Tips & Tricks Video: Data Relay


Data Relay is an extremely powerful and tool for streamlining and optimisation

The Data Relay tool is used in the Direct and Overhead Cost Schedules to easily populate a project with historical information, giving users a starting point for estimating rather than manually copying and pasting information between projects. By importing data for Cost Schedule Items and Cost Estimates, a project can quickly and easily be based on existing information. Data Relay is an extremely powerful and simple to use tool for streamlining and optimisation.

To use the Data Relay tool, you need to have a project open, and another project on the same server to work with. This is referred to as the Source project and is where Data Relay will draw information from to populate your local project. This may be a template, or a previous project that contains similar information to your current project.

This feature can provide the most value when populating items that have been created in a new project such as after the client schedule has been pasted in from Excel. In any case, because (by default) we can’t modify finished items, the Data Relay will only work on unfinished items. So, if there are finished items, first, highlight those items, anywhere on the line is fine, and make sure your items are unfinished. You can use the shortcut CTRL 1 to unfinish items quickly. Then click on Data Relay in the ribbon menu. From the drop down, in the pop-up window, select the project you would like to use as the Source Project – that is the project you want to draw information from, then press ‘Analyse’. This will perform an analysis and compare the descriptions, unit, item numbers, and common User Defined Columns of items on the left-hand side with items on the right.

The left side of the screen is the LOCAL or open project. The SOURCE screen on the right shows data from the project you are copying data from.

If we select ‘Excavation and backfill for pier’, the Data Relay is going to find the most likely corresponding item, which has the same description…(there).

We can change how that works by clicking on the OPTIONS button, then determine which columns we want to use. By highlighting an item and clicking the chevron, we can move these items up and down to change their ranking priority. We can make Description the most important, and tell it that Unit doesn’t matter at all. Then re-analyse. The Data Relay recalculates what it thinks are the best matches and gives us the results, ranking top to bottom from highest ranking match down to the lowest match. In this example, these two example projects are going to have matching items, so for anything that we click in here, there will be a corresponding item for each one.

The Data Relay will import everything that can be used in a cost schedule, or anything that will be brought in during a normal copy and paste operation. You’ll get the item cost estimate, potentially child items if you select them, global defines, and all the resources that you used.

For example, back to this concrete item. If I want to bring in this cost estimate, the data relay is going to copy, from that item there, any resources or global defines that are used in the source project, any question defines that used in the other project in that particular item, cost codes and cost code allocations. This vastly improves your efficiency because if the source project is already cost coded, and you populate your current project using Data Relay, then your cost coding is done for you… automatically.

In this example, the Data Relay is detecting that resources exist in our current project that are being brought from the Source project as part of the operation. You then have the choice of keeping resources from the new project, keeping resources from the current project, or keeping both. If you keep both resources, it will rename them on the way in and assign the renamed ones to this cost estimate. In this example, we’ll keep the donor resources. That is going to bring the resources from the source project into this project. Let’s hit the update on that. And it’s done. If I finish that item, the cost now exists. Go into it. And there’s the cost estimate from the other project. You can see it’s brought all of these across with it.

Data Relay is simply copying the data across and not affecting the original source that you are copying from. It operates exactly the same as if you have two windows open, and you copy the cost estimate from one, and paste it into the other; or if you use drag-and-drop. It’s the same process behind the scenes that’s working. What makes Data Relay unique is that it allows you to quickly and easily determine the correct match for the right item, based on a series of different algorithms that we’re using to compare.

The major benefit of this tool is that it will make your estimating faster. One example is when using item numbers as the essential identifier of an item. Let’s say you always use item number 1135 for ‘Excavation and backfill for pier’. If you rank only on the item number, then you will very quickly be able to find item 1135 ‘Excavation and backfill for pier’ in any selected historical project. You can be sure that when you want to populate this item, it is going to bring back the results that match. You can then compare, consider, and choose the most appropriate item for the current project.

If this message appears, it means that in this instance, the source item cannot be assigned because we have selected a local item that we cannot assign a cost estimate to, such as text only items, summation items, finished items, or provisional sums. If we hover over the icon, the program will tell us any reason why it cannot proceed.

The Data Relay also lets you work with parent and child items. For example, you can tell by the highlighting that this one here is a parent item. If we want to use this, we can also select these two child items to come through as well. If we tick only the parent item, then it will ignore the child items. By ticking the child items here, when we hit ‘Proceed’, it will bring the child items into the other project. It will have the Cost Estimate assigned, and then have the two child items included underneath it.

If we scroll across to the right here, it will show us what we’ve currently configured. This item number 1, is going to line 2 in the other schedule. If we go to line 5, and then want to assign it to this item, and this item has children, and we want to add the two child items as well, it will do all of that.

Data Relay will improve your efficiency and workflow. The logical use of this tool is to create a template project that you have as a template database project with everything you need in it. From there, you can easily import the data you want for every new project.


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