How Can Technology Help You in Better Managing Your Project File Room?

Almost every project, and in particular engineering and construction projects, will always have a designated room, called the File Room, that will be used to file and store the original copies of all project’s communications. The filing structure could vary from one organization to another and even from one project to another based on past experience and project’s requirements. Each File Room would usually a provision for reading table as files and documents stored in each file are not allowed to be taken outside the File Room. There will be also a log register to detail who have accessed the room. There will be a designated administrator who will be responsible for the File Room.

File Rooms will never disappear, at least in the near future, as contract agreements continue to require having printed, signed and stamped project communication for them to become admissible in the court and other legal tribunes. Nevertheless, there are few challenges that organizations face in managing documents stored in File Rooms. Those include documents that are either stored in the wrong folder and not stored in all folders that it needs to be stored at, documents that were taken out to be copied but not returned to the right folder or right location within a folder, how to add notes and comments made to the stored documents, how to search for specific documents, how to find the relation between one document and another, how to have details on the project team members who were involved in reviewing specific project documents among many others.

Project Management Information System (PMIS) technology can add great value for addressing all those File Room challenges and improve the management of projects’ documents that need to be kept for many years after the project completion. Actually, in some countries like the UAE, documents that have financial implications need to be kept 15 years after the project is completed.

PMWeb PMIS comes ready with its own document management repository that will eliminate all of the current challenges faced by organizations in maintaining their projects’ File Rooms. Of course, PMWeb is also the solution that will be used to create and generate all of the project’s communications that organizations would need to store in the File Room. Nevertheless, what will be assumed in this article is that the organization does not use any of the PMWeb modules to generate the project’s communications. We will assume that the organization’s involved in the project are fulfilling the project’s communication requirements using hard copies which will be scanned and saved as PDF files to maintain an electronic version.

Building Your Projects Repository

PMWeb allows the organization to upload the documents and communications across their complete projects portfolio. This means that document and communication upload should be limited to active projects but could also include completed projects where there could be claims or disputes yet to be finalized. It can also projects that are still in the defects liability period where documents and communications still continue to be transmitted. Projects could also include projects that are still on hold as well as cancelled projects. PMWeb allows capturing the details of all those projects as it allows having unlimited number of projects regardless of the number of users authorized to use PMWeb.

Creating the Project Directory

It is important to have a directory of all companies and individuals who could be involved in a project. Those individuals could be the one who are generating the project’s documents and communications as well as be part of the review and approval process. PMWeb companies’ module allows add those companies and individuals and make them available for all the organization’s projects. The data that can be captured for each company is very extensive and can be designed by the organization.

Developing the Project Filing Structure

The Construction Specification Institute (CSI) has developed a filing structure for engineering and construction projects. Organization can use this structure as a starting point where they can modify it to meet their own project requirements. The CSI file structure has a number of levels which will be mapped into separate folders.  The list below details level 1.

01.0 Project Contracts

02.0 Cost Information

03.0 Personnel Information

04.0 Chronological Information

05.0 Correspondence

06.0 Memoranda

07.0 Communication Reports

08.0 Meeting Reports

09.0 Field Observation Reports

10.0 Test and Inspection Reports

11.0 Project Specific Information

12.0 Shop Drawings, Product Data, Samples

13.0 Contract Document Interpretations

14.0 Construction Closeout

15.0 Project Specific Information

16.0 Feedback Forms

20.0 Post-Construction Site Visits

For 01.0 Project Contracts, the filing structure will be further detailed to include the following folders. The same approach will be followed with other folders. Actually, one of the recommended practices is that to include on each project communication the reference for the File Room folder were this project communication needs to be stored at.

