How Can Technology Improve Managing Quality in Engineering and Construction Projects?

No engineering and construction project will be ever delivered without having quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) processes implemented. For quality assurance, the submittal review and approval of material, drawings, method statement and other documents, is the most proven process to ensure this ( As for quality control, the supervision consultant or third party inspection firm will implement a number of processes to inspect, review, approve and report the work delivered by the contractor which are usually part of the project’s Quality Management System (QMS) manual. The testing and inspecting process is one of those processes and it used to monitor that completed work is in compliance with contract documents. Testing and inspecting can occur at the product source, at independent testing laboratory prior to installation, at site prior to installation and after installation. The requests for testing and inspecting is always issued by the contractor to the supervision consultant.

In addition, there are other related processes to ensure that the completed work is in compliance with contract documents. The two other most common processes are Non-Conformance Report (NCR) and Snag List. The NCR will be issued by the supervision consultant upon discovery of nonconforming work for which the NCR will be used to document deficiencies. The contractor will be required to rectify the defective work and the supervision consultant will then verify that the deficiency was corrected and work is in accordance with contract documents.

Snag List or Punch List is the usually the final inspection that will be done by the supervision consultant before issuing the project final completion certificate. The Punch List should clearly locate and describe items of work to be corrected. Usually, the supervision consultant will estimate the amount of funds to be withheld until the defective works get corrected and accepted.

It is recommended to have a two-stage approach for completing the Punch List inspection. The initial Punch List will include the list of incomplete items or items in need of remedial work prepared by contractor. For the final Punch List, the supervision consultant supplements the initial list after inspection and assembles into one final Punch List. The final Punch List will usually be attached to certificate of substantial completion which should include time limit to perform outstanding work.

It is important to highlight that organizations should not confuse Punch List with Project Handover processes. The Project Handover process which could include different requirements for the building system being handed over to the facility end user, stakeholder, assumes that all reported punch list items had been rectified and there are no more pending items.

Request for Inspection and Technology

It is highly recommended that organizations consider having Request for Inspection document templates that are specific to the building system or work to be inspected. This will help in specifying the elements that need to be inspected and tested in accordance to what the project specifications and other accepted best practices. For example, the organization can develop document templates for:

·        Material Inspection Report

·        Material Inspection Report for Epoxy Coated Reinforcement Steel

·        Material Deliveries Storage Checklist

·        Deliveries of Steel Checklist

·        Record of Concrete Pour

·        Pre-Concrete Inspection Record

·        Off-site Inspection Report

·        Maintenance Inspection Check List

·        Record of Ceiling Space Closure

·        Concrete Cube Test Report

·        Mortar Cube Test Results

·        Block Works Checklist

·        Certificate of Hydrostatic / Pneumatic Test

·        HVAC Checklist

·        Duct Leakage Test Report

·        Airflow Test Report

·        Drainage Pipe Water Line Pipe Checklist

·        Electrical Underground Conduits & Electrical Ducts Checklist

·        Protected Membrane Roofing Roof Water Proofing Checklist

·        Metal Door / Frame Checklist

·        Pre-Engineered Building Checklist

·        Calibration of Unit Weight of Sand

·        Sieve Analysis

·        Determination of Modified Proctor

·        Survey Works Checklist

By using a project management information system (PMIS) like PMWeb, the organization can design those Request for Inspection forms in the needed format which can be viewed as designed on a mobile device like an iPad. This will enable the consultant supervision team to capture the needed details of each inspection live onsite. The sample Contractor Works Inspection Request (CWIR) below is an example of how flexible those forms can be and how all needed data attributes can be added to enable selecting the values from predefined dropdown lists.

Pictures, videos, drawings, specifications and other supportive documents can be uploaded directly on the form or they can be attached if they were previously uploaded into PMWeb document management repository. All of those documents can be saved in one of the folders created in the document management repository to store all testing and inspection documents.

When the supervision consultant team members complete the inspection, they can submit the Contractor Works Inspection Request (CWIR) through the predefined workflow steps to ensure that all stakeholders who should be involved in approving or sharing the testing and inspection information are aware of the inspection results. The workflow could include conditions to include other stakeholders in the review process based on predefined attributes values.

Tabular and graphical reports can be designed in the format that organization needs to have to better understand the performance of the request of inspections that took place on the project. For example, they might need to know how the total number of request for inspections was spread by the supervision consultant inspector, specification category, vendor or contractor that have requested for the inspection among others. There could be also a need to understand the volume per month by those categories among many others.

Non-Conformance Report (NCR) and Technology

Similar to the Request for Inspection, PMWeb custom form builder will be used to create the Non-Conformance Report (NCR). The form should include sections for describing the deficiency, propose corrective action, acceptance of the proposed corrective action, confirmation that the corrective action have rectified the deficiency and final approval of the rectification.

Also, and similar to the Contractor Works Inspection Request (CWIR), each NCR can be attached with all types of supportive documents as well as it can be linked to a predefined workflow to ensure that all those who should be involved in reviewing, sharing and approving the NCR form.

Tabular and graphical reports can be created in any desired format to report on the NCRs issued and their status. The most common NCR report is the report that will detail all NCRs that are still open and where not rectified by the contractor. This report can be improved by adding charts to summarize NCRs by status, vendor, type and NCRs issued per month.

Punch List and Technology

PMWeb comes ready with the Punch List module that is aligned with all recognized best practices. It is a recommended practice to have a separate Punch List for each specification category. That is to say, it is better to have for interior finishes, electrical works, fire protection, HVAC, conveying systems among others. For each Punch list, the reported items should include the details of the snag or reported defect, location of the snag which will use a predefined location breakdown structure that will be common to all Punch Lists. PMWeb allows the user to drag and drop the location level to the desired line item. It is also recommended to attach a picture or video for each reported item. For each item, the Punch List will report to whom this item was assigned to rectify, which date it was issued, who spotted the defect and to whom it was reported to, when it should be rectified, days overdue and date it was actually rectified on.

In addition, it also a common practice to withhold payment from the contractor’s contract until those items are rectified. Accordingly, for the same Punch List items, the supervision consultant needs to provide an estimate for the cost for rectifying the works and against which contract agreement it should be charged. The Punch List items will be updated when they are completed and accepted by changing their status to closed.

Also, and similar to the Contractor Works Inspection Request (CWIR), each Punch List can be attached with all types of supportive documents, in addition to those attached to each line item number, as well as it can be linked to a predefined workflow to ensure that all those who should be involved in reviewing, sharing and approving the Punch List.

To track the status of reported punch list line items, both tabular and graphical reports can be created. In addition, more visual reports like the one shown below can be created. The report shows the list of punch list items at a specific floor level, say the ground floor and the location of those snag items. The color of each room or zone is an indication of the number of reported snag list items, green for 1, yellow for 2 or 3 and red for more than 3. The report has filers to select punch list items by status and specification category.

What Project Dashboard You Deserve to Have?

You would rarely find any project, regardless of its size, type, complexity among others that it does not have a monthly report or dashboard that summarizes the project’s status and performance. The level of detail, type of data reported on, layout of the dashboard among others do vary and depends to a large extent the requirements set by the project’s stakeholders. Those dashboards and reports is the information that stakeholders require to give them the knowledge and insight to make better and faster informed decisions.

Nevertheless, for many stakeholders, those mission-critical dashboards and reports are created based on data that was captured in MS Excel. For those organizations, not only they will waste more than 60% of their key project team members’ effort on collecting, consolidating, verifying and preparing this information to be shared at least 5 days old, but they are increasing the risk of the “Watermelon Syndrome”. It is the risk of reporting project’s status and performance information that does not correctly relate to the real status of the project.

