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October 17, 2014updated 21 Oct 2016 4:00pm

Big data analytics in capital infrastrucuture construction

A firm that worked on The Shard is now using analytics and visualisation tools.

By Sam

Tableau Software named construction consultancy Turner & Townsend as a big user of its tools.

The project management company has worked on iconic projects such as The Shard, Crossrail, and Heathrow T5.

Chris Gage, Director at Turner & Townsend, investigated the tools available and picked Tableau.

He said: "The performance of capital programmes is frequently viewed as variable and therefore unpredictable in terms of delivery time, budget and standards. At Turner & Townsend we believe that clients can better manage risk while maximising value and performance through intelligent use of data. We are transforming capital programmes through smart analytical techniques enabled by tools such as Tableau. Predictive analytics are driving greater cost certainty on capital programmes and achieve greater capital efficiency. Detailed programme delivery data is being condensed into high level business intelligence that enables the user to zoom in and fix problems or identify opportunities to make efficiencies. In a highly regulated sector such as infrastructure, being able to distil highly complex data into a clear narrative is helping clients demonstrate value to regulators. Using our deep industry expertise we harness, analyse and interpret this data in a meaningful way, turning data into insight for our clients. Clients can have better insight at their fingertips, empowering them to confidently make critical, strategic decisions faster to achieve higher levels of performance."

Like in other industries, specialist software is used for operational activities such as the day to day management of a programme. Spreadsheets often act as the glue that binds different operational systems together, particularly when it comes to management reporting. With ballooning data volumes and a new generation of smartphone wielding clients that have come to expect attractive, interactive information on demand, spreadsheets look increasingly anachronistic.

"Historically my team has explored, analysed and built reports using the ubiquitous spreadsheet package," continued Gage. "However Tableau is now my favoured option for this type of work. Connecting to a data source or blending multiple data sources is virtually instant and you can be finding interesting visual trends and patterns within minutes. We have found that we have started ‘thinking in Tableau’ in the kind of way that you might catch yourself thinking in French if learning that language. Suddenly spreadsheets seem slow and clunky. But the biggest difference is the visual impact our outputs now have with clients. Our clients are busy people and increasingly data savvy. They want to instantly see the exceptions and then drill in to route cause. Tableau enables them to interact with our outputs in this way. All they need is a browser or tablet and they can get real time answers to their questions."

"Turner & Townsend is showing the construction industry a new way to make better-informed, faster decisions. There’s no room for error with capital programmes, and making use of predictive analytics and visualisation allows the company to leave no stone unturned in their quest for exceptional performance," commented James Eiloart, VP, EMEA, Tableau Software.

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