Some of the biggest construction issues arise from a lack of visibility of potential budget and project risks. Many projects also suffer from communication issues among stakeholders. Moreover, GC and design team collaboration problems further increase barriers to overcoming change.
Getting ahead of these risks and challenges is absolutely possible. These four must-have project management software features will get you the tools to successfully tame the resulting chaos.
1. With a single source of truth, everybody has the right information in real-time.
Whatever the basis for payment, getting paid without any confidence in job progress and no way to document it completely and accurately is a nightmare. Whether you’re billing based on percentages complete, costs incurred, or production quantities, your information has to be accurate and your documentation watertight.
If you don’t have accurate information ready, putting together your monthly billing can be a monumental task. Every billing package becomes a research project. But, that’s actually the outcome when you lack a single source of truth.
Bad information or incomplete documentation can lead to delay in payment, flat rejection of the pay app, and erosion of the owner’s trust. If there’s a delay in payment, that means your trade partners are also not getting paid, which threatens those strategic relationships. Furthermore, bad information can mean you’re not billing for work complete, putting your business at risk and impacting the rate at which you recognize revenue.
Outdated and inaccurate information raises havoc with the budget, hides project risks, and threatens the schedule. Finding out that plumbing risers were installed per an outdated drawing, during a pre-pour walk the evening before a big pour (or worse, the next morning as concrete trucks sit with their drums spinning), is going to give you scheduling headaches into next week.
When you lack a single source of truth, people are not only missing the latest information, but they are also scrambling to find it — which means they’re not building. If you’ve ever ended a long day of meetings by joking to your coworkers that you wish “we could just get back to being builders,” stop laughing and look at the way you’re managing project information.
When information is fragmented, out of date, and untrustworthy, it turns the whole team into information chasers. The vision of a single source of truth is that everybody has the information they need, when they need it, and that they’re confident in it, so they can be productive and stay focused on their highest and best work.
2. Make the unknowns, known with real-time updates.
Your single source of truth vastly helps to make sure everyone gets the latest information. When you add real-time updates to that, you get an information flow that keeps up with the work. High productivity in the field is one of the strongest predictors of a successful job, but field teams are blocked from peak productivity by lack of information all the time.
Besides unknowns in existing conditions, you also run into unknowns in design.
If there is any truth to how construction progresses on many projects, it’s that the design is never truly done until the project’s over. New information and new conditions often cause designs to evolve. In some cases, however, designs are not very good, leaving the builder to come up with solutions for design inadequacies.
Regardless of their causes, design changes have a ripple effect on the schedule. You often must delay the start of some activities while accelerating the completion of others. Even then, you still must face budget-busting rework.
Perhaps the biggest culprit in uncertainty is not getting answers to questions and not knowing if you’ve obtained the right approvals for new work, rework, changes, and schedule adjustments.
In all these cases, your project management solution can help a lot when it features real-time updates delivered via mobile devices.
3. By capturing critical field information, issues are fixed before it’s too late.
Most construction projects have hundreds of moving parts. Sooner or later, something will get out of sync.
It’s only when people see the issues that they get creative and take action to fix them. Team members need clear information to be a constructive part of the solution — not only about the issue at hand, but also around who’s involved and what part each person will play in the response.
Nowhere is that clearer than in the inevitable surprises that every project faces. In 2014, construction workers unearthed a 8.5-feet-long, fossilized mammoth tusk while doing foundation work for a new apartment building. That’s not something you’d usually put on your list of risks when doing discovery. In this case, schedulers were able to shift work to other areas of the job while paleontologists removed the fossil so that forward progress could continue. That was only possible because everybody had clarity on the situation and was communicating effectively around the solution.
Without timely reporting from the field that shows the consequences of leaving decisions for tomorrow, the proverbial cans get kicked farther down the road. So besides having ways to capture critical field information, you also need methods for resolving the issues. Once problem ownership is determined, a customizable reminder system lets you send out reminders on anything, at any time, to those who need it.
4. Tracking accountability can help prevent delays and rework.
Accountability for delivering on the design intent rests with all project participants. Achieving that intent will naturally involve asking questions, suggesting substitutions or alternative means and methods, and working around job constraints. But when RFIs and submittals don’t get processed quickly enough, you get schedule delays, or worse, rework, to compensate for overzealous attempts to substitute materials and methods just to keep moving forward.
Without accountability for substitutions, timely submittals, and timely approvals, you fall into the trap of moving forward one day and falling behind the next. When people can’t rely on getting the answers they need in a timely and accurate fashion, they fall back on workarounds or downtime. Late approvals often have as much negative impact as no approvals at all.
But when your project management solution keeps RFIs and submittals on track with reporting, notifications, reminders and ease of processing, you minimize clashes and improper substitutions. You also close the approval gap so people aren’t waiting around for the go-ahead.
Effective two-way communication among project participants and those within your own ranks provides the deep insight needed to manage the project. When your software provides the foundation for that communication while bolstering multi-pronged collaboration, you locate and resolve field issues before the budget or the schedule suffers.