Actually, this risk is on the increase with the growing use of interactive data visualization applications like MS Power BI, Qlik, Tabelau among others. Why? Because although the power of those applications is in providing the business intelligence on the reported data, but we all are missing the fact that the issue is with the data source, which is usually data captured in MS Excel files.

Therefore, the only way organizations can bring credibility to the information shared using dashboards and reports is in addressing the root cause of the issue. Only when an organization can ensure that their every-hour projects’ data is captured in the right format, by the right project team member and at the right time, they can reduce the risk of “Watermelon Syndrome”. Something that integrated project management information systems (PMIS) like PMWeb can do.

The benefits of using a PMIS like PMWeb far exceeds the benefit of achieving transparency and accountability in capturing projects data. The organization will ensure having real-time projects’ performance and status reporting, single repository for all projects data thus eliminating data silos, storing and accessing historical projects data, ability to trace the source of any shared information, use past projects data to analyze performance trends and predict future results among others.

Capture every-hour projects’ data in the right format, by the right project team member and at the right time

A PMIS solution like PMWeb comes ready with most document templates needed to manage a project. Those are the processes needed to manage the scope, schedule, cost, quality, human resources, communications, risk, procurement and stakeholders. In addition, it comes ready with the document template to manage the project life cycle stages and stage gates. Nevertheless, the level of details that organizations might adopt in managing their portfolio of projects might vary. Therefore, PMWeb comes with a custom form builder to enable the organization to create their own document templates to manage other processes.

The screenshot below shows the document template for a meeting minute document where no project regardless of its size, type, phase or location can be delivered without capturing the minutes of what was discussed in meetings. Those could include pre-tender, pre-award, kickoff, design review, requirements review, mobilization, safety, technical review, value engineering, progress review, risk review, stage gate review, project closeout among others.

The majority of those document templates require attaching supportive documents or linking other project records or emails to provide a complete understanding of the document template content. The attached documents are usually saved in the PMWeb document management repository where folders and subfolders are created to upload, save, review and redline those documents.

To ensure that the right project team members are involved in the right sequence on each document template, predefined workflows need to be associated with each document template. Those workflows which will be aligned with the project’s responsibility assignment matrix (RAM), will detail the steps for submitting, reviewing, sharing and approving each document template. Knowing that the responsibilities for reviewing and approving the same document template could vary depending on the project’s authorities and approval levels, each workflow could include conditions and branches to emulate those authorities.

Therefore, to ensure every-hour projects’ data is captured in the right format, by the right project team member and at the right time, organizations need to have document templates to capture data, ability to attach all related documents and records, and to ensure that the document template will be received by its intended recipients.

Ensure Real-Time Single Version of the Truth Projects, Programs and Portfolios Performance Reporting

With the right projects’ data is captured in real-time format and stored in a single database repository, getting real-time single version of the truth projects, programs and portfolio performance reporting is not rocket science. All what is needed is a business intelligence reporting tool that can create the tabular and graphical reports and dashboards in the needed format. A tool that can create Key Performance Indicators (KPI) by allowing the creation of formulas to calculate those measures.

For example, PMWeb BI reporting tool which is based on MS SQL Reporting Services (SRSS) provides the organization with the functions and features to create the needed reports and dashboards. For example, assume that the risk document template will be used to capture the data for each identified risk, qualitative analysis of the risk, approved risk response actions and how those actions could impact the pre-mitigation risk score. The BI reporting tool will be first used to create the output form that will be used to formally document the record. The same tool will be also used to create the risk register in the desired format. Further, the BI reporting tool will be used to create the risk and issues dashboard where it will report on the data captured in the risk document template as well as the issues document template.

The same approach will be used the other type of management dashboards including but not limited to cost, document, schedule, quality, procurement and human resources. Each one of those dashboards depend on the real-time data captured by the document templates used to provide the content for those dashboards.

Since all of the projects data are captured on the same database repository, then the same real-time data will be used to create the project, program and projects portfolio dashboards. For the dashboard or report readers, not only they are assured of real-time single version of the truth projects, programs and portfolio performance reporting but they can drilldown and trace the source of the reported data. Something that even advanced data visualization applications like MS Power BI, Qlik, Tableau among others cannot do.

The chart shown below explains how the viewer of the projects portfolio dashboard can drilldown to a specific project dashboard. Then the viewer can drilldown to a specific management area dashboard, for example the document management dashboard. The viewer can then drilldown the data logs such as the Request for Information (RFI) register which captures the details of all RFIs or can apply a filter to limit the selection. For this register, the viewer can drilldown to the specific RFI that he or she is interested to understand the particulars of this RFI like what were the attached documents, what other records were linked to the RFI and the details of the workflow steps that were used to submit, review, share and approve the RFI.

Now you have to decide what project dashboard you deserve to have? If you want to continue using MS EXCEL as your trusted platform for reporting and sharing the performance of your projects, programs and portfolios and accept the wasted effort and delays in getting this information, then remember the high risk of encountering the “Watermelon Syndrome” and the negative impact that you will encounter when you lack the insight to make better and faster informed decisions.

Is It Not Time to Improve the Delivery of Design Projects? – Part 3 of 3

Getting Paid for Delivered Work

Usually at the end of each progress period, say on monthly basis, the engineering consultant will submit the progress invoice for completed deliverables. The payment requisition should reflect the payment terms that were part of the agreement. Those could include for example retention and recovery of advance payment made. PMWeb requisition module will be used to capture those details for each period. In addition, the module will capture the details of the actual payment received against the approved requisition.

Capturing the Project’s Actual Cost

The actual cost against the project is usually captured from two different sources. The first is the cost for work done by each outsourced contract including the engineering consultant own team for which a contract was created for each resource. On monthly basis, a progress invoice will be submitted to capture the approved percent complete against each deliverable for each contract. PMWeb progress invoice will be used to capture those details and the review and approval process for this progress. In addition, the module will capture the details of the actual payment made against the approved progress invoices.

The second source for actual cost are those miscellaneous invoices that could be issued during the project life cycle stages. Many design projects would have a cost line item with the client agreement for reimbursable. Those could include some of those invoices. Again, PMWeb can capture those miscellaneous invoices.

Predicting the Cost at Completion

The earned value method provides a proven method for assessing the project budget performance as well as predict the project’s cost at completion and if there will be budget overrun. PMWeb forecast module will be used to do this assessment at the end of each progress period. The project budget, planned value spending for this period, anticipated cost for this period, actual cost for this period and the earned value for this period will be calculated by PMWeb.

The project manager needs to provide the forecast to complete or cost to complete the remaining scope for each line item. This can be set to be to stage wise or deliverable wise. The estimated amount can be given as a single figure or can be broken for the different items that have contributed to this amount.

With those values provided, PMWeb will automatically calculate the earned value metrics which include the schedule variance (SV), cost variance (CV), schedule performance index (SPI), cost performance index (CPI) and variance at completion (VAC).

Reporting the Project Loss and Profit

All the cost and financial transactions that were encountered on the project will be automatically captured in PMWeb cost ledger. This data will then become available for the PMWeb cost worksheet module which although similar to MS Excel spreadsheet, but the content data is captured from each cost module. The user can design what columns to display as well as what calculations to add between those columns and other cost data to produce the needed cost worksheet. Of course, there is no limit to the different layouts and design that can be created.

Capturing Project Communications

Similar to any project or even any business, there are many type of communications that takes place during the project life cycle stages. For most engineering consulting offices, the data communicated in those communications are badly managed and captured. Massive volume of valuable data get wasted every hour of every day during the project duration. Informal communications that can add very little value in supporting disputes negotiations and resolutions. The trend of no transparency and no accountability tend to be the preferred trend with the absence of proper formal communication.

Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb comes ready with the most important type of communications that will take place in delivering projects. In addition to the contract and cost management communications explained earlier, communications such as RFI, Meeting Minutes, Transmittals, Action Items, Daily Reports, Submittals, Correspondence and many others are ready to use out-of-the-box. All of those forms can be improved by adding user defined fields, attach supportive documents, link to WBS levels and workflow can be added to enforce the formal submit, review and approval processes.

Additional communications like issues, permits, data collection reports, LEED certification, project SWOT analysis, project functional components, project communication plan, official approval forms for the different design submissions, design review comments, design submissions approval or rejection letters, value engineering savings, no objection certificates, design stages approval, progress reports among many others can be created in any desired format using the PMWeb custom form builder. Those forms can be created in any desired language as some of the forms specially in the MENA and GCC region needs to be in Arabic. Supportive documents can be attached to those documents and workflow can be added to enforce the formal submit, review and approval processes similar to any other form in PMWeb.

Tabular and graphical reports in any desired format can be created to track the status of those communications. In addition, dashboards can be created to report on the performance trends of those documents and if they are in compliance with the target performance trends.

Reviewing, Sharing and Commenting on Project Deliverables

The many types of project communications might require the design team and other stakeholders to review the project deliverables such as drawings, technical specifications, agreements, bill of quantities among the many other documents. PMIS solutions like PMWeb provides this functionality by either using their own redlining tools or more advanced third party applications. Those tools usually would allow redlining those attachments and adding comments.

With building information modeling (BIM) is on the growth to be used during the project design stages, the PMIS needs to allow viewing those BIM regardless of their level of detail. The PMIS needs to allow viewing the model and selecting BIM objects which can be attached with the desired project communication. PMWeb BIM Model viewer enables the project team members to do this.

Real-Time Single Version of the Truth Projects Portfolio Performance Reporting

With all of the projects performance data captured on a single database repository, executives, senior management, project managers and other stakeholders will have access to a real-time single version of the truth projects portfolio performance reporting. Thus, giving those stakeholders the needed information and knowledge to make better and faster informed decisions. It is estimated that organizations who continue to use MS Excel to report their projects performance, waste more than 60% of their most valuable resources time on capturing, combining, analyzing, verifying, presenting and sharing projects’ performance data. This is coupled with an average delay of at least five working days between the time data was captured and time it was presented.

Using PMWeb PMIS, the performance reporting is always real-time unless the organization does not want to display real time but more of a specific cut-off date. The business intelligence reporting tool is used to aggregate the already captured in the desired format, apply the created calculations and formulas and then present it in any desired format. This will enable the dashboard reader to drilldown and trace the source of the data used in creating the dashboard content.

In summary, engineering consultants can improve the delivery of their design projects using the best practices of project management coupled with today’s available PMIS technology. This will help in reducing the many inefficiencies they have today in delivering the projects but also help in stopping the massive knowledge waste when data is not formally captured. It is reported that 70% of knowledge would happen when it is written down.

Is It Not Time to Improve the Delivery of Design Projects? – Part 2 of 3

Assigning the Project Delivery Team

Most consultants would have functional departments for each engineering discipline that the project delivery might require. The project manager should have a formal process for requesting the project team that will work on his or her project. Using PMWeb form builder, a template for capturing the details of those resources was created. The template can be designed in different form to capture the particular details that an organization might require for the resources assignment form.

Keeping Track of Assumptions

The project scope, schedule, budget and deliverables list developed by the engineering consultant will be based on the project’s scope of work as stated in the RFP. Nevertheless, the consultant will need to make any assumptions for the many unknowns that the project might have. Those assumptions will have an impact on the project’s completion date and budget. Therefore, it is a must that the consultant maintains the risk register that not only will identify those assumptions but what response actions the consultant have decided to take. Those details will be recorded in PMWeb risk register.

Reducing Risk Exposure by Outsourcing

One of the known risk response actions in projects is to transfer the risk to another organization that can better handle those risks. For engineering consultants, this is a very common practice. The consultant might decide to outsource the structural design, electrical, mechanical and other services design, BIM modeling, quantity surveying and other scope of work to other consulting firms. For large consultant organizations, the outsourcing could be to other company owned entities or business units.

PMWeb commitment module will be used to capture the details of all those outsourced contracts. Again, it is highly recommended that the line items of those contracts are aligned with project’s WBS and deliverables. This will ensure full project scope alignment and less likelihood of encountering the scope creep risk.

It is very important to attach the details of the contract agreement and link all related deliverables to the outsourced agreement. PMWeb document management repository will be used to upload and store those documents so they can be attached to the appropriate contract.

Enforcing Efficiency and Accountability in Project Delivery

An emerging trend with engineering consultants is to use the same approach of project scope outsourcing with their own project delivery team. For each resource that will be involved in the project delivery, there will be an agreement between that resource and the organization. The agreement will list the number of man-days that this resource was budgeted to spend on the project. Those man-days are the full-time effort (FTE) that was estimated for delivering the relevant deliverables of the project scope. The resource’s performance appraisal and bonus scheme will be related to how efficient that resource was in not exceeding those estimated man-days for the original scope of work. Any additional man-days on what was estimated, means that the actual cost have exceeded what was estimated for.

Assessing the Actual Efficiency in Delivering Project Scope

Although the above practice will help in enforcing accountability and promoting efficiency, the engineering consultant needs to better understand what was the actual man-days spent on delivering the scope of work and what were the reasons for those variances. To achieve this, each resource must maintain his or her weekly timesheets. The PMWeb timesheet helps in capturing the hours spent every day for labor and non-labor resources and whether those resources where spent during normal working hours, after working hours or weekends. Again, hours will be captured against each project’s deliverable.

Capturing the Details of the Agreement with the Project Owner

What was presented above mainly focused on the cost for delivering the design project. Nevertheless, the consultant will be receiving revenue from the project owner when those project deliverables are done and formally approved. PMWeb contract module will be used to capture the details of this agreement which usually would have the stages of the project as outlined in level 2 of the WBS. Some agreements could be detailed to deliverable packages.

Those deliverable packages can also be mapped into PMWeb Submittal Sets to ensure full alignment between the deliverables list and the deliverable packages as stated in the contract agreement. This will detail the percent complete of each package and its current status. Those deliverables packages will be shown in the project schedule as milestone activities as the project owner would require the consultant to report on those milestones.

Capturing Changes to The Project Scope

No one can expect a project can be delivered without encountering changes. This is very common to all projects but in particular to engineering and construction projects. PMWeb change events module will be used to capture those changes and their impact on both the project budget as well as the commitments with third party consultants, other company business units and their own project delivery team.

Capturing Project Budget Changes

Changes to the approved project budget could result due to changes in the scope of work or any type of transfers from the approved contingency to project deliverable or from one deliverable to another. Regardless what was reason for the change, the PMWeb budget requests module will capture those details along with all supportive documents. Having a predefined workflow for reviewing and approving those changes is also very much recommended to have.

Capturing Proposed Change Requests

The contracting parties that the engineering consultant has outsourced the project scope of work to, might find it necessary to submit change requests for work that they believe is additional to what they have included in the contract agreement. PMWeb online proposed change orders will be used to capture those requests which if approved will generated as Change Events to assess their impact on the project cost.

Submitting Change Orders

Should the consultant find that the changes encountered on the project are due to the project owner and his/her representatives own actions, then there will be a need to issue a change order for the original awarded contract. The change order could have cost, time or both time and cost impact. All those change orders will be captured in PMWeb change order module.

Managing Changes for the Project Cost

Should the change orders encountered by the project have an impact on the outsourced contracts and the project team level of effort, change orders to those agreements need to be issued. Those change orders will be issued using PMWeb change order module could have cost, time or both time and cost impact.

