Analysis

Building a digital future on a PM platform

13 October 2016 | By Jason Ruddle, Elecosoft

It’s time to put project management at the centre of your business, says Jason Ruddle, chief operating officer at Elecosoft.

Construction is looking towards a digital future, and embracing technology as never before. BIM has given impetus to investments in collaboration and information sharing. However, we believe that unless contractors also address their project management (PM) approach they cannot effectively pursue a digital construction future, or even implement BIM to full effect.

Construction businesses exist for the purpose of generating profitable growth by delivering projects. While that should mean that PM is at the heart of the business, for many it remains only how they run individual projects.

According to the KMPG Global Construction Survey 2016, integrated, real-time project reporting is still a dream rather than a reality. Most executives in the survey said that their organisations were held back by manual processes and multiple systems. The survey also stated that underperformance was a problem, as is the inability to drive consistency.

The construction industry has developed strong planning and PM techniques, as it is crucial with complex building to ensure all the varied tasks are managed effectively. We have seen numerous examples of superbly run individual projects – however, although some do operate a “joined up” view many do not, and I am not surprised that the KPMG survey highlights a limited use of real time reporting. Those who take this approach see many benefits and more should embrace it.

A joined up portfolio view enables multiple project contributors to update and keep project records current with as-built status. Moreover, it enables a high level executive view across all projects via business dashboards, giving leaders critical additional visibility of the organisation’s performance, risk and exposure. This enables more informed, smarter decision-making. 

There are operational benefits too. Comparing and sharing activities across projects drives best practice and standards development, and creation of reusable protocols and processes. These can transform project economics, drive savings and support business profitability. Performance can be benchmarked, providing additional valuable KPIs. The business also gains from practical tools such as “what-if” analysis.

It is highly useful at project level, enabling planning around foreseen or potential issues, but even more so at organisational level, when the risks and routes to goal can be seen clearly across all strategic projects, enabling better forward planning and risk mitigation.

BIM success takes more than software to manipulate 3D designs or generate data models. PM must be better connected and given greater organisational priority. There are many reasons – but having a single version of truth is the foundation. A multi-user PM tool is essential to generate accurate, complete information models as an output for clients and when combined with a business intelligence tool to deliver clear dashboard views becomes a powerful cross-function communication system to keep all parties up to date.

Users are not only project managers – cost estimators, quantity surveyors, building engineers and others must feed into plans as a multi-disciplinary collaborative team. Not just to head off clashes and challenges in the build, but to ensure integrity and completeness in handover data. A multi-user PM tool with an integrated BIM module enables a more complete view: 3D models meld with programmes into a 4D plan, and enable cost inputs which deliver 5D planning management.

PM tools that span organisations and provide clear real-time reporting enable collaboration and communication between lines of business, such as engineering or FM divisions. They help demonstrate that you are tuned for digital construction and lend depth to your BIM compliance, both at tender stage and with certification bodies.

Ultimately, they help businesses to fully leverage the opportunities of digital for the business itself which helps deliver projects more efficiently and protect profit margins.