Can You Afford Playing Chinese Whispers on Your Projects Delivery?

Valuable and critical information get generated every day during capital projects delivery. Information that relates to financial, technical, administrative and other aspects needed to manage the project get generated by the different entities involved in this delivery. Some of the information could be formal and have contractual implications if not managed in accordance with the contract agreements terms and condition while others could be informal but yet critical to provide complete understanding of the project’s performance. Many organizations continue to use fragmented, manual or semi-manual methods to capture, store, aggregate, analyze, blend, review, share and report projects information thus creating barriers that drain the value of this critical information sharing.

Understanding the Information Barriers

When it comes to capital projects delivery, there are usually six types of information barriers that organizations could encounter when it comes to reporting projects’ information. The first barrier is the link between the project communication and the project documents that are usually attached to those communications to provide additional needed information. Project communication usually uses document templates such as request for information (RFI), submittals, transmittals, meeting minutes, daily reports, request for inspection, non-conformance reports, potential change orders, change orders, progress invoices among many others. In addition, project communication includes letters such as letter of award, notice to process, termination letter among many others. Usually, the organization would have a folder for each type of document templates and maybe letters. In addition, the organization would also have folders to store the project documents that are usually attached to those project communications. There could be folders for drawings, pictures, catalogues, specifications among others.

The second barrier, is the barrier between the document templates for each project communication type. For example, if the project team member wants to identify what change orders where issued due to unforeseen site conditions, he or she needs to review the complete change order folder records to locate those documents. Of course, some might assume that this barrier can be eliminated by logging the details of the project communication in a MS XLS file. Nevertheless, the issue is how much of the data within each communication we need to retype in MS XLS which carries its own risks of data quality and time validity. In addition, even if those document templates are located in the MS XLS file, one stills needs to go back to the file folder and locate those records.

The third barrier is the silos created using MS XLS for each type of project communication which are usually created by different project team members depending on the relevance of the communication to them. For example, the document controller might be the one responsible for maintaining the RFI, submittal, transmittal, meeting minutes, daily reports, request for inspection and non-conformance reports logs while the cost manager might be the one responsible for maintaining the logs for potential change orders, change orders, progress invoices among others. If a project team member needs to understand what project communications have contributed to a change order, he or she needs to check different project communication MS XLS files and eventually the document folders that have those records to have that comprehensive understanding.

The fourth barrier is the ability to have a single project status report or dashboard that provides real-time visualization of the overall project’s performance status. The MS XLS logs created to capture some of the data included in the project communications not only carry the risk of data errors, lacking data consistency, data silos but also could be stored at different locations. Therefore, multiple MS XLS files need to collected, loaded, linked or copied to a single MS XLS file, analyzed, manipulated, reviewed and prepared to be used for the report. Not only this is a time-consuming process, which might take one week to complete but also requires the involvement of key project team members and carries the high risk of faulty data manipulation and analysis as well as the validity of the time-sensitive reported information.

The fifth barrier is the requirement of the organization’s executives to have projects portfolio report and dashboard. This could be at program level, projects group level or enterprise level. Even if we assume that the organization has invested in a business intelligence and data visualization application like MS Power BI, this requires receiving MS XLS file from each project that consolidates the project’s performance data needed for that report or dashboard. This entails the risk of not receiving those MS XLS in a timely manner with the exact form and format of project’s performance data to be reported on.

Nevertheless, the worst barrier of all is the knowledge barrier. Having projects information captured in hundreds if not thousands MS XLS files is a direct waste of the knowledge that an organization would expect to have from delivering projects. The wasted knowledge is not limited to the current projects being delivered by the organization but it extends to all other completed, shelved and planned projects that usually their MS XLS files are deleted, corrupted or misplaced. Even if the organization creates a task force to capture all of those MS XLS files, the efforts and associated cost for locating those files and making use of their content might not be justifiable.