01.01 Copy Owner-A/E Agreement

01.02 Copy of A/E-Consultant Agreement

01.03 Copy of Extra Services Agreements

01.04 Copy of Owner/Contractor Agreement

01.04.01 Notice of Award

01.04.02 Notice to Proceed

01.05 Procurement Information

01.05.01 Bid Form

01.05.02 Bid Tabulation Form

01.05.03 Alternates

01.05.04 Substitutions

01.05.05 Additions

01.05.06 Subcontractor List

01.06 Bonds

01.06.01 Bid Bond

01.06.02 Performance Bond

01.06.03 Advance Payment Bond

01.07 Certificates of Insurance

Using PMWeb document management repository, the organization will create all those file folders and subfolders. Access rights can be set to each folder and subfolder to restrict access for authorized users only. PMWeb allows copying and pasting folders that could have been done earlier when needed.

In addition, PMWeb allows the project team member to subscribe for RSS Feed Service to receive notifications when documents/revisions are added, when documents are checked in/out, when documents are moved out/deleted and or when documents are downloaded. Notifications can be received via email or from within PMWeb.

Upload Documents and Communications

Now PMWeb is ready for the organization to upload the project documents and communications to its intended folder or subfolder. Of course, there is no reason why a company cannot be uploaded to one or more folders. PMWeb allows uploading multiple project documents and communication to the desired folder or subfolder at the same time. Although there is no restriction the type of file to be uploaded into PMWeb nevertheless many organization tend to restrict loading some file types that are executable.

Document Attributes and Custom Fields

To better describe and understand the uploaded document, PMWeb allows the user to add what is known as document attributes. In addition, it allows defining user defined custom fields to add more values and text notes for the uploaded documents. Predefined lists of values can be created for the document attributes and user defined fields to enable the document controller from selecting the values that are related to each specific document and project communication.

Adding Text Notes

In addition, all text notes and remarks that are usually added by the project team members to the uploaded documents and communications can be added using the notes option. For each note, PMWeb will capture the details of when it was added and by who and if it was edited, when and by who. Since PMWeb allows rich text, those notes can be formatted in a desired format.

Attaching and Linking Documents and Communications to Other Documents and Communications

Should a document or communication have a reference for another project document or communication, PMWeb allows attaching those documents and communications to that particular document or communication. PMWeb also allows creating links with other documents and communications that are not stored on PMWeb document management repository as well as add hyperlinks to websites. Another important feature that is also available when PMWeb function to import emails from the mail server into the PMWeb email repository, is to link those emails to the stored document or communications.

Importing Emails from Mail Server to PMWeb

PMWeb also allows importing the project related email communications into the PMWeb email inbox. This required setting PMWeb to read those emails from the email application mail server. Those imported emails will then become available to be linked to other PMWeb documents and communications that had been uploaded into the document management repository as described above.

Document and Communication Redline

For those who need to have the option to redline the uploaded document or communication by adding notes and remarks, then PMWeb viewer will be used to achieve this. The viewer can be set to have different colors for different users where their comments will be added in layers. In addition, PMWeb allows creating hyperlinks to other PMWeb records on the document itself nevertheless this function is not relevant as PMWeb modules and records are not in use over here.

Document Versions

It is something very common in projects for documents to have different versions. This is very true for drawings and business requirements documents. PMWeb Check Out and Check In functions allows the authorized user to Check Out the document to be revised, revise it and save it under the same file name and then Check In the document. PMWeb allows setting the document to show all versions or only the last version.

Document Search

PMWeb document search allows the user to search for a document or communication based on the file name, document attributes or content of the file if it is readable. This will expedite the search and locate of specific project documents or communications without the need to access the folder or subfolder where one expects that it will be stored at. This is an important feature when the organization is searching for the documents or communications to support the submission of a claim or prepare the response to the counter claim.

Document and Communication Collaboration

To ensure that the right project team members are made aware of all documents and communications uploaded into PMWeb document management repository, the workflow option will be used. PMWeb allows creating unlimited number of conditional workflows where the workflow can branch and direct the document or communication to different team members depending on the attributes and user defined values assigned for each document or communication. The document controller needs only to submit the document and communication and PMWeb will circulate those documents and communications to their intended recipients.