To Be Continued

Is It Not Time to Improve the Delivery of Design Projects? – Part 1 of 3

Similar to the challenges that will face a contractor when it comes to managing a construction project, the engineering consultant is no better when it comes to manage the design stages of a project. Not only the engineering consultant have obligations to deliver the design deliverables within the agreed milestones, but also need to ensure that his cost for delivering this scope is within the approved contract budget. The engineering consultant is also responsible to ensure that contractual obligations for delivering the project’s design deliverables are fulfilled.

Unlike contractors who are required to deliver the project scope based on pre-agreed drawings and specifications, the engineering consultant need to capture owner requirements to come with the needed deliverables. In other words, the risks of scope creep, delays and going over budget are much higher during the project design stages. Therefore, the engineering consultant must adopt the project management best practices to reduce the likelihood of encountering those risks.

The availability of project management information system (PMIS) like PMWeb enables engineering consultants to better adopt the best practices of project management to increase the likelihood of delivering projects on schedule and within budget. The PMIS technology will help in reducing the massive knowledge wasted by those engineering offices by failing to capture the data generated from the different project management processes that takes place on their project every hour and every day during the projects delivery life cycle stages.

Defining the Project Scope

Similar to any project, the work breakdown structure (WBS) for the design stages need to be well defined and agreed on. The WBS would usually have the design stages as level 2 while the project will be level 1. The WBS can be further detailed to improve the level of control on the design stages.

It is also recommended to use the WBS dictionary to detail the scope of work included at each WBS level and in particular what is excluded. Actually, having the list of exclusions is very important and it must be shared and approved by the project owner.

Developing the Project Schedule

The WBS will help the engineering consultant to have a complete and better integrated project schedule. The schedule needs to project deliverables oriented, that is to say the schedule needs to ensure that all deliverables are listed and properly sequenced. For example, the design schedule would list the different drawings, specification sections and other deliverables as task. The tasks of creating the deliverable, reviewing and approving the deliverable will be part of the activity duration. The actual review and approval process details will be captured in the deliverable submittal review and approval process to be detailed at another part of this article.

The schedule needs to be resource loaded with the different design resources such as the project manager, architects, discipline engineering, BIM modelers, Draftsmen, etc. The schedule can also be uploaded with the equipment resources like CAD Station among others.

Regardless which planning and scheduling software is used in creating the schedule, the schedule tasks need to be imported into the PMIS, in this case PMWeb, to ensure that all future records and documents are linked to the schedule when needed.

Creating the Project Budget

The project budget represents the amount the funds that the engineering consultant must not exceed to ensure that the project is not in loss. The budget is usually based on the detailed cost estimate done by the consultant for delivering the project scope of work. It should include all direct and indirect cost as well as the contingency reserve for all accepted project risks. It is highly recommended that the budget line items are aligned with the project WBS levels. For some, the budget can be detailed to the project’s deliverables level for the ultimate cost control.

For each budget line item, we need to distribute the planned spending of those funds depending on the project schedule. If the budget was detailed to the deliverables level, then this will be associated with the relevant deliverable schedule task.

Developing the Deliverables Register

The engineering consultant needs to have a detailed log of all deliverables needed to execute the project. Those could include the drawings, specification sections, contract agreements among many others. Each deliverable needs to be associated with the relevant WBS and schedule activity it relates to.

The workflow steps for submitting, reviewing and approving each deliverable will be created using the PMWeb workflow engine. The workflow steps could vary much vary from one deliverable to another depending on the submittal type, stage and other user defined attributes.

Enforcing Governance in Project Delivery

The project stage gates will be used to enforce governance in project delivery. For each project stage as defined at level 2 of the WBS, the relevant schedule activity will be linked to provide the planned dates for completing the stage. In addition, all deliverables identified in the deliverables register will be mapped into their relevant project stage.

This will ensure that each project stage will have the formal review process to approve it before the next stage can formally commence. A scoring system will be added for each stage to list all items that must be verified before the project is blessed to proceed. Using PMWeb, the organization can have unlimited variety of all possible items to be checked with a predefined score to select form with the weight for each score.

To be continued

Why Managing Submittals Is a Must in Engineering and Construction Projects?

Back in the early 80s, I have to admit that I was fascinated by the extent of planning reports that Turner used to request contractors to provide before construction works can commence. It was during the Kuwait Amiri Diwan project where I used to be the contractors’ project controls consultant that Turner used to ask for four very important documents. The first was the resource loaded detailed schedule using Primavera Project Planner (P3), the cost loaded report to map the bill of quantity line items to the schedule activities, the submittal report (E1) and the procurement report (E2). With the absence of today’s available technology, those were done using Lotus 123, an application that is very similar to MS Excel.

With the improvements in planning and scheduling software, the cost loaded schedule and procurement schedules have now better done using those tools. Nevertheless, the majority of organizations involved in delivering engineering and construction projects continue to use MS Excel to develop their submittal schedule. In other words, they continue to use the same old technology we had used 30 years ago in developing the submittal report (E1). Those organizations continue to waste the massive knowledge and improvement that they could bring to their business if they take advantage of what is available today.

What Are Submittals?

Submittals are the contract documents that require the contractor to prepare, review, approve and submit to the Engineering Consultant for review, approval, or other appropriate action. They demonstrate the contractor’s understanding of the contract documents and how the contractor intends to execute the project requirements by:

·        Identifying products selected from acceptable products in specifications

·        Detailing how items constructed and interface with adjacent construction

·        Identifying optional characteristics

·        Scheduling types of products by location

·        Describing physical and performance criteria

·        Certifying that products meet or exceed specified requirements

For those organizations who are involved in projects where the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) specifications are in use, Division 01 Submittals Section (01 33 00) will detail the administrative and procedural requirements for preparation, transmittal, review, approval and return of submittals. The other divisions, from 02 to 49, will stipulate the specific submittal requirements applicable to particular products within each section. Those would usually include the:

·        Particular info and content required of shop drawings or product data

·        Unique requirements of product

·        Specifics of samples such as size and location

Developing the Submittal Log

Most projects’ contracts require the contractor to submit the detailed submittal log along with the project’s baseline schedule. The reason for this is very simple, and that is how can anyone analyze and verify the correctness of the project schedule if there is no confirmation on when installation works can commence. Submittals are the contractual documents that the contractor will use to order the material or start fabrication when the engineering consultant, or those authorized to do so, grant that approval. In other words, all planned construction and installation activities have no credibility if they are linked to the submittal approval process.

The submittal log should include the complete list of all subcontractors and suppliers detail, material samples, catalogues, method statements, workshop drawings, as-built drawings and all other items listed in the project’s technical specifications, drawings, agreements and bill of quantities. The particulars of each submittal item need to be captured in the log. In addition, for each item in the submittal in the log, it needs to be linked to the relevant submittal activity in the project schedule. This activity will be linked to the relevant procurement activity, installation or any other activity that the commencement date depends on the relevant submittal approval date. This will help in determining on when the contractor would need to start the submittal process for this specification item.

The use of today’s available project management information system (PMIS) like PMWeb, has brought massive improvements when it comes to managing those submittals and capturing the knowledge gained from performing this process. The PMWeb submittal module allows defining the complete list of the submittal log include the relevant specification section, title, supplier, subcontractor WBS level, project schedule activity ID, lead time to procure among others. In addition, PMWeb allows creating unlimited number of attributes with list of values that can be used to better describe the submittal and use to report and analyze the performance of the submittal process.

Avoid Submitting Non-Specified Material

Another highly recommended practice, again from the Turner days, that for each submittal item, the content of the relevant specification section to be copied and pasted to the submittal form. This will ensure that the contractor is submitting exactly what was stated in the contract’s specification. Should there be any deviation, the contractor is obliged to clearly state those deviations. PMWeb Clause Module is used to capture the details of all contract specification sections to enable the contractor to drag and drop those relevant submittal sections to the submittal form.

