Project data analytics: exploiting untapped potential


Stephen Ashley

Stephen Ashley

Digital Transformation Solution Centre Manager

As projects proceed through their lifecycle they create an exhaust plume of data - from risks, costs and schedules through to logistics and quality data. Then, when a project completes, this data is archived or in some cases deleted.

Why do we do this and what needs to change?

As project managers we gain experience from delivering projects: what worked and what didn’t. We amplify what worked well and avoid what didn’t. But our experience is limited by the number of projects we have worked on, in many cases this may be less than 20.

With a staggering £38 billion of North Sea projects in the pipeline, the opportunities for improvement are significant and shouldn’t be ignored. Particularly as the OGA Lessons Learned report stated that there is an average cost overrun between 20-35%... that’s potentially over £7.6 billion!

By leveraging the data from multiple projects, we can shape a new future where delivering a project faster, cheaper and better, with an increased level of confidence can be realised. We extract value from an asset that is currently discarded. Instinctively we know that there is value in this data, but we need to prove it.

But every project is different, so how can we extract insights to inform the delivery of projects in the future?

We can take a top-down approach, identifying heuristics and patterns in the data to shape how we approach a project. Hard evidence allows us to challenge bias.

Or we can also take a bottom-up approach. We understand the predisposition of certain types of projects, elements of a project (work breakdown), functional elements of a project (integration or commercial) or organisations to variance.

In an exciting development, The OGTC is currently working in collaboration with Projecting Success. They harness the power of data analytics to transform project delivery, with the power to predict project issues before they arise, suggesting mitigating actions to avoid them. Game-changing technology that excites us.

This will see us implement two main streams of action:

1. The development of a community who share good practice and work collegiately for the benefit of the profession.
2. The development of a data trust where we can safely and securely gather the data from previous projects.

There is a pressing need for those involved in the delivery of projects to explore a new approach: data may hold the key. Within the medical profession data has helped us to understand our predisposition to illness, particularly when we need a heightened awareness to specific conditions.

Doesn’t the same apply to projects?

Particularly so, when research from Oxford Saïd Business School illustrated that 8/10 oil and gas projects overrun by up to 31%. Their dataset also illustrates that the probability of a project being on time and budget is 7.8%, reducing to 0.5% if we include data on benefits.

One of the first things we need to do is understand the correlation between the use cases, i.e. the questions, that we are trying to answer, and the availability of quality data to answer them. These questions should be driven by what can be achieved through artificial intelligence (AI) rather than thinking through a traditional lens. For example, what are the major issues that are likely to arise in the next six months and how should we deploy our resources.

But how can we leverage the data?

We can achieve this in the three key ways:

• Understand how team dynamics provide lead indicators on project delivery performance.
• Explore which elements of a project are predisposed to certain types of risk and the trigger events that influence the risk.
• Gain insights into the technical issues and integration challenges that are likely to face a project.

So while projects are complex, there are multiple paths through them and the outcome is not deterministic, we should always view data analytics as an opportunity to develop additional insight, rather than a definitive delivery tool.

I hope this has sparked some interest – I’m sure there is at least one project you’ve been involved in lately that you’ve thought “if only I’d known that earlier…” There’s a lot more to come on this, and I’ll be publishing more in the coming weeks.

We are currently seeking project professionals to get involved in helping determine the legal and governance framework needed to capture project data from the industry. If you would like to get involved then please get in touch by contacting