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Turner & Townsend turns to Tableau to manage data

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Big data and predictive data analytics techniques are helping Turner & Townsend boost the performance of its capital management programmes.

The project management firm recently deployed data visualisation software Tableau across a number of its banking, media, transportation and utilities projects, for use by its data analysts, project managers and commercial managers.

The software provides an alternative to databases and spreadsheets by giving users the ability to visually query large datasets from a variety of sources in an ad hoc fashion, simply dragging and dropping them into the program to be instantly converted into graphical images. This enables users to visually see patterns and identify trends and insights.

“Historically, my team has explored, analysed and built reports using the ubiquitous spreadsheet package,” said Chris Gage, director of the commercial assurance team at Turner & Townsend. “But in Tableau, connecting to a data source or blending multiple data sources is virtually instantaneous 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.”

The software’s mapping function allowed the company to visualise cost, schedule, risk and other data types geographically. For example, recent UK flooding caused water handling systems to overload, generating unusually high maintenance requirements. Visualising the sites geographically and comparing with historical trends enabled the impact of the abnormal weather conditions to be identified.

This data can be used to build an algorithm that will predict the impact of future abnormal weather patterns using radar data to trigger location specific alerts.

The software provides an alternative to databases and spreadsheets

In addition, visualising construction sites on a map allows users to see potential conflicts that could result in project delays, such as a new school being built whilst adjoining road improvements are being carried out.

Tableau forms part of a wider company strategy to harness predictive analytics to create greater cost certainty and efficiency on capital programmes, said Gage: “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 distill complex data into a clear narrative is helping clients demonstrate value to regulators. Clients can have better insight at their fingertips, empowering them to confidently make critical, strategic decisions faster to achieve higher levels of performance.”

He added: “In the near future, predictive analytics will be adopted more widely to help organisations predict asset failures and carry out lower-cost, preventative maintenance. As BIM and the Internet of Things proliferate, new data sources will open up vast opportunities for greater control, insight and automation of capital programmes. In the longer term big data will begin to replace human experience in the decision making process.” 

Turner & Townsend was recently appointed professional service provider for the design and project management of all the Ministry of Justice’s property projects from £500,000 to £10m in the east of England and London. Over the next 19 months it will support 42 prisons and over 100 courts and numerous probation properties.

Predictive analytics will be adopted more widely to help organisations predict asset failures and carry out lower-cost, preventative maintenance. As BIM and the Internet of Things proliferate, new data sources will open up opportunities for greater control, insight and automation of capital programmes– Chris Gage, Turner & Townsend