Ensuring Submittal Quality and Compliance

Another good practice is to have a checklist for each submittal item that is aligned with the project’s specifications. This could be viewed as a quality assurance for the submittal to ensure that is correct and complete. This is needed to avoid rejecting the submittal by the Engineering Consultant due to missing details. The checklist would also include the submittal certification statement which usually states that “By this submittal, we hereby represent that we have determined and verified all field measurements, field construction criteria, materials, dimensions, catalogue numbers and pertinent data and we have checked and coordinated each item with other applicable approved drawings and all Contract requirements.” Again, this effort is usually done once where all projects getting executed now and even in the future will benefit from.

Attaching Documents to Be Reviewed

Another requirement of any submittal, is the drawing, material sample, catalogue and other items that need to be submitted and reviewed. Those documents will be usually uploaded in PMWeb document management repository where they will be attached to the submittal item. This will enable the Engineering Consultant and other stakeholders who need to review the submittal to access and view those attachments anytime, anywhere using any device. In addition, hyperlinks to suppliers’ websites and online catalogues are possible to ensure complete access to all what needs to be reviewed.

Viewing and Redlining Documents

Comments, stamps and other review remarks can be added to those documents using PMWeb redlining tool. PMWeb will keep a log of all those comments by the individual who did the comments and the date. This is needed to maintain audit trail of all those comments and remarks. The PMWeb redlining tool as allows linking PMWeb records to specific locations in the document being reviewed. Those could be for example an RFI, another submittal item, meeting minutes among others.

Attaching and Viewing BIM Models and Objects

With the growing use of Building Information Modelling (BIM), PMWeb allows the user to select the desired BIM model, select the BIM object to be reviewed by the submittal item, take a snapshot of that BIM object and then attach to the submittal item.

The Submittal Review and Approval Process

The above steps will ensure that the contractor has developed a complete and comprehensive submittal log that covers the submittal review and approval requirements of the project. Each submittal item will be linked to the submittal workflow that was created depending on the submittal review and approval requirement of the contract. Having said so, submittals might be subject to different review and approval process depending on the specification section, submittal type, whether it is a substitution, whether this substitution has time and/or cost impact, the amount of this impact among many others. The PMWeb conditional workflow can comply with all those scenarios by incorporating conditions and branches that will use the default and user defined attributes of the submittal. This will ensure automation of the submittal review and approval process.

It is very common on any engineering and construction project that submittals might not be approved from the first submission process. The engineering consultant might return the submittal marked with one of following classifications:

·        APPROVED: Requires no corrections, no marks.

·        APPROVED AS NOTED: Requires minor corrections. Items may be fabricated as marked without further resubmission. Resubmit corrected copies to the Engineer.

·        APPROVED AS NOTED – RESUBMIT: Requires corrections. Items not marked may be fabricated. Resubmit entire submittal following original submission with corrections noted.

·        REJECTED: Requires major corrections or is otherwise not following Contract Documents. No items shall be fabricated. Resubmit entire submittal following original submission with corrections noted.

·        INFORMATION ONLY: Items specified by Contract Documents.

PMWeb workflow engine will accommodate those actions and allow the organization to define how the submittal item will be routed when one of those actions are taken. The automation of the submittal review and approval process not only helps in enforcing transparency and accountability in performing this process, but provide real-time status of all submittals and their possible on the project’s objectives.

Submittal Sets

Sometimes, different submittal items could be related to other submittals for which the approval of a specific submittal item could be affected by the approval of other submittal items. For example, the metals specification requires approval on three submittal items, Structural Steel Welders Certificate, Steel Joists and Miscellaneous Metal items. Accordingly, the submittal set will capture the details of those three submittal items and report on their status.

Formal Submittal Document Template

As submittals are contractual documents that need to be formally submitted to the Engineering Consultant, the output copy needs to be designed in a format the fulfils the formal submission requirements as well as the branding for the project owner. An application like PMWeb provides the advanced reporting tools to design those forms. Below are examples on how the submittal form on the same project could vary depending on the submittal type. Of course, many other project owners might opt to have a single output form for submittal types.

Submittal Log

PMWeb provides the project stakeholders with real-time status of all submittals regardless of their type or status. The report can be designed in any desired format to display the information needed by the report reader. The report could include filters to select submittals by status, by type, specification category or section, by supplier and any other attribute that was captured in the submittal item. The log can also provide hyperlink the documents that were attached to the submittal item.

Project Dashboard

Many organizations might require having the status of the submittal review and approval process as part of their project’s performance and status dashboard. This real-time information will be extracted from the submittal items captured in PMWeb. The dashboard would usually display the total number of approved and rejected submittals. The dashboard reader can drilldown to the submittal log with the option to further drilldown to the specific submittal item.

Business Intelligence and Submittals

The wealth and breadth of the data captured from the submittal review and approval process will provide the project stakeholders with the insight about the performance of this process to enable them to make better and faster informed decisions. For example, they can have a real-time status of all submittal items by type and status. This will provide an overall understanding of the current status of this process and pending work.

Another business intelligence report is the report that analyzes the time elapsed for reviewing and approving submittals. The report shows the average time, at 95% percentile, it took to review and approval submittals with the shortest and longest duration. The report can be grouped by submittal item type, submittal specification category and section, submittal reviewer among others. This report is very important to highlight the efficiency of the submittal review process which will help to identify on possible options to improve the process.

Are Your Projects Not Getting the Right Submittal Management Solution?

To conclude, the submittal review and approval process is one of the many other processes that need to be managed in engineering and construction projects. Organizations who continue to use the 30-years old technology of spreadsheets as their trusted project management information system, should be ready to face the “Watermelon Syndrome” where the performance status being reported does not necessarily tell the true and real-time status of how this specific process is performing.

They also need to understand that more than 60% of their most valuable project team effort is being wasted on capturing, updating, verifying, preparing those reports that many would not trust. This is of course not forgetting that the data captured from the different project management processes are stored in different silos that they still need to integrate and migrate to provide an overall non-real time status of their projects health and performance based on data that lacks any verification of transparency and accountability.

The list of why you should not continue to manage your project submittals in the old non-efficient way is extensive, and we believe that we are all aware of it. We are also aware that how many times organizations failed to win claims and disputes to the lack of having such data to support their position.

The decision is yours. Continue wasting the valuable knowledge while increasing the risk of your projects delivery, or take the right action that will help in realizing the benefits that others organization have got by using the right technology to manage their submittal management process among others.

Why Daily Reports Are a Must in Construction Projects?

Having a daily report on construction projects have always been a contractual requirement even before the days where technology was available. I remember the days back in the early 80s where the contractor used to send the daily reports for the week at the weekend when they had the time to do it. Although this defeats the main purpose of a daily report but at least, we as a project owner, had some kind of documentation on what has happened on the construction site. Nevertheless, contractors would only understand the damage that can be caused by not having properly submitted daily reports when they are in dispute situation where there is a need to assess the extent of idle labor or the productivity or efficiency rates actually achieved during disruption periods. In addition, they understand the damage it will cause by failing to prove what has happened on those days among others.

Today, no project management information system (PMIS) would exist without having the daily report module as one of its default modules. For example, PMWeb Project Management Information System Daily Report module is designed to allow capturing the detailed particulars of each day events as reported by each contractor on the project. There is a growing trend that even for a single contractor, multiple daily reports can be submitted by the different site areas or zones managers or by those accountable for specific project’s scope of work which is usually determined by the project’s Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

Capturing General Details of The Day

Accordingly, the first thing that a daily report should capture is the details on who is submitting it, is it for specific WBS level, daily report date and the weather condition on that day. Those would include weather condition, temperature and rain precipitation amount.