In addition to the fact that each user on the workflow steps can add his or her own comments on the workflow comments box, PMWeb also provides two additional options for getting the feedback from those reviewing the document or communication. The first option is a quick 5-point rating (5 very important and 1 is not) where each project team member can provide his or her rating along with a note on why this rating was given.

Nevertheless, PMWeb also provides the option for more structured and formal method to assess and score the importance of each uploaded document or communication. PMWeb scoring option allows the organization to define the list of items that each document or communication needs to be assessed against. Those could be based on answers from predefined list of values, Yes or No, Date, Value, among others. For each item, there will be available number of points to score from, say 5 points, as well as a weight for each score item. This will ensure having a weighted score value for each uploaded document of communication.

PMWeb also provide a very proactive method for capturing actions on project documents using what is known as Checklists. Through this option, the organization can design different checklists for different type of project documents where each checklist will have list of tasks to be performed by project team as it relates to the uploaded document or communication. Those checklists could include for example if notification to be sent as per the contract agreement among others.

Sometimes, there could be a need to share the uploaded document or communication with project team members that could be part of the workflow or not as well as with other individuals who might not be PMWeb users. In this case, PMWeb notification will be used to share the document or communication with those individuals by sending a notification email along with the document or communication.

Formal Transmission of Uploaded Documents and Communications

Should the organization need to have formal process for transmitting the documents and communications uploaded into PMWeb document management repository, then the PMWeb Transmittal Module needs to be used. A new transmittal can be created and then the relevant uploaded documents and communications will be attached to the transmittal to be submitted. A workflow can be assigned to transmittal in case there is a need to share those documents and communications online.

Nevertheless, if the organization just want to generate the transmittal and print it to become the cover transmittal letter for the documents and communications to be submitted, then the user can print the transmittal form. The form can be designed in any shape or format to match the organization branding and project management processes.

Reporting on Uploaded Documents and Communications

The data captured from each uploaded document or communication will become available for Business Intelligence (BI) reporting from within PMWeb itself using SQL Reporting Services or by using other applications like MS Power BI. Reports can be created to provide a log of all uploaded documents and communications. The report can group and order data in the desired format as well as include filters to select the needed documents or communications to be reported on. The user can drilldown to the source document or communication if a link is created as shown below.

In addition, graphical reports and dashboards can be created to analyze the volume of project’s documents and communications which can be grouped by type, category, status on any other desired option. The data captured in the PMWeb document management repository will provide the organization with the real-time information to have the insight to make better and faster informed decisions.

Ensuring Right Data for Analyzing Projects’ Performance

With the growing demand by executive management to have better understanding and transparency into their projects’ performance, the challenge of having real-time data that can be trusted became the most critical of all. Those executives understand that they need to apply technology and best practice methods for establishing trusted data that can provide them with knowledge to have the insight to make better and faster informed decisions.

Unlike other businesses, projects and in particular engineering and construction projects can prove to be of great challenge when it comes to capturing every-day data that can be trusted. By definition, every project is unique in terms of what it will deliver, who will be involved in delivering it, constraints and assumptions that could affect what will be delivered among others. Executing an engineering and construction project requires implementing many project management processes to reduce the likelihood of the high risk of projects failure. Each one of those processes will generate the data needed by executive management to have better understanding and transparency into their projects’ performance.

To understand how technology and project management best practices can address this great challenge, PMWeb Project Management Information System will be used to provide the project’s cost transparency by adopting the best practice of earned value management. The example assumes a public-sector entity who is responsible for the delivery of capital asset projects needed to achieve the country’s strategic objectives. Unlike the generic use of the earned value method, this entity has modified the earned value reporting to give them the needed key performance indicators (KPI) that matters most to them.

The Modified Earned Value Method

The organization has the requirement to report on the following key performance indicators across their projects portfolio:

1.      Spending Variance (IP). This is variance between the approved budget spending plan for a fiscal year against the approved progress invoice for work in place. A negative value indicates failing to spend the allocated budget which means that those funds have become idle and deprived the organization from using them to fund other projects.

