we’re looking at.  In 2010, only 37% of all US projects were achieved on time and to budget leaving the remaining 63% of projects either having failed or being challenged. In 2017 a UK survey revealed that 31% of UK projects are also at risk of failure which is predicted to be costing £243.5 billion in turnover.

Big Data however, could let us change the statistics. By introducing better predictive power and more accurate forecasting, you can mitigate risks in a more timely manner. Using data in projects can provide information on effectiveness, efficiency and bottlenecks with the opportunity to correct issues in real time.

Informing strategic direction

Analytics not only informs the strategic direction of an organisation but in doing so will inform the programme and project framework and the order of delivery priority. It can be vital in showing how projects fit into the wider organisational strategy and aligning the end goal.

On top of this, analytics allows us to both track project performance and identify trends and patterns in success and failure thus providing insights into improving success in future. Together, this means that organisations can not only ensure they have a robust strategy in place to keep a strong competitive advantage but also that they are continually improving success rate and profitability of projects.

The link between data and project success appears inextricably linked.  The ever-increasing volume of data being made available provides a platform for organisations and analysts alike to optimise their success. It’s the ability to manage this data, separate the useful from the useless and turn it into understandable and informative headlines which will allow us to realise it.

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