Capturing Details of Work Produced or Work in Place

The next important data to be captured in a daily report is the work or activities performed on that particular day. For each entry, the daily report should identify the location of the work completed for which all locations and zones are usually pre-defined in the Location Breakdown Structure (LBS) by dragging and dropping that particular location. Next, we need to provide a narrative description of the completed work, done by which company, classification of the work done, quantity of work completed, unit of measure for completed work, cost account number associated with this work, additional notes to better describe that completed work and pictures or any other document type that needs to be attached to that activity. There is no limit on the number of events that can be added on each day.

The capturing of the work done during the day and the week in full can also be reported in what is known as the weekly work production form which can be launched from within the daily report. This form which is similar to the timesheet concept but instead of capturing resources it captures the work that was produced during a specific week. This work is usually aligned with the contract’s bill of quantity that this work is part of. The weekly production report will be reviewed by the project owner or his/her authorized representative to approve what was reported. The content of the weekly production reports will be imported to the monthly progress invoice that the contractor will submit to get paid for the work completed and approved during the past period.

Capturing Safety Incidents

On the same page of the work completed during the day, the daily report form in PMWeb allows the organization to record the details of all safety incidents that were reported during that day. Of course, this does not eliminate the need to use the safety incident form template to report the complete details of the safety incident and associated hours lost, rectification among others.

In addition, the daily report template allows linking other project records that were created in PMWeb. Those could include the safety incident template, RFI, meeting minutes, submittals among others.

Capturing the Details of Resources Spent

The next important data is the resources, labor and equipment, that were present at the project site on that particular day. For each resource which has been pre-defined in the resources repository, the daily report writer needs to assign the cost account number associated with this resource the project schedule activity or task that the reported resource hours need to be linked to, the percent complete of this activity, the start and end working hours for that resource on that particular activity with the option of separating normal working hours from overtime or weekend working hours, description of the work done and additional notes need to be added for the work completed by that resource.

Similar to the weekly production report and in the case of time and material contracts, the contractor can launch the weekly timesheet template to report the actual hours spent for labor and non-labor resources. The hours for each resource will identify the hours spent during normal working hours, overtime hours and weekend hours. This is needed as the rate for each hour type is usually different. Similar all timesheet practices, a workflow can be assigned to formalize the submission, review and approval of the submitted timesheet. The actual reported and approved hours will then become part of the progress invoice that will be submitted for the resource hours spent.

What Other Data and Information a Daily Report Can Capture

The PMWeb Daily Report template allows the user to add different groups of attributes that are designed to capture data relevant to the daily report of predefined list of values. For example, those could include details if there were major disruption events that have occurred on the project on that particular date among others. Nevertheless, the most important of all are the documents that will be attached to the daily progress report. Those could include progress photographs or videos, drawings and other type of documents. Those documents regardless of their type will be stored in PMWeb document management repository to maintain the complete records of the project history.

Presenting the Daily Report

The majority of project’s related contracts have the requirement to formally submit the daily progress report in a predefined output form. This is a requirement to ensure that the daily report becomes a formal project communication that can be used in claims and disputes resolution when needed. The layout could vary depending on the project communication plan and reporting requirement.

Analyzing the Captured Daily Report Data

The data captured in the daily reports can be subject for detailed analysis and review. For example, a report can be produced to capture the reported weather conditions during the complete project life or for specific periods of time. The same could be done for work in place and resource hours spent. Actually, the data from those three sources can be used to analyze if the weather conditions or other reported incidents have affected the productivity rates on the project. This is a very important source of information for those who are preparing a claim that involves labor efficiency loss by identifying what is known as “Windows of Productivity” to add the actual productivity rates achieved during periods with no disruption events and actual productivity rates achieved during periods that had disruption events. This comparison will enable the claim team to assess the lost efficiency attributed to those disruption events.

In conclusion, organizations who are not seriously and formally enforcing the capturing of daily progress reports are not only violating the contract agreement requirements to do so but are wasting high value knowledge that will be needed not only to understand what has actually happened on the project and how this can be improved but how to use this data to support the claim submissions or prepare a counter claim against what was submitted.

Should Organizations Penalize Those Who Are Not Willing to Share Knowledge?

One of the key challenges in delivering projects, and in particular engineering and construction projects the massive volume of knowledge that gets wasted by failing to formally document this knowledge to enable other project team members to use and take advantage of this knowledge. It is no wonder that the engineering and construction industry is considered one of the least efficient industries compared to others where knowledge is better captured.

This lack of knowledge sharing represents a major threat to the engineering and construction industry specially when we see the increased trend of experienced resources drain who have this knowledge due to retirement, being laid off due to business slowdown, relocating to other companies and locations among many others. Nevertheless, the most challenging of all is the unwillingness of many experienced resources and other team members to formally share their projects’ knowledge. This could be attributed to a number of reasons but for many, knowledge represents power and for them they are not willing to give this power easily fearing that it could impact their value to the organization. For them, this represents the value that they have earned over the many years and where their current position and financial compensation is directly linked to.

There are three types of knowledge sharing, active, passive and reactive. The active knowledge sharing is the knowledge the will be formally captured in predefined form templates to create the organization’s knowledge management repository. It should be noted that 70% of knowledge comes when the details of any specific knowledge have been written down rather than kept in our minds. The passive knowledge sharing is the knowledge that can be extracted from the different project management processes when they are captured in pre-defined form templates. Examples of those could include request for information (RFI), meeting minutes, change orders, daily reports, request for inspection, non-compliance requests, punch lists among many others.

The third type of knowledge share is the reactive knowledge share. This the knowledge share where the knowledge from the project team members is extracted using questionnaires and different type of interviews to capture this knowledge.

Active Knowledge Sharing

To enforce active knowledge sharing, project intensive organizations should include this requirement as part of the project team member appraisal. Similar to other key performance indicators (KPI), the organization need to set the minimum number of knowledge items to be shared by each team member per period. To ensure the quality of the shared knowledge, predefined form templates should be used by all team members regardless what project they are involved with or what stage the project is at. This is required to formalize this knowledge sharing process.

The Knowledge Share form shown below which was created using PMWeb Project Management Information System is an example of what knowledge details need to be captured. The header of the form provides the general attributes like any other project communication record like project, issuer, date and status. In addition, it details the project phase, work category, specification reference and others. The form could have included fields for the project management knowledge area, project management process and the many other attributes that will enable having more better structured shared knowledge. The custom form builder enables creating the different type of fields and attributes needed for this form.

As for the share knowledge input text, the form has allowed two fields. The first is to have the knowledge in English and the second is the translation of the knowledge in Arabic. This will enable capturing the knowledge in the two most common used languages in the Middle East and GCC region as well as increase the value of this captured knowledge by enabling those who can communicate in only one of the two languages to take advantage of that knowledge.

The shared knowledge could also require attaching supportive documents such as pictures, videos, drawings, specifications and other type of project documents and records. Those will be the documents that will be uploaded and stored on PMWeb document management repository for which they can be accessed and viewed whenever there is a need. In addition, hyperlinks to related websites can be also added to provide the most of the shared knowledge.

To ensure the credibility and value of the shared knowledge, all those knowledge sharing forms need to be formally submitted to the designated Knowledge Management Officer (KMO) so he or she can review and approve the shared knowledge before it can be shared with others. The PMWeb workflow module will be used to define those workflow steps and for which the KMO will be given the privileges to invite and involve other project, PMO, organization or third party team members to review and analyze the shared knowledge.

The captured and approved shared knowledge can then be accessed using Business Intelligence software applications where not only it will be used to streamline the accessing for this knowledge but also to provide trends analysis and other type of analysis that could be of interest to the organization’s team members. In addition, most BI applications allow the users to have a structured query language where relevant data will be filtered and displayed based on what was requested.

The KMO and the knowledge management team can be used this captured knowledge to improve the capturing of projects data, creating checklists for the different project management processes, develop training material to educate new project team members on those best practices among others.