2.      Schedule Variance (SV). This is variance between the value of work completed as per the approved updated project schedule and the approved budget spending plan for the same period. A negative value indicates that the value of work completed to date is less than what was planned which can correlate to schedule delays.

3.      Cost Variance (CV). This is variance between the value of work completed as per the approved updated project schedule and the approved progress invoice for work in place for the same period. A negative value indicates that the amount invoiced to date exceed that earned value for completed works which could be the result of change orders that are not yet included in the project budget.

4.      Variance At Completion (VAC). This is the variance between the approved project budget and the same of work invoiced to date, balance cost to complete remaining scope of work and all anticipated changes, disputed changes and claims known to date. A negative value indicates that the project is going over budget.

Similar to other public-sector organizations, the project budget once approved, it cannot change until the next fiscal year where all budget adjustment requests will be reviewed and decided on. In addition, the project budget used for the above KPIs will exclude all contingencies and reserve funds. The budget will be made equal to the awarded contracts used also to report those KPIs.

The table below details the data needed by the organization to calculate, monitor and report on the needed cost key performance indicators and variances. It shows the data for each project managed by the organization for the fiscal of 2016. The data shown including original approved budget, planned budget for the period, original commitments, approved change orders, revised commitment, progress invoice for work in place, schedule % complete, earned value, spending, schedule and cost variances, spending, schedule and cost performance indices, estimate to complete, anticipated and disputed change orders and claims, estimate at completion and variance at completion.

The chart below is a basic chart the details the spending, schedule and cost variances, spending, schedule and cost performance indices values for each period for 2016. Of course, the report can be designed to reflect the status as of the current period.

Capturing the Trusted Data

PMWeb will provide a proven process to ensure the trust worthiness of the data needed for the cost performance analysis. The data will be captured using predefined forms that has the needed values. For each form, supportive documents and other related records will be linked to provide complete transparency of what is being reported. When the needed data is provided, a predefined workflow will be used to channel the document through the required review and approval processes.

For example, for the project budget, PMWeb budget module will capture all budget versions including the approved budget. In addition, it will provide the planned budget value for each period. All budget adjustments and requests that will be used to support the budget adjustment at the end of the fiscal year are also captured.

Similarly, the awarded contracts, change orders, anticipated change orders and progress invoices. The same applies to the updated project schedule, earned value and other earned value variances and performance indicators. The data captured in those forms following the predefined project management processes will enable the organization to create different tabular and graphical reports that provide real-time information on the project’s cost status. The report below is an example of the contracts status showing details of each contract, approved changes, pending changes and estimate to complete or balance to complete each contract.

The schematic chart below details how the data captured in PMWeb forms will be stored in a single database repository where tabular and graphical reports can be produced to provide the needed real-time information. This information can be consolidated in a single report to provide the overall projects cost performance report as well as the cost performance dashboard to report on the different key performance indicators whether they were variances or indices.

The same approach will be followed for the other projects’ performance analysis including but not limited risk exposure, communication and document management, safety and health, quality control and inspection, schedule performance and delays among others. Analyzing projects’ performance from any desired perspective is not an issue as long as you have the real-time trust-worthy data to be analyzed. Similar to any other business, performing analysis on data that is outdated or not credible can lead executives to make wrong decisions that could drastically impact their projects performance.

Using Technology to Audit Your ISO 21500 Project Management Compliance

There is a growing trend among organizations who seeks excellence in what they deliver to use ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards to create documents that provide requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. For those organizations who are projects centric, there are a number of ISO standards that could be applicable to their business operations including ISO 9001 for Quality Management Systems, ISO 14001 Environmental Management System, ISO 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems among others. Nevertheless, the one that focus on project management is the ISO 21500 which provides guidance for project management and can be used by any type of organization, including public, private or community organizations, and for any type of project, irrespective of complexity, size or duration.

