Everyone wants to be successful, but how do you know what success looks like to your company? Many companies use KPIs—that is, Key Performance Indicators—to outline expectations and define what they consider measures of success.
So, what exactly is a KPI? According to Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), KPIs are “vital signals that help indicate if your business is functioning according to plan” and can be further understood by breaking down each word in the acronym:
- Key: An important or vital aspect. It means you have to prioritize. However, it doesn’t mean you can leave everything on the list and just shift the order of priorities. Everything you measure can’t be considered a key metric. Start with a manageable number. We typically see organizations effectively use 3-7 KPIs. (CFMA)
- Performance: The manner in which something operates, functions, or behaves. Just like an engine’s performance can be measured by more than its miles per gallon, a company’s performance needs to look beyond profit metrics. (CFMA)
- Indicator: A sign that gives information about and draws attention to a condition. This is usually a number, percent, or color code that quickly conveys favorable or non-favorable status. (CFMA)
From a construction standpoint, KPIs help gauge the success of a project and to assess performance against strategic and operational goals. KPIs are typically established and agreed upon at the beginning of a project in order to solidify responsibilities and to ensure everyone understands what’s expected of them. Factual data is essential in order to build value and achieve sustainable growth.
To effectively analyze project performance, it’s necessary to prioritize which KPIs will be weighted most heavily, as well as which will most accurately reflect the status and health of a project. While many of us are quick to rely on financials as the leading indicators of success, it’s important to understand that success can’t always be measured strictly within a quantitative framework and there are other essential construction KPIs that need to be considered as well.
Hard numbers and facts are often what precipitate and drive change. Without relevant and timely data, it is difficult to gauge how companies are faring.
So which KPIs should project managers be tracking? Below are five critical categories to consider when developing your construction project KPIs:
Arguably now more than ever, worker safety needs to be a top priority for construction companies. Safety incidents can lead to costly project delays, increased insurance premiums, or other unexpected costs—and, therefore, investing in worker safety will save you money in both the short- and long-term.
Safety KPIs may include:
- Safety/incident rate
- Number of safety meetings/communications
- Number of accidents per supplier
- Number of time-loss claims
- Number of serious injury claims
2. Quality, Reliability & Environment
Keeping a pulse on these is critical to ensuring a project stays on-track and within budget as it reduces the likelihood for changes, rework and holds businesses accountable to the environment. Quality KPIs will also help you evaluate how the project has progressed if it’s passing required inspections, if the work is being done to satisfaction and if you can rely on this performance for the long-term.
Quality KPIs may include:
- Number of errors/defects & callbacks
- Time to rectify defects
- Incident reports
- Total cost of rework
- Number of total site inspections
- Number of passed site inspections
- Community complaints
- Corporate social responsibility policy
- Consultant-contractor construction coordination
- The quality and performance of the building at substantial completion
- The quality and performance of the building at the end of the 1- year warranty
- Reliability – Percentage of projects (by number and value) that are “on budget” and “on schedule” at substantial completion.
- Building energy use
- Construction waste diverted
Performance metrics help measure worker, equipment and economic productivity and how the project and business are developing. By paying attention to how much time and effort is required to complete each portion of the project, teams can reallocate resources to the areas that need them most to keep the project on time and within scope.
Performance KPIs may include:
- Average revenue per hour worked
- Percent of wasted time (equipment and labor)
- Amount of waste/recycling per job
- Economic performance
- Characteristics of businesses
- Productivity measured in terms of GDP contributed per worker
- Business Size & Formation
In addition to tracking employee performance, it’s important to also measure their development and satisfaction. Happy workers are more likely to perform better, and to stay with the company longer. Not only does employee satisfaction lead to improved quality of work, it reduces the likelihood of churn and therefore also saves on hiring and training costs.
Employee KPIs may include:
- Turnover rate
- Worker satisfaction
- Training completion rate
5. Budget & Forecast
Knowing how and where a project’s budget is being spent is one of the most important roles of a project manager. It’s also crucial for them to be able to identify and understand any deviation from the budget in order to improve future planning and job costing, in addition to limiting waste and reducing inefficiencies.
Budget KPIs may include:
- Budget variance
- Cost Performance Index
- Line items in budget
- Project Pipeline – Total value of proposed projects
- Total Number of Building Permits Available
- Capital expenditures
- Cost to build
- Interest rates
- Product price
- R&D spending
- Total NUMBER of projects within +/- 5% of the tender price: • Total VALUE of projects within +/- 5% of the tender price
- Total NUMBER & VALUE of projects that were completed on or before the predicted date:
How to Choose the Right KPIs for Your Project
Measuring, reporting and tracking KPIs can be a complex endeavor. KPIs need to be introduced deliberately and in small steps. Ensure the set of KPIs provide tangible data that can help construction businesses understand their company, industry and the market better. While action not data drives improvement, KPIs cannot tell businesses what the “right” thing to do might be but they can help illuminate and uncover new or poorly understood factors that can help inform decisions.
Because every project and business is different, KPIs should be developed on a project-by-project basis. When developing future KPIs, a good place to start is by examining past projects to reflect upon successes and failures. As the saying goes, “hindsight is 20/20” and evaluating past mistakes gives you the opportunity to plan better for the future.
Remember that while financial KPIs are most commonly used to measure success, there are other critical KPI categories that also need to be considered to fully understand your project and to provide you with the information needed to improve operational efficiency.
Every construction project has a number of moving parts and KPIs that need to be monitored closely, and we’re here to help you keep track of the information that matters. Today, technology and the practices that exploit them are becoming a greater factor in competitiveness and profitability. The degree to which businesses invest in R&D is an indicator of how ready they are to adopt new technologies and how resilient thy might be to unforeseen events.
To learn how our all-in-one, cloud-based construction management software can ensure your project’s processes are clearly defined and optimized through automation, click here.
Kathryn Dressler is a content strategist with more than 10 years of experience across the spectrum of marketing services, including blogging, social media, public relations, copywriting and editorial services.