Is it a Serpent or an Elephant? The Construction Industry Needs Better Business Intelligence Tools.

Posted by Phillip Schell Apr 20, 2015 8:30:00 AM



Is it a serpent or an elephant? The parable of the six blind men and the elephant is one of the world’s most widely-known parables. It illustrates that we should not mistake a part for the whole and importance of keeping an open mind to different points of view. It also conveys the importance of perspective and the value of closely examining complex ideas and issues.

And, while it may seem as though I’m going out on a limb -- this parable also makes for a teaching moment in the construction industry.

More than ever before, the construction industry is learning to use Business Intelligence tools to extract data from construction projects for real-time decision making. The challenge: the construction industry needs to draw accurate conclusions from the huge datasets that are being generated and avoid the conclusions of the blind man feeling the elephant’s trunk and declaring it a serpent.

To help construction companies extract and leverage accurate data from all its data sources, B4 Consulting is building Integrated Frameworks for Construction. We call it -- IF4C – and it allows applications to become interoperable (see We believe that this interoperability has a positive effect as well on Business Intelligence. Consider this real-life case: I want a report on the health of one of my self-perform projects, and I want a report on the trend line of the labor productivity of one of the major work packages being performed.

In our experience, this is a typical scenario and here are just a few of the questions and issues that prevent the quick, efficeint and accurate generation of such reports in a lot of construction companies:

  • Do I need my estimating data to make this comparison?
  • If my CBS structures have little or no relationship to my WBS structures what does it mean?
  • How timely are the actual installed data being imputed into a system for trend analytics?
  • How accurate are the data being entered and are they entered into the correct WBS structure?
  • Do I need equipment run time data to interpret the data correctly?
  • Do I need ECM data such as pictures, daily logs, weather reports, etc. to make the correct decisions?

B4 Consulting believes that Business Intelligence is architected correctly when it goes beyond the esthetically pleasing or even intellectually stimulating. Business Intelligence must be actionable and create the opportunity for increasing productivity. See–-transforming-construction

The architecture’s defining characteristics include:

  • Front-end mobility component to initiate real-time possibilities.
  • Ability to draw datasets large enough (remember the elephant!) and across pertinent applications to drive value.
  • Presentation to the correct decision makers in a timely and intuitive manner to advance better field decisions.

The well-architected Business Intelligence framework gives the construction industry the proper information to make the OODA loop work and inform them for competitive advantage.



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Topics: Mobility, Engineering and Construction, Real-time Data, Reporting, construction, productivity, OutsideIn, Interoperability

OutsideIn & OODA - Deliver a Competitive Edge to Construction

Posted by Phillip Schell Dec 1, 2014 2:37:00 PM



One of my favorite episodes of the iconic TV series M*A*S*H, was when Colonel Potter ordered a Bug Out because the enemy was coming and Radar said, “you mean Supply sir?” It serves to remind us that sometimes we may need to take a step back and asses who is the real enemy - or what keeps us from meeting our objectives.

Colonel John Boyd, a fascinating military strategist and the father of modern day dog-fighting, faced the enemy time and again and through those experiences posited a set of theories based on time. Boyd believed that decision-making is a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act (OODA). He developed a theory for achieving success in air-to-air combat in which the pilot who goes through the OODA cycle in the shortest time prevails because his opponent is responding to situations that have already changed. Today, his OODA loop has become an important concept in litigation, business, and military strategy.

In the construction industry, time is the determining parameter as well.  Time is the real enemy --  not owners, sub-contractors, unions, lawyers, or the weather – it’s time. And, that's why Boyd's OODA Loop is so compelling. The OODA Loop is comprised of four interrelated and overlapping processes through which one continuously cycles:

  • Observation: collection of data by means of senses
  • Orientation: analysis and synthesis of data to form a current mental perspective
  • Decision: determination of a course of action based on the current mental perspective
  • Action: physical playing-out of decision



Boyd theorized that large organizations such as corporations, governments, or militaries possessed a hierarchy of OODA loops at tactical, grand-tactical (operational art), and strategic levels. In addition, he stated that most effective organizations have a highly decentralized chain of command, which utilizes objective-driven orders rather than method-driven orders to harness the mental capacity and creative abilities of individual commanders at each level.

I would like to view two construction processes through Boyd’s OODA loop, one existing inside the other.

  • The process required for efffective Design Build. This is an integrated process of design, estimate, build, and measure. One seamless process, using the same data elements integrated to one another.
  • A progression process that resets the OODA Loop on a daily basis as we put actual construction-related data back through the model. On a daily basis we use mobile devices to track the actual labor hours, actual materials installed, and equipment hours used. This now can get compared to planned hours, the planned productivity of materials installed and the planned equipment hours used in estimating.

So now, we have related the two of the most important aspects of Boyd’s OODA Loop to the construction industry: (1) Design-Estimate-Build-Re-Estimate; and (2) daily progression to the parent process.

B4 Consulting has developed tools to not only integrate Design-Estimate-Build-Re-Estimate, but also mobile devices for the field to measure on a daily basis how we are performing to the plan.

The B4 Consulting OutsideIn approach enables field activities to be fed into an OODA Loop of decision making based on a foundation of Design-Estimate-Build-Re-Estimate. This approach is a transformational way to structure processes and technology for the construction industry.

When the construction industry recognizes that time is the real enemy, it can capitalize on an OutsideIn approach and use OODA Loop decision making to fully exlpoit the mobility revolution, optimize construction management, and successfully prevail against the competition in the shortest amount of time.


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Topics: Mobility, Engineering and Construction, productivity, OutsideIn