ISO 21500 and PMI PMBoK

The ISO 21500 provides high-level description of concepts and processes that are considered to form good practice in project management. For those organizations who have adopted the professional best practices of the Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) will not find difficulty in pursuing the ISO 21500 certification. For example, the ISO 21500 divides the project processes into five process groups similar to PMBoK. There is only slightly different naming of few processes and knowledge areas. For example, for processes instead of “Executing” it is named as “Implementing” and instead of “Monitoring and Controlling” it is named as “Controlling”. For the ten knowledge areas, the only difference is in “Human Resources” where it is named as “Resources” in ISO 21500.

ISO 21500 Audit Checklist

Most project centric organizations usually follow some kind of standards or practices, best or not, in performing their project management processes. Therefore, it is important to carry an initial assessment of what is being followed at the different projects being delivered by the organization. This will help in identifying the gaps between what the organization have adopted today and what they need to adopt to enable them to become ISO21500 certified.

For example, for project risk management, the assessment needs to take into consideration the organization practices in risk identification, assessment and control. The assessment could for example include the following specific queries that need to be investigated and assessed.

1.      Risk Identification

a.      How often are risks identified through the project life cycle?

b.      How are these risks managed?

2.      Risk Assessment

a.      Is probability of the occurrence and impact of the identified risk assessed?

b.      What techniques are being used in the project to priorities, manage and record the identified risks and their resolutions?

c.      Are risks that may impact time schedules or project budget, identified and maintained separately?

3.      Risk Control

a.      Does the project plan consist of a contingency plan?

b.      Do project risks form part of project progress reports?

The assessment will use the five grading levels shown below to rate the extent of adoption of the relevant project management best practices by each project. The rating values could be adjusted to non-linear value by giving a score of 10 for Superior, 7 for Good, 5 for Acceptable, 3 for Marginal and zero for Unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, it should be the same rating across the whole organization.

PMWeb Project Management Information System (PMIS) will be used to create a template for the ISO 21500. The layout and format of this template is highly configurable and depends on the ISO Audit team requirement. The header will usually include the project name, date, who performed the audit, status among others. The table will include the ISO 21500 process group name, process ID, process name, the audit questions, score value and notes. Again, additional fields can be added if needed. For example, the organization might consider adding a weight value for each checklist question to provide a weighted scope for each project management process and eventually each process group.

The ISO 21500 audit checklist can also be designed to be specific for each of the ten-project management process. For example, there could be an audit checklist for Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Resources among others. This is an option and not a requirement.

It is also important to identify and maintain copies of all documents that were provided and reviewed when assessing the project management processes. For example, the project risk management assessment would require the team to identify if the project team are maintaining the risk register, if they are using any risk analysis tools or techniques like the Monte Carlo simulation for assessing the project’ schedule confidence level, if there is any risk review meetings, if there is any policy or document process for identifying, assessing and controlling risks among others.

All of those documents need to be uploaded into PMWeb document management repository and then attach those documents to the ISO 21500 audit checklist. PMWeb document management repository will have a folder for each project management process, for example scope management, time management, cost management, resource management among others. For each process group folder, subfolders will be created to map the specific processes within a group. For example, for the project risk management folder, there will be three subfolders; Risk Identification, Risk Assessment and Risk Control. The filing structure can be also expanded to include the five process groups; Initiation, Planning, Implementing, Controlling and Closing. In addition, if the assessment also includes program and portfolio management, additional folders can be created to add those documents.

To enforce governance when performing the ISO 21500 audit, workflow needs to be assigned to the Audit Checklist where it will include the different roles and responsibilities in submitting, reviewing and approving the performed audit. This is a highly recommended practice as it will help to keep track of all performed audits and who was involved in each particular audit. This becomes also more critical when the ISO 21500 audit is performed by more than one auditor depending on which project management process being audited.

