Introducing Lookahead, the webinar

Disperse hosted a webinar to showcase its new short-term construction planning product Lookahead.

You can access the (on-demand) webinar here: What follows is a write-up of that event.

The webinar was presented by people who have worked hard to help Lookahead see the light of day: Emina Isić, Product Manager at Disperse and Conor Williets, Software Engineer. Arianna Gutierrez, Head of Marketing, moderated the event.

The meat of the session (presented by Emina) explored how Lookahead overcomes some of the challenges inherent in current short-term planning workflows and how it significantly improves upon them.

In the second part, Conor demonstrated the interface and how to plan with Lookahead. Near the end, Emina presented some of the features Disperse is working on right now, and the session was rounded out with some audience questions.

A simple short-term scheduling solution to accelerate weekly planning

Lookahead is an intuitive solution to schedule upcoming work and capture blockers. It makes short-term construction planning much simpler than current methodologies allow.

We have developed this tool in close collaboration with some of our long-standing customers. One of our users, a Project Manager at Mace, shared how Lookahead helped him cut down meeting preparation time by 75%. What used to take him 20 minutes took him just five minutes in Lookahead.

The duration of the weekly meetings themselves was also impacted significantly. If a meeting usually took 2 hours, Lookahead took this down to just one hour. And this was despite the fact that the project team only started using the tool in the last four months of the project. It’s a testament both to its ease of use — Lookahead requires zero training — as well as the simplicity with which it can be integrated into existing workflows.

Time to take a closer look at how the product was developed to achieve these meaningful time reductions.

Pros and cons of existing methods

When we first began developing the tool, we looked at which planning practices were out there. We noticed how the main tools used on projects were sticky notes and spreadsheets, and how each has pros and cons.

Spreadsheets, for example, are easy to share because they are an industry-wide format. But they are also challenging to maintain as a single source of truth if changes happen on-site. It’s error-prone and time-consuming to create tasks or manage them via comments. It’s also not so easy to plan outside of predicted or predefined sequences. So flexibility is an issue with spreadsheets.

Sticky notes have a significant advantage in that they are easy to use and flexible, but they quickly become unwieldy on large projects. We have seen one project where an entire sticky wall was used to plan just one floor, and another project where one person was hired just to look after the sticky notes on the wall.

Another issue with sticky notes is maintaining data integrity: anyone can move a note at any time, and if you were not there when it happened, you might never know who moved it or why. It’s also difficult to scale or aggregate sticky notes across other workspaces, which, to put it mildly, is not just a nice-to-have when building a large and complex project.

A three-part puzzle

Weekly planning is a puzzle that involves three essential parts:

1. The plan of what needs to happen

2. Weekly delivery on that plan

3. Dealing with things that do not go according to plan

Seen in this way, short-term planning is the primary enabler of effective project delivery, and everyone is impacted by it, including project managers, executives, subcontractors and owners.  

Innovation in a familiar format

We did not want to replace what is good and familiar. So we took what worked well from existing planning methodologies and used that to build our product.

The application has an interface that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever worked with sticky notes. It consists of task cards (the ‘sticky notes’) that are simply dragged and dropped onto spaces. It’s a playful format that allows for quickly changing existing task sequences or creating new ones on the fly.

Where Lookahead differentiates itself is that you start using the application with a task list that we have set up in collaboration with you; it’s made specifically for your particular project.

Get a head-start with prebuilt task lists

Our systems have seen many projects being built, and through a nifty combination of AI with human experts in the loop, we’ve turned these processes into data. Armed with the data from previous projects, we can propose valid task sequences and suggest how they could be spatially distributed across your early-stage project.

We also collaborate with you to ensure that the proposed task sequences and their spatial distribution fully match the needs and requirements of the site team. We set up the spatial distribution in advance to enable planning at the right level of granularity. So every space that is different according to your planning documentation or according to how you wish things to be done, is going to have its own task sequence.