Those barriers not only carry the high-cost of using expensive resources to capture, store, aggregate, analyze, blend, review, share, report and present the needed projects’ information but also the time-lag between the date that this information is captured and become available to be shared which raises the major concern on the validity of this information to provide the insight to make better and faster informed decisions.

How Can Technology Remove Those Barriers?

Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb not only eliminates those barriers but will ensure the quality of captured data by enforcing the use of the right forms, by the right project team members, to capture the right data in the right format and at the right time. This will be done on a single integrated, web-enabled platform for all project management processes across the complete project life cycle and for the complete organization’s projects portfolio regardless of their status, type, phase, location among others.

This will be achieved by automating the project management processes by the providing the input form to capture the needed data. Many of the capital projects delivery forms come ready with PMWeb but the custom form builder can be also used to create additional input forms.

Each project communication can be attached with documents that are either uploaded and stored in its appropriate folder or subfolder in PMWeb document management repository or can be uploaded directly. In addition, links to other PMWeb records can be added as well as to email communications that were imported to PMWeb database. This will remove the first information barrier as all attached documents are available for review.

Workflows can be assigned for each form to map the steps for submitting, reviewing, sharing and approving or rejecting the project management process. The workflow could include branches and escalation conditions to map the project authorities level usually set for each project role. Notifications can be added to remind those involved in the workflow process. For some forms, there could be a need for what ad-hoc workflow where project team members are simply invited to provide their input of feedback using the form.

The data captured in each form will become automatically available for displaying the transactions for each project communication. This real-time log of all those transactions remove the second barrier between those communications. Layouts can be created to display the data in the desired format with the option to order and filter the transactions by the desired field.

Since all of the project management processes are captured on the same PMWeb platform, reports and dashboards that will analyze the information captured across different type of project communications will be readily available. For example, the cost dashboard is an example a dashboard that aggregates the data across all of the project financial communication documents including budget, budget adjustments, awarded contracts, changes orders, progress invoices among others. Similar reports and dashboards for other type of project communications can be also be created. This removes the third barrier of not being able to relate to information captured in different types of project information.

Similarly, with all project related data is captured in PMWeb with the option to import data from other applications either directly like the schedule data from Oracle Primavera P6 or MS Project or import data through application integration, the organization can have a single version of the truth project performance dashboard. This will allow the organization to monitor and evaluate real time project’s performance and status. Accordingly, the fourth barrier of reporting project’s performance is eliminated.

As PMWeb allows the organization to capture all of their projects’ portfolio regardless of their status, location, type, phase, size among others, the organization can have dashboards to report on a program, group of projects or all projects. Dashboards can be designed to include maps to visualize the location of those projects as well as include other visuals to better analyze and visualize the projects portfolio performance. The dashboards can be designed to allow drilling to a specific project as well as project information. This eliminates the fifth information barrier.

Finally, PMWeb is one of the very few PMIS solutions that are available as on-premise solution where it can be hosted on the organization’s own data center or any other preferred data center to provide what is known as private cloud. In addition, PMWeb public cloud offering or SaaS provides organizations with the option of having their own dedicated data server to ensure that their confidential and valuable data is not mixed with other organizations known as tenants. This enables the organization to use business intelligence and other applications to analyze the everyday data captured across all of their projects’ portfolio in confidence. The captured data is not limited to the project communication needed to manage the project but could also include data captured in custom-defined lessons learned document templates to enforce knowledge capturing and sharing in the organization. This data can also be made available to machine learning and other new technologies that will help in improving the use and dissemination of projects’ knowledge thus eliminating the final information barrier.

Conclusion

In conclusion, organizations who are keen in improving their insight to make better and faster informed decisions as well as make use of the everyday knowledge gained in delivering projects to become more efficient and knowledgeable, have no other choice but to use to technology to take advantage of their projects’ information. Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb is an example of how readily available technology today can remove the barriers for improvement, otherwise, you might be forced to play Chinese Whispers.