It’s no secret that construction projects are inherently risky. In fact, working in a hazardous environment practically comes with the job description. Therefore, mitigating or avoiding these potentially costly and time-consuming slip-ups is more important than ever. But this is easier said than done.
Modern building and infrastructure projects generate a lot of data, and it’s only going to keep growing. In 2004, a large project generated roughly 100 gigabytes of data; today, that stat has risen to 6.5 terabytes of data. That’s a 6,400 percent increase in 12 years. Because building and infrastructure projects live and die by project information, many risks are associated with properly managing it.
While the list of challenges may be long, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Coping with such a daunting list requires an information management approach to avoiding mistakes, or more specifically, improving collaboration across the project team and implementing software solutions to establish a better sense of control throughout the project life cycle.
Following is a summary of key risk categories that can be better managed with project information management software.
Construction delays come in many forms, including project rework, which often results from outdated project information and scheduling conflicts that are created by disparate team members not communicating with one another. To mitigate these risks, more companies are using software to assure all plans and specs are up to date, as well as clearly define project schedules through the use of lean practices.
While designers, builders and owners can appreciate the importance of getting the information right, they also understand the need to document it. In addition to making it easier and faster to manage documents, project information software generates a record of when all the items are published, accessed and updated, creating a searchable database for every RFI and submittal.
Quality assurance is central to risk management, but compressed schedules and rapidly changing design iterations often leave minimal time for vital quality checks on the jobsite. That being said, quality assurance is largely a matter of conforming to procedures and documenting the entire process so it can be shared externally. By implementing the right software, construction firms can capture an audit trail of all the project-related actions and transactions, and automatically create the logs needed to ensure quality assurance.
Conflicts Resulting From Transcription Errors
Because design and construction projects employ so many different software applications, and every company has its own preferred system, there is a strong possibility that information will have to be extracted and manually re-entered into disparate databases. With those keystrokes comes the risk of mistakes, but the right software will have features to eliminate the risk of transcription errors.
- Software that integrates with commonly used applications enables seamless transitions from one application to the next.
- Direct connections between the same software application in different companies eliminates manual information transfers and redundant data entry.
- Information flowing automatically and accurately between companies’ logs promotes transparency and reduces conflicts.
- Duplication of information and effort is eliminated and the entire team benefits from a robust, auditable workflow.
Ideally, the use of collaboration and project information management software prevents disputes from occurring in the first place. However, when a legal inquiry arises, software can enable fast, thorough responses. For example, software that indexes all of the information associated with a specific project, across multiple databases, enables construction professionals to conduct detailed document searches. When email is liberated from individual inboxes and filed on company servers, it can be indexed by its contents.
Responsiveness is critical to project success and client satisfaction, but mundane administrative requirements often mean time is diverted from critical tasks. Busy project managers should be able to create action items from emails, assign items to team members, link items to emails and other documents needed to act on the issue, set automatic reminders and track progress as issues move to resolution. Accurate and complete logs should instill a sense of confidence among project team members and ensure that tasks and documents are not slipping through cracks.
Successful project information management breaks down conventional data silos to create a more connected environment. As a result, it improves how critical project information is captured, shared and managed—fostering teamwork, enabling faster decisions and allowing all team members to do what they love. When project teams adopt this mindset and implement the right tools, risk mitigation becomes more than simply avoiding higher violation fees or solving legal disputes. It sounds simple, but at the end of the day, more successful projects lead to a more successful business.
Dave Wagner is director of product marketing for Newforma, a project information management software company. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit newforma.com.