When your construction company handles three or more projects at once, you’ll need program management tools. These tools give you a top level view of what’s happening across projects. You’ll also get a deep view of project-level data to keep your company moving toward its goals.
These are the top tools you should look for in any portfolio management solution.
Program Management Process
Managing multiple construction projects is an art and a science. In construction firms, the program manager might be a senior project manager. They might also be a vice president with vested interests in the company. Or they are a dedicated portfolio manager. In a small construction company, the program manager is usually the owner, or one partner in the firm. Many companies have their own ways of managing their portfolios, so their tactics can differ from one to the next. Still, certain overall steps describe the process, and they include:
- Define and track company goals.
- Gather data from all projects to inform your program management.
- Manage the program by organizing related projects together, setting milestones and dependencies, and balancing resources.
- Analyze and report.
You can find software and cloud options for managing portfolios. The creators of these solutions took the heavy lifting out of the portfolio management process. They’ve given you tools that are custom made for the program management steps. Just as construction firms have their own ways of managing their portfolios, technology suppliers have their own ways of fitting tools to the portfolio management job.
When looking for the solution that works for you, start by eliminating the ones that don’t at least include these program management tools.
Any project manager tool needs to support resources. It’s no different at the program level. In construction, your resources include people, equipment and materials. While you allocate these resources at the project level, you might benefit from also tracking them at the portfolio level.
For instance, you don’t have to assign a single piece of equipment to a project for its duration. You might use that equipment on multiple ongoing projects. Keeping a program level view of it can keep it working at top capacity. The less idle time, the more value you get from it.
Some managers and supervisors might also work across multiple projects. When you monitor where and when you deploy them, you improve results. You can even improve material use by managing those across projects. Common items like lumber and electrical switch boxes appear in the same sizes and styles across projects. When you manage them at the program level, you can get better deals when buying, and stop shortages at the project level.
You can use a resources tool to help you keep the right people employed and to guide your hiring plan. You will also find it helps to allocate work crews across multiple projects.
Visualizing workflows is key for solving portfolio problems. But some program management packages only go so far in workflow views. It’s one thing to have the right tools, but you also need the right options for using the tools.
Maybe you need a Gantt Chart to get down deep into the details of a schedule, and other times you want to focus strictly on tasks, making a Kanban board better suited. When your portfolio management solution allows flexibility in presenting data for analyses, you get better views to problems and their solutions.
Not everybody in your organization sees things the same way. That’s why it’s also important to have a program management solution that has user interface flexibility. Users need options for creating rules and accommodating other task management tools that fit their own work styles.
Each project in a portfolio has multiple aspects to track. Your portfolio management has to respond to projects of all sizes and complexities. When a program management solution provides full visibility across your portfolio for each project aspect, you can quickly see when specific projects falter. From the larger view, the right solution will also let you see how all projects are performing together for your company goals.
Budget Tracking and Forecasting
No other program aspect will sink a portfolio quicker than losing money. Your solution must provide deep insights into each project’s financial health. Costs, subcontractor payments, cash inflows from owners, claims and projected costs from changes tell the top level story about each project. When you can have that data quickly loaded into your custom dashboard, you see the picture clearly. That means your responses and adjustments happen early enough and in the right proportion to the risks.
Problems affecting the entire portfolio often demand attention from many parties. With the right reporting options, you can custom tailor reports to each person’s needs. That lets you control information while still providing what’s needed for people to do their jobs.
As projects close out, you want to analyze what went right and what went wrong. With robust and configurable reporting options, you don’t miss out on what history can teach you.
Finally, make sure information sharing and tracking is a core feature. Tools that make comms faster and more accurate will enhance other features.