You’re starting a major project, and it feels like you’re standing at the bottom of a giant mountain just looking up at the huge climb ahead of you. You have timelines to plan, workloads to manage, and objectives to keep track of. 

With so many moving parts, getting a big project rolling can feel like a guessing game. Work performance data is crucial, otherwise you may have a general idea of what direction you need to move in, but will be shooting in the dark about the specifics.

This is why you need data analytics for project management. Knowledge is power, and getting your hands on the hard facts about past projects and your team’s bandwidth can help you make informed decisions as you hash out the details of that project — rather than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

How important is big data for project management?

Here’s the short answer: very important. As the above anecdote illustrated, knowing how to collect and analyze data carries a lot of weight when it comes to successful project management

Why? As the International Project Management Association states, there are a number of reasons that you should leverage big data for project management. Data can help you improve your:

  • Planning and delivery: Data about past project timelines helps you plan more realistic deadlines and delivery dates.
  • Project team environment: Using data to make more realistic decisions reduces frustrations and boosts team morale.
  • Knowledge management: Data is highly-consumable, which means your team will actually use that information — rather than losing it.
  • Risk and issues management: Historical data isn’t a crystal ball, but it can help you anticipate and navigate potential issues and roadblocks.
  • Quality management: Having better information throughout the project planning process leads to better outcomes.
  • Resource management: Data about how past resources were used will help you forecast, make important resource decisions, and avoid budget overrun. 

One survey from Harvard Business Review found that 82% of companies say that business analytics also improves the quality of their overall decision-making.  

So, leveraging data analytics for project management means you’ll be able to make better choices, have more streamlined processes, and experience less stress. See? We told you that data is important. 

How to leverage work performance data in project management

Data is a powerful tool for project management analysis — provided you know how to use it. Staring at a bunch of digits and charts can feel daunting, so let’s dig into four key tips for making the most of the information you have access to (without tearing your hair out). 

1. Start with a problem or need

The challenge with big data is that it’s...well, big. There’s a lot of information that you need to wade through, and it’s tough to make sense of it.

Rather than looking at everything and becoming overwhelmed, start with a specific question or problem. Are you trying to see how long similar projects have taken in the past? Do you want to look at budget or timeline overages for past projects to find challenges you could avoid? Do you need to understand the bandwidth of your team members?

Make it your goal to use data to answer questions that you have, rather than just trying to draw vague conclusions. That way you can pull out the most pertinent information that will actually help you. 

2. Skip the spreadsheets

A reported 71% of organizations depend on spreadsheets for collecting data, despite the fact that they face challenges with things like manual entry and lack of consistency. Of course, spreadsheets have their time and place. But, when it comes to leveraging data for your big projects, they can be cumbersome to manage. 

Make it easier to collect data (and act on it!) by using a project management tool that also gives you information about your team and project performance.

With customizable views and dashboards, prebuilt report templates, and advanced filtering, Wrike Analyze offers advanced reporting and analytics that are all easily accessible directly within Wrike. You can gain actionable insights for all of your projects without breaking a sweat. 

3. Don’t forget to ask questions

Numbers are enlightening, but it’s important to remember that they don’t always tell the whole story. You don’t need to accept data at face value — it’s smart to have conversations with your team to dig even deeper into what those digits mean. Contextualizing data analytics in project management is the key to making informed and strategic decisions. 

For example, is your task completion progress lower than you thought it’d be at this point? Ask your team for their input on why that is. You might just identify some snags or bottlenecks that the numbers simply wouldn’t have shown you.

While data is impactful, you shouldn’t act as if it’s the only tool in your arsenal. Engage in thoughtful conversations about the numbers you’re seeing to get a broader perspective on what’s actually happening. 

4. Act on what you find

If you want to improve your projects moving forward, you can’t just collect data — you need to act on it. Unfortunately, this is an area where a lot of organizations struggle, with 29% of survey respondents saying they find it difficult or very difficult to act on insights from data collection. And, a whopping 55% of the data that companies collect is actually “dark data,” meaning it’s collected but never used.

The tips we covered above can help you get your hands on information that’s more digestible and actionable. But, ultimately, it’s up to you to do something with the data that you gather.

Notice that a large percentage of your projects go over budget? Talk with your team to find the root cause and proactively make changes. Do you see that workloads are really uneven? Take steps to balance the load. 

Remember, data collection on its own doesn’t do anything for you. If you want to see positive results, you need to use that data as a tool to make future improvements.

Got data? Make it work for you

Data can be a powerful tool for project management — you just need to know how to drill down on the insights you need.

Once you do that, you can stop feeling like you’re shooting in the dark and spearhead all of your projects with a hefty dose of strategy and confidence. 

Ready to get your hands on all sorts of insights about your own projects and team? Sign up for Wrike and then check out the Wrike Analyze add-on