Reporting the Audit Results

The ISO 21500 audit data captured across the organization’s portfolio of projects will become immediately visible for the ISO 21500 certification team. The tabular report will list the ten project management processes followed by which of the five project phases it belongs to and then the specific project management processes for each group. The report could have been expanded to include the specific audit checklist questions for each project management process as shown above for project risk management. The report also shows the weighted ISO 21500 compliance score for each project management process and for each project being assessed or audited. The color of the cells uses the color scheme set for each audit grade.

The graphical bar chart shows the weighted assessment grade for the ten-project management process for each project being assessed. The bar chart could have been detailed or designed in different forms and formats to meet the audit team requirements.

Additional reports can be designed that will focus on the improvement of ISO 21500 across the organization’s projects. Although the report tabular layout will be similar to the one above but instead of reporting against each report, the reporting will be against each year, that is 2017, 2018, 2019 and so on assuming that the organization will perform the ISO 21500 audit on annual basis. The value for each year will be the average score across all projects. The report could include filters to enable the organization to select a specific project, a program or a portfolio of projects.

Although this article is not about how to implement ISO 21500 standard or the benefits that an organization could gain from adopting such standard, nevertheless, the article details on how organizations who want to implement such standard can use technology such as PMWeb PMIS to create a straight forward solution that will help them to assess and diagnose their current project management practices and identify the gaps in meeting project management best practices. This will enable the organization leadership team to identify the needed processes improvements to meet the desired project management maturity level the organization wants to achieve.

Optimizing Management Processes in Engineering and Construction Projects

Unlike industries that have controlled and repeated business processes for which automation can perfectly optimize the duration and effort needed to perform those processes, project management processes could vary from one project to another depending on the project’s scope of work, contract agreement between the buyers and sellers, authorities and approval levels, project’s specifications, project delivery method, among many others. That is why it is a must requirement for each project execution plan (PEP) to have a detailed responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) to map the different roles and responsibilities for performing the project management processes.

This RAM will become the basis to define the workflow steps, sequence, roles, duration among others need to perform each process. Workflows can become somehow complicated when there is a need to add branches to direct the process into different stakeholders depending on the values assigned to the process attributes. In addition, conditions might be needed to the workflow steps to enforce the authorities and approval levels assigned to each role.

Therefore, if an organization is keen on optimizing the performance of their project management processes while enforcing the best practices of transparency and accountability, technology needs to be introduced to automate those processes. Using Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb ensure that all of the needed every-day project management processes are automated on the same web-enabled platform that not only will eliminate having multiple silos of captured data but also enables be part of those processes anytime, anywhere using any device.

Document Templates

Similar to any process that needs to be automated, there should be a template designed to capture the needed data by the different roles involved in the workflow steps. The template will include the fields that will be used to capture the needed data for which some could be required while others are optional. This data could be numeric, text, dates, financial, yes/no among others. For some of the fields, usually there will be pre-defined list of possible values to select from to ensure data consistency as well as avoid wondering what to add. Depending on which country the project is being executed, sometimes some of those templates could be in language other than English.

PMWeb comes ready with most of the templates that are needed in managing engineering and construction projects. Those include Request for Information, Safety Incident, Daily Reports, Snag List, Submittals, Transmittals, Contracts, Change Orders, Progress Invoices among many others. In addition, PMWeb custom form builder allows the organization to create their own document templates in any desired layout and language.

Supportive Documents such as drawings, specifications, bill of quantities, pictures, videos among others will be usually attached to those templates to provide the workflow reviewers the needed information to take action on those templates. Similarly, sometimes templates for a certain process needs to be linked to the template of another process to detail the relation between the two. For example, for a specific “Change Order Request” submitted by the contractor, there could be a need to link this template to RFI, meeting minutes and daily reports that provides the reason for raising this “Change Order Request”.

