Guided by the Scope: Analytics Help Maintenance Projects Succeed

It’s broadly accepted that analytics can help us on our continuous improvement journey (is everybody still on their New Year’s resolutions?). Analytics show us where we’ve been and can help us to predict where we’ll be in the future. However, there’s more potential in analytics than we usually make use of—or even know exists. Properly applied, analytics can be the key to successfully executing our maintenance projects as well as improving on our day-to-day operations.  

It’s important to define what we mean by maintenance projects, which are different from a maintenance routine. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the definition of a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” The temporary and unique nature of a project distinguishes it from your routine maintenance programs.  

Maintenance projects can benefit from analytics because any project is, or should be, goal based. Analytics can’t help if your project has no goals. Although to be fair, a goalless project is probably beyond salvaging in the first place.  

The project manager’s bible is “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge,” more commonly known as “the PMBOK.” The PMBOK identifies the elements of project management and notes that any project can be broken down into five distinct stages:  

  1. Initiating
  1. Planning
  1. Executing
  1. Monitoring and Controlling
  1. Closing

Stage 4 (monitoring and controlling) is where analytics prove their worth in the project lifecycle. You probably know exactly when your project does or does not reach a milestone, but this information only comes after the milestone has been achieved (or missed).  

The challenge is recognizing in advance when milestones won’t be achieved and determining exactly why. This is where project analytics truly add value.  

Using Analytics for Outcome and Milestone Projections

Two maintenance technicians reviewing analytics on a mobile device

Even very basic analytics will give you insights into how close your project is to its goals and milestones. If work is taking longer than expected, analytics will let you know. This means you can pass the information along to other project stakeholders.

It can be painful to let others know that your project has been delayed, but that’s nothing compared to the eventual pain of not telling them. Transparency here will let your coworkers proactively deal with the delays, rather than being blindsided by them. You may be able to use these analytics to show that the project requires more resources.  

All projects are driven by cost, time, and scope. The relative importance of each of these factors varies from organization to organization and project to project. However, changing the priority of one will usually reduce the priority of the other two.  

These calculus for balancing these priorities certainly drives project planning, but you also must keep that math in mind if you determine that a project is not achieving its milestones. Prioritizing scope integrity will increase cost, time, or both.

For example, let’s say the original scope for your project includes placing temperature sensors on all of a certain class of assets. Halfway through the project’s planned duration, your analytics tell you that not enough work is being done to complete the project on time. This means you must increase the duration, acquire more resources, or limit the original scope in some way, such as shifting to only placing the sensors on the most critical assets. For more on how to determine which assets are most critical, please see “How to Rate the Criticality of your Equipment.”

Make Decisions Based on Facts, Not Your Gut

The greatest benefit of data science may be that it lets us make decisions based on facts, even when the situation is too big or too complicated to be fully understood by a single person or even a team. Even when you’re confident you know the answer, thorough analytics on your project help convince other people that you’re right.  

Broadly speaking, analytics can be used on special projects in much the same way you use them for your ongoing maintenance programs. Are our job plans accurate? Are resources assigned to this being used to the maximum capacity? Analytics can answer these questions if we’re collecting and analyzing the data accurately.  

The right analytics solution gives you deeper insight into your maintenance data and is key for continuous improvement of your processes. Discover more about Prometheus Reporting & Analytics here.