Passive Knowledge Sharing

Passive knowledge is the knowledge that can be extracted from the different project management processes that are being used on the project. Of course, this need having a Project Management Information System that enforces project stakeholders and team members in provide the needed data for each process in the needed format. That is why many organizations who use PMWeb do not limit the use of PMWeb on the many out-of-the-box form templates that covers most of the project management processes, but use the custom form builder to create form templates to capture the data from other specific processes that they might have.

An example of passive knowledge sharing is the use of the Request for Information (RFI) and Change Order processes. If we take each one of those two processes on its own, the knowledge captured in their pre-defined forms can provide the KMO and the KM team with massive valuable information on the reasons for why RFIs and Change Orders were issues, their impact on the project objectives, who have issued them, how long it took to close them, which part of the project did they affect, which project scope of work they were related to, among many others.

Nevertheless, the additional knowledge that could be extracted from having those two processes on the same platform and database, is the correlation analysis between RFIs and Change Orders. For example, in PMWeb, the option to generate a Change Order from an RFI is available by default. In other words, the link between those two processes is readily available. Of course, links to other PMWeb records can be created.

This knowledge could be of great value to the KMO as it will help the actual causes that have resulted in issuing the RFI and which have eventually resulted in the change order. Those causes could be attributed to incomplete project design documents, old technical specification, unforeseen site conditions, among others. Identifying those causes, the KMO and KM team can come with recommendations and actions that need to be implemented on all other projects to reduce the negative impacts of those causes.

Reactive Knowledge Sharing

To enable reactive knowledge sharing, the KMO or the Project Management Office (PMO) who are responsible for capturing projects knowledge needs to assign team members who will become responsible for performing those interviews. Predefined document templates need to be created to identify the questions those surveys will include and the possible answers for each question. There could be templates to capture knowledge on the performance of contractors, quality management practices, health, safety and environment (HSE) practices, project schedule review and analysis, project team performance appraisal among others. Templates could also include questionnaires to capture the feedback of each project team member on his or her views on how the project is performing and any challenges they need to report.

The document template below is a sample of a template that could be used to assess the performance of each contractor or vendor working on the project. The questions are drafted to identify the type of knowledge that the organization wants to capture to help them to better select the contractors and suppliers who could be considered for future projects. Similar to all other forms in PMWeb, attachments to further support that data captured can be attached to the form. In addition, the form could be assigned a workflow process to formalize the steps for submitting, reviewing, analyzing and storing this knowledge.

The captured data will become available for the KMO and KM team to analyze and identify the newly captured knowledge. For example, the data captured in the staff appraisal forms can help in identifying the knowledge and skills of the project team members. This will enable the organization not only to identify the training courses that the team members should attend to improve their current skills but also who could be the best project team that could be assigned on certain projects. The dashboard shown below is an example on how Business Intelligence (BI) tools have used the data captured in PMWeb to analyze the performance of the project team.

In summary, organizations who understands the value that capturing, documenting and sharing their projects delivery knowledge will bring to their business, needs to formalize their knowledge related processes. There are two type of processes, active and passive knowledge sharing processes. As for the passive knowledge sharing processes, organizations need to enforce the use of project management information systems which will insure that the particulars of each process are captured in the right format, by the right team member at the right time. As for active knowledge sharing, similarly there should be a predefined process for sharing that knowledge but more important it should part of each team member appraisal.

So Maybe the question that organizations should ask, for those project team members who are not willing to share their knowledge, is it better for our organization to do without them?

Managing Contracts Deliverables in a Project Environment

For projects-intensive organizations, the practice of outsourcing part of the project overall scope is a very common practice. They do that to transfer the risks associated with this scope of work to other organizations who have the better know how, skills and experience in managing those risks. Nevertheless, failing to have a formal process for managing the deliverables of those contracts could result in new risks for those projects-intensive organizations that could eliminate the benefit of outsourcing this scope of work.

Of course, those organizations need also to have a formal for pre-qualifying the companies that could be considered for the outsourced work as well as have proven processes for inviting those qualified companies to bid, analyze and award the contracts to the successful bidders, contract administration and contract closeout. The point to remember is that procuring contracts is intended to reduce the project’s risk exposure and therefore the project owner must ensure that this is what is being implemented.

Deliverables Based WBS

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines the work breakdown structure as a “A hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.” A work breakdown structure element may be a product, data, service, or any combination thereof. A WBS also provides the necessary framework for detailed cost estimating and control along with providing guidance for schedule development and control.

For example, PMWeb Project Management Information System (PMIS) allows creating the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). It also allows importing the WBS from MS Excel, Oracle Primavera P6 and MS Project. The important point is that there should be one WBS for the whole project to be used across all project management processes.

Contract Deliverables

When a project has a complete WBS, this will help in ensuring that all deliverables are defined and agreed to by the project sponsor. For the project scope that will be outsourced using contracts, the contract deliverables need to be aligned with the project WBS. For each deliverable, the amount to be paid for each deliverable needs also to be identified. For example, when the project owner decides on outsourcing the project design scope of work to a qualified engineering consultant, the contract should specify what are the deliverables for each stage of the design stage and what will be the value or weight of that deliverable.

PMWeb commitments module will be used to capture all those outsourced contracts along with the details of each contract deliverables including the value of each deliverable.

In addition, PMWeb commitments module allows capturing the complete details of each contract such as the contract number, award date, payment terms, retention percentage among other attributes of the contract. Of course, the contract agreement document and other related documents can be attached to the contract agreement.

The Deliverables Submittal Schedule

In this article, the type of deliverables that will be discussed are those deliverables that need to be formally submitted for review and approval before the project owner will accept and pay for. Of course, in many other projects specially in construction projects, most deliverables completion status will be assessed at the end of each progress period on their percentage complete of work in place. For example, roof slabs are one of the construction project deliverables that will be assessed at the end of each progress period to determine how much to pay the contractor based on the approved work in place. This work will also be subject to the site inspection review and approval processes to ensure that it has been delivered in accordance to the contract agreement and specifications.

It is recommended to include the project deliverables as activities in the project schedule as not only this will ensure having a complete integrated project schedule, but also will provide the realistic expected dates for completing those deliverables. Organizations might use different tools for producing and managing the project schedule. Some organizations might select Oracle Primavera P6 while others might select Microsoft Project or PMWeb Scheduling module. The PMWeb Scheduling module can also import the schedule created in Oracle Primavera P6 or Microsoft Project.

Deliverables Submittal Log

Nevertheless, and as stated earlier, this article focus on deliverables that need to be formally reviewed and approved before they can be accepted as being complete. Therefore, there will be a need to capture the formal process for reviewing and approving those deliverables which might be subject to multiple review processes when deliverables are not approved from the first submission. Further the review and approval of each deliverable might vary depending on the type of the deliverable.

The PMWeb deliverable submittal log will be used to capture the details of all deliverables that need to formally submitted and approved for each contract in a project.

For each deliverable, PMWeb allows capturing all possible attributes of each deliverable. It allows capturing the WBS and the project schedule activity of each specific deliverable. In addition, it allows attaching the deliverable documents which will be usually stored in PMWeb document management repository.

When the deliverable is formally submitted by the contractor or vendor, PMWeb workflow engine will automatically launch the deliverable review and approval process. The workflow review and approval steps could vary depending on the deliverables attributes. In PMWeb, this is achieved by designing the workflow branches and conditions to reflect the needed review and approval steps depending on the values for the deliverables attributes.

Payment for Approved Deliverables

At the end of each progress period, which is usually at the end of each month, the contractor or vendor needs to present the progress invoice for those completed and approved deliverables. For example, using PMWeb, the contract agreement will capture the details of those progress invoices which will details the amounts paid till the last progress invoice, payment due this invoice and balance to be paid.

