Construction Reporting: Custom, Consistent, and Automated

Each team within an organization requires specific and up-to-date performance indicators to keep everyone pulling in the same direction throughout the project lifecycle.

“Uh, We have sort of a problem here… Yeah… You apparently didn’t put one of the new cover sheets on your TPS reports…” That’s a reference from the 1999 satire film Office Space that some of us from the industry know all too well. While the TPS reports that Bill Lumbergh references aren’t exactly like the reports many of us are required to create routinely, you have to admit – reporting can be a pain. So, we set out to create a solution. Read on and learn how easy construction reporting can be so you don’t start feeling like a character from the movie.

 

 

The Problems with Traditional Construction Reporting

 

Having spent over a decade analyzing construction projects, I have come to realize that the industry is all over the place when it comes to reporting project progress and performance. Every project team I have encountered has its own way of doing things, and every decision-maker has their preferred method of consuming the information. 

To create more frustration with the process, the construction industry has rigid reporting requirements, which makes sense for such a multi-faceted industry. Most projects require weekly, monthly, and quarterly reporting – the less frequent, the more detailed – on everything from safety and quality to schedule and procurement updates… It’s not just one TPS report.

Simply put, traditionally, there has been no “one-size-fits-all” way of reporting that has worked, nor should there be. The truth is that each team within an organization requires specific and up-to-date performance indicators to keep everyone pulling in the same direction throughout the project lifecycle. And what’s the best data set for this approach to construction reporting? That’s right: the schedule. 

 

Developing Custom Construction Reporting

 

Before Release 7.0, SmartPM offered several auto-generated reports that included information requested by some customers and some based on our experience in the industry. While these reports showed meaningful project information, they weren’t customizable, so many of our users began taking screenshots. 

The problem with screenshots, spreadsheets, and other workaround methods of construction reporting is their manual nature, which leaves more room for error, lacks information from real-time updates, and takes time that could be spent on other tasks.

 

So, we set out to build a tool in SmartPM that lets you “cherry-pick” different metrics and how they are presented. That way, depending on the type of analysis you are doing, you can tell your project’s story the way you want to. 

With this release, we wanted to give our customers the ability to hone in on the risks that exist in their projects based on what is most important to them. This will help communicate critical information for project controls because users can dig into the data, highlight relevant risks, and succinctly communicate across the board.” – Rohit Sinha, CTO of SmartPM Technologies.

 

Making Construction Reporting Easy and Effective

 

Did you get that memo? In Office Space, Peter Gibbons kept forgetting to put the cover sheet on his TPS report. It was obviously a silly requirement, but nonetheless, it highlights a common frustration with manual construction reporting processes. 

With the custom report builder in SmartPM, you can forget about remembering to include specific metrics in your weekly, monthly, or other reports. Instead, you can set up company-level, project level, and other specific reports to run automatically whenever you’d like. This automation ensures that all necessary information is included without the hassle. 

 

Company-Level Reports

 

  • Default Across All Projects
  • Standardized for Roles
  • Example: A Project Executive creates a standard report outlining changes to the critical path, trades that caused impacts, and a 3-week look-ahead to send to Superintendents at every update.

 

Project-Level Reports

 

  • Specific to Individual Projects
  • Choose from Project-Oriented Templates
  • Example: A GC is building for a large owner with specific reporting protocols. With custom reporting, they create a report template that includes all required information and set it up to automatically send out at every update.

 

With this dual-level approach, your construction reporting can be comprehensive and customizable, meeting the varied needs of your projects and your teams without all the clicking around. Plus, by utilizing company reports, cross-project reporting has never been easier—you can speak apples to apples when comparing any project schedule. It’s quite simple; let’s set one up and walk through some use cases.

 

1. Select a Project

 

The first step in creating a custom report at the company level is to select a project. This gives the Scheduling Intelligence engine a baseline set of information to analyze.

*Note: If you create a custom report at the project level, no project has to be selected, as the data is known. However, a baseline project must be set at the company level. 

 

2. Name Your Report

 

Quite self-explanatory, I know, but critically important. Name your report for its specific use case. 

For example, if you created a report for an owner that includes all contractually required information to run at every update, you could name it “Owner Report” so as not to get confused with internal reports.

 

3. Pick Your Data

 

The next step is to decide what information you want to include in your report. There are several different categories of data that can be presented in SmartPM, and how you include them in your reports depends on what you are trying to communicate. Let’s take a look:

 

Charts

Charts display how your project changes over time. These are broken down into two categories.