And that’s where Lookahead’s big time-savings start kicking in. Normally you would be copy-pasting and adjusting tasks in a spreadsheet or writing down task names on a bunch of sticky notes. But now you can just drag and drop prebuilt task cards onto the relevant spaces. So you don’t need to build your task list from scratch every time, saving you a ton of busy work better spent on other things.

Automatic task status through integration with Impulse

Lookahead can also be integrated with Impulse, our performance-tracking solution. Among other things, Impulse tracks the completion status of task components. This percentage complete information is synced automatically with Lookahead if both solutions are deployed on a project.

In practice, this means that you will already be aware of the level of completion of tasks before you start your meeting, and you no longer need to debate progress with your subs. You’ll always have up-to-date task statuses at your fingertips, plus an easy way to summon the visual evidence if needed.

One early adopter customer told us that using both solutions together on his project saved him eight hours per week just by reducing the back-and-forth involved in getting all the relevant information. He can now see everything that matters in a straightforward interface without running around and chasing people.

Capturing blockers

In addition to planning, Lookahead also makes it easy to indicate if a task cannot go through. In the short term, this turns redeploying resources around those blockers into a simple and transparent process. And tracking recurring blockers over time helps identify systemic issues, even across your entire project portfolio.

For example, you can see if it is outstanding design constantly holding you back or if one trade is particularly troublesome. Now the data backs you up when you address the issue.

Managing exceptions

Things constantly change, so flexibility is key in construction planning. You can manage exceptions by slightly modifying prebuilt task cards or creating entirely new ones if the situation demands it. Whatever your specific planning need in whatever specific situation you have, Lookahead will enable you to capture it easily without forcing you to jump through hoops, as many other software applications do.  

Exploring the interface

A few words about the way the interface is set up: as mentioned, some tasks can be dropped onto dates in a timeline.

On the left-hand side, you can easily access the other products that Disperse makes, currently Impulse and Control Centre. And next to that is the building and floor selector to help you navigate your project.

As mentioned, the task cards are set up in consultation with the project teams and are easy to tweak. On the right-hand side are task cards that can be dropped onto the dates. So there needs to be no manual setting up of tasks for the different spaces.

Planning is as easy as selecting the space that I want to plan for, and then dragging and dropping the tasks that need to happen onto a date.

Cards have different colours depending on their status. Grey cards are ‘not started’, amber is ‘in progress’, green is ‘completed’, and red is used when a task is ‘overdue’.  

If integrated with Impulse, these statuses will be automatically synced to Lookahead.

Since things are always changing and are not always known in advance, it is possible to tweak, override or create new task cards whenever needed.

There are also so-called milestone cards that typically represent several tasks that must be completed. Naturally, the status of milestone cards can be made dependent on the completion status of other task cards. We can set up as many milestones as you might want.

And finally, there is the sharing feature which exports an always-up-to-date plan to Excel.

Upcoming features

Early adopters have given us feedback, and we are working on a handful that will be live soon.

One is Big Picture View, enabling users to zoom out of the plan. This high-level view will show gaps or overlaps between subcontractors so that the plan can be refined further.

We will also bring Reporting to Lookahead. One of these will help visualize subcontractor performance based on their commitment. And we’ll also include a variance report to provide high-level insight into systemic issues across your portfolio.


At the end of the session, there were a couple of good attendee questions that rounded things out nicely.

Where is the task list coming from?

Emina: The task list for each project is informed by your project documentation. Our team partners with yours to propose a preliminary task list to be approved by your site team. The intent is that all the tasks, sequences and space names are an exact match to the ones used on the project.

Which task dependencies do you track?

Conor: Currently, we can track tasks related to milestones as dependencies, so once all the tasks related to a milestone are done, that milestone is considered completed. We are currently exploring how to best track dependencies between tasks, especially since we understand that the team might want to override dependencies on the fly if something unexpected happens. Task dependencies are definitely in our focus for the upcoming period.

Can my subs modify the task list?

Edina: Only if you want them to. We provide different levels of access to various stakeholders.

And that wraps up the webinar. Thanks for reading.

Book a Call