Of course, the progress invoice will also include the complete details of the progress invoice submission showing total invoiced to date, retention, amount paid, any changes to contract, payment due this period among others. Similar to other PMWeb modules, the submission of the progress invoice can again be through a formal workflow process that will detail the steps by the different roles for reviewing and approving the progress invoice.

Reporting and Analyzing Project Deliverables Performance

Having a real-time performance and status report of all project deliverables is important when it comes to assessing the project’s overall health and performance. With the detailed data captured by Project Management Information System software like PMWeb, the project team can analyze and visualize the deliverables performance in any desired format. For example, the report below details all project deliverables status by deliverable type.

The second report analyzes the actual time taken to review and approve the project deliverables by deliverable type. This will help to analyze the reasons for this delay as could be due to quality of deliverables submitted where they have to go multiple review cycles for them to be accepted or there is an issue with the deliverable review team who might be delaying this approval process with no valid reasons.

The point is that without having the right and trusted real-time data, the project team cannot have the right insight for them to better understand their project’s performance status as well as issues whether it was related to project deliverable or any other project management process.

Why Private Equity Firms Can Be Best in Managing Real Estate Investment Projects?

Real estate continues to be one of the most preferred investment options in the Middle East in general and Gulf Corporate Council (GCC) countries in particular. Nevertheless, the current credit crunch and increased competition on similar type of real estate products, had resulted in a relative slowdown of new real estate investments. Private equity and other capital investment firms can play an important role not only in reviving this sector but in improving the current return on investments as well as become more responsive to customer needs.

The Middle East and GCC regions have growing needs for real estate investments in healthcare, education, affordable housing, hospitality and entertainment and logistics centers including warehouses. In addition, there is need to invest in infrastructure projects to meet the population growth demands as well as replace the ailing infrastructure. Further, the growing trend of moving the responsibility for delivering those capital asset projects from the public sector to the private sectors, creates new lucrative type of investments. PE firms can play a perfect role not only in delivering these projects but for reaching out for the institutions who will be keen in owning and paying for those facilities when built. Those PE firms know the size of opportunities those investments will bring to them and their investors who always demand for better return on their investments.

No organization understands the value of investment and the need to exist of an investment at the right time and at the right return like private equity firms do. They understand that they need to look for investments with the desired return on investment and a risk exposure that they can manage. They also understand that there should be no personal strings attached to the investment and will be ready to exist at the right time and price. In addition, they know that they have access to different sources of funding at preferred rates that others do not have. Further, they know that they have access to a wide variety of customers for their investment products that others do not necessarily have.

Nevertheless, what Private Equity (PE) firms might not be best at is managing the design, tender and construction delivery stages of a real estate project. Although no one expects that a PE firm will play the role of the architects, engineering consultants, contractors and vendors but for sure, they need to play the role of the project manager or the investment fund manager. To able to play this role successfully, a PE firm needs to have the right project management team members, the right project delivery processes, right project management technology and the right business unit to ensure the sustainability of all those right actions.

Having the Right Project Team Members

Managing projects successfully is no different than any other business function of any company including PE firms. Those are the resources who have proven track record in managing engineering and constructions and are fully aware of the industry best practices. They need to have track record in project management, contract administration and negotiation, project finance, risk and issue management and some understanding of engineering and construction projects. They also need to possess excellent personal skills particularly in communication, team building, motivation, stress management and problem solving. The project management team must lead their projects to ensure that they are getting the most of the project stakeholders.

Similar to the other business units of the PE firm, there should be a fully documented job description manual that not only details the different project deliver roles and their key responsibilities aligned with the project life stages, key relationships between the Project Manager and each of the appropriate project stakeholders, skills and Key Competencies aligned with the relevant project management knowledge areas, performance criteria among others. In addition, there should be periodical assessment of the performance of the PE Firm project management team to identify any performance improvement needs and readiness to grow their role and responsibilities.

Having the Right Project Delivery Processes

All business functions needed documented policies and procedures to ensure that all stakeholders and parties involved in delivering a project investment are performing their tasks in accordance to what the firm have adopted as their standard. The standard operating procedures for managing the project delivery should identify the project stages and associated stage gates along with the deliverables of each stage. In addition, the procedures should detail the different project management processes to be used along with the document templates and reports used to manage and report the performance of those processes. For each process, the workflow steps for submitting, reviewing, sharing and approving each project management process should be well documented. The procedures should also identify the key performance indicators that will be used to measure the performance of those processes.

Having the Right Technology Platform

The PE project management team needs to have an effective monitoring and evaluation solution to provide the insight to make better and faster informed decisions. This is possible when a Project Management Information Solution (PMIS) is implemented which will enforce project’s governance, transparency, accountability and traceability by automating the project management processes. This will ensure that the right data is captured by the right project team member using predefined input forms each has pre-defined workflow for submitting, reviewing, sharing and approving the relevant process.

Using a Project Management Information Solution (PMIS) like PMWeb will enable the PE Project Management Team and other organizations in the project to use a 100% web-enabled platform to capture all types of projects data. This could include cost estimate and budget, schedule, risk, issues, inspections, permits, contracts among many others. The online document template will also allow attaching all supportive documents and link to other relevant project records and emails. When this data is submitted, the pre-defined workflow steps will ensure that this data and associated documents are forwarded to the right project team members to review, share and approve.

The online document template that will be used to capture the needed project management process will include all the needed attributes to make it meaningful for the decision maker, regardless what type of decision he or she needs to make. For example, the document template shown below is for the contract agreement between the PE firm and the different organizations that have been contracted to deliver part of the project scope of work also known as bid packages. The document template has complete details of the contract along with all supportive documents, change orders regardless of their status, monthly progress invoices for completed works, actual payments made for invoiced work among others.

This formal data capturing will enforce not only the best practices of project management but will also enforce governance, transparency and accountability in getting this critical projects’ data. In addition, this will also ensure that the PE project management team have real-time single version of the truth on how their projects investments are performing. The data captured in the PMWeb PMIS using all of those document templates will become available for creating tabular and graphical reports to report on the performance trends for each project management process. The data from the different but related project management processes like for example budget, contracts, change orders and progress invoices can become part of a dashboard that provides the overall project financial status. The same could be done for risks and issues, the different type of project communications among others. Similarly, the same data source can be used to create a dashboard for the overall project’s status and performance or a dashboard for program of projects performance, projects portfolio performance or all of the PE firm projects. The most important thing to remember that all of those reports and dashboards are based on the same real-time data source. There will be no data silos to worry about or MS Excel templates to question if what is being reports is true or not.

Having the Right Project Management Office (PMO)

To ensure sustainability of successful projects delivery including hiring, developing and retaining the best qualified project management resources, ensuring the adoption and continuous improvement of standard operating procedures and maintaining a dynamic project management information system that ensures important projects data, information and knowledge is available when needed, a business unit needs to be created to take ownership of those assets. This unit is usually known as the Project Management Office (PMO).

The roles and responsibilities of the PMO could vary depending on what the Private Equity firms needs from this PMO. The PMO can play the role of supportive or center of excellence PMO, controlling PMO or directive PMO. The PE Firm can also create their own PMO by blending the different roles and responsibilities of those PMOs to come with the PMO that is best suited for their project investments delivery.

The High Cost of Project Failures

The challenges and changes happening in the real estate industry in the Middle East and Gulf Corporate Countries (GCC) can bring new and lucrative investment opportunities for Private Equity firms. Nevertheless, it is always known that high return on investment opportunities are usually associated with high risks of failure. Investing in projects is an example of those opportunities which as per the Project Management Institute (PMI) 2016 Pulse of the Profession report, organizations continue to have the high risk of losing more than 12% of their investments due to project failures. Project failure extends beyond the scope of any individual project. When project is late, over budget or when intended project goals are not fulfilled, disturbing demands are placed on project resources. This boils down to wasted money that your company may never get back.