 

1. Project Trends
  • Actual Execution: These charts track the completion rate, days earned, and overall progress. They provide a clear picture of how closely a project is adhering to the schedule and highlight areas that need attention.

  • Plan Feasibility: These charts show how the schedule changes and compresses over time, and include health summaries on overall status. They help assess whether the planned timeline is realistic and identify any necessary adjustments.

 

2. Schedule Quality

Because of our customized approach to schedule quality, there are dozens of schedule quality charts you can use to include in your reports. Besides the standard Schedule Quality Grade Over Time™ graph shown below, the other charts are broken down into three categories:

  • Duration & Float: Tracks how much time buffers are allocated and used in the project
  • Logic & Sequencing: Ensures tasks are arranged logically with proper dependencies
  • Updating Practices: Evaluates the frequency and accuracy of updates

 

Tables

Including a table in a custom report gives more details about delays, acceleration, end-date variance and so on. Tables are broken down into the following categories:

  • Calendar Audits
  • Modeling Info
  • Plan & Progress
  • Quality Metrics
  • Schedule Changes

The table you choose will depend on the type of report you are building. Regardless of which table you choose, you can always change which columns are visible in which order they appear.

 

Information Cards

Information cards can include anything with a card layout within the product. They are primarily used to add more context to in-depth analyses or to provide specific information. Anything from schedule quality to forecasted end date can be dropped into any block within a template. 

 

Gantt Chart

Embedding Gantt Charts into your reports helps visualize project progress over specific time periods.

With targeted filtering options, you can focus the Gantt View on the activities most critical for your audience. This feature is most commonly used to include a 3- or 6-week look-ahead in reports.

 

Narrative Reports

Narratives add more context and help break up visual or numerical information. You can add narratives to your custom reports in two ways.

 

Pre-Built Narratives

SmartPM automatically generates narrative summaries based on your schedule data for every project. You can insert pre-built narrative summaries on the following information into your custom reports:

  • Changes Summary
  • Compression Index
  • Critical Path Additions & Subtractions
  • Current End Date
  • Project Health
  • Schedule Progression
  • Schedule Quality Index

 

Changes Summary Narrative Example: 

According to the SmartPM schedule modification analysis, there were 89 total changes between the previous update and most current schedule update, broken out as follows:

  • 30 Activity Changes
  • 2 Activities Added
  • 0 Activities Deleted
  • 59 Logic Changes
  • 9 Duration Changes
  • 1 Delayed Activity Change
  • 0 Calendar Changes

The planned changes contributed to 19 days of Planned Acceleration.

 

General Text Narratives

General text is similar to a “personalization token,” allowing you to formulate text, pull in different parameters, and use your words to represent the information you want to convey. Once the parameters and language are chosen, the text will auto-populate with live data from each project the report is run on.

 

4. Select Your Layout

 

Pick a layout based on the amount of information you want to include on each page. This is similar to choosing a layout for a PowerPoint presentation, so you can choose the best way to communicate your message.

 

5. Name Each Page

 

If you can think of your reports as little stories about your project, think of each page within your report as a chapter. Each chapter should have its own theme to support the overall story, which is why naming each page plays such a significant role.

For example, if you created a page that included all activities that should have started and finished in a certain period, that page could be labeled “Productivity Page.”

 

6. Save Report

 

The next step is saving your report. After you hit “Save,” the report will be added to your custom report library. Any report, including the ones SmartPM auto-generates, can be starred at the top of the page for easy access.

Once a report is saved, select the schedule you want to receive that report and hit “Run.” Then, SmartPM will automatically generate a report for that specific instance.

 

Automating Construction Reporting with Subscriptions

 

One of my favorite things about the custom reports release is combining it with our Subscriptions feature. By setting up a subscription, instead of sending out your entire schedule file to each relevant party at every update, you can automatically send out whatever communication is most relevant to each stakeholder.

For example, if you want your site teams to review the activities they should have started and finished at every update alongside their monthly distribution and S-Curve, you could easily set that up to occur automatically – you wouldn’t have to remember to send it out.

 

Conclusion

 

The core concept of this release is for you to build the report you want based on your chosen criteria. Customers decide what to analyze in their job reviews and attach the report to each meeting. It’s construction reporting in three simple steps:

  1. Choose Your Metrics: Select the data points most relevant to your analysis.
  2. Customize Presentation: Tailor the layout and format to best communicate your findings.
  3. Automate Reporting: Set schedules for automatic updates and distributions.

This newest feature ties into our basic product philosophy: SmartPM is a platform that everyone in the industry can use. But everyone can use it in different ways.

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