Workflow

For each template, there will be a pre-defined workflow that will detail the steps to be performed by project role to submit, review, kept informed and approve or reject the process. There could be a need for multiple reviewers that all must approve the template or anyone can approve. In addition, the workflow could include conditions that relate to the values of the template fields. For example, those could be related to the material submittal type, CSI specification section, change order value, project phase, building system among others. It is no wonder that sometimes for the same project management process, like submittal review, there could be more than 30 workflow versions to detail the roles for reviewing and approving the process.

Analyzing the Performance of the Different Project Management Processes

Since the different project management processes are captured on the same database repository, PMWeb allows extracting the needed details on every template transaction. Details that relate to the type, those involved in the process, submission and approval dates, cycle revisions among others can be extracted to be reviewed, analyzed and reported on. One of the most common reports is the process frequency report which provides details on the number of processes occurred daily on a project. As the report could include more than one process, the report can be designed to group and/or filter the data by process type.

Another important report is to show the performance of a specific process across different projects. For example, the organization might be interested to analyze the time it takes to review and approve change orders across their portfolio of projects. The report below shows the average duration range for performing 85% of the change order transactions for each project. It shows median, low and high durations for this range as well as the extreme minimum and maximum duration to complete the change order process for each project. The same could have been done for RFI, submittal, inspection requests among others. The report will provide the management with an immediate visualization of the performance of change order approval processes across their projects which is how long it is taking to close as well as there if there is high variability in the duration to close change orders.

The same process duration analysis report could be based on the duration taken by each reviewer to complete the review process. For example, the report below details the time taken by each submittal reviewer to review material samples, shop drawings or any other type of technical submitted made by the contractor. The report can immediately identify those project team members who are taking longer time to action a document which will get the management to initiative further analysis to understand the reasons for this unfavorable performance.

This visibility of real-time data of how every single project management process type is performing across the organization’s portfolio of projects provides unmatched level of knowledge that the organization can use to identify actions needed to optimize the performance of those processes. Actually, the captured process performance information does not need to be limited to only current projects but it could also include completed projects as all past projects’ data is captured in the same database repository. This ability to measure and analyze the performance of each project management process will help the organization to leverage the knowledge gained from analyzing the causes that made specific processes perform better on certain projects than others and apply it on other projects to gain the benefit of improved performance. It is simply like the management thinker Peter Drucker who was often quoted as saying that “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

The Major Harm of Data Silos in Managing Engineering and Construction Projects

Regretfully, we continue to have many engineering and construction projects documenting their every-day project information using MS Excel. Not only it is a process that prevents the adoption of the best practices of transparency and accountability but promotes the negative practice of data silos that hurts an organization ability to make the right decisions when they are prevented from having real-time single version of the truth on the different events taking place on their projects.

To explain the challenges of data silos in engineering and construction projects, we will analyze the different processes that could be needed to manage one of the most likely events to happen on any construction project and that is unforeseen site conditions. An event that could impact the project schedule and impact and for which there will be always arguments on which party of the contract is liable for those damages. An event that an organization would usually need to access more than 10 data silos to have the complete understanding of what has happened and how it was concluded. Those 10 data silos include the risk register, RFI log, occurrence report, notifications log, daily reports, delay analysis, cost estimate, change order request, change order and project filing log. Actually, sometimes there could be a need to access other logs like the contract drawings register, submittal log among others.

This article will detail how a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb provides a single web-enabled platform not only to eliminate those data silos but also to eliminate data silos at projects level. In other words, all project management data across all programs and projects will be captured on a single database.

Project Files Register

Regardless of the level of project management and control an organization wants to have on a project, there will be always a log of all documents that are stored in the project filing cabinets. Those documents include drawings, specifications, contract agreements, bill of quantities, project schedules, project communications among many others.

PMWeb document management repository will be used to map the same project file folder structure. Those folders will become the container to upload the different project documents in their original file format or any other desired format. Attributes and other details for each document will be assigned to those documents and will become available for the project filing register.

PMWeb also allows checking in and checking out uploaded documents to maintain record of all document versions. The user can redline and add comments to those documents which can be reported on. All of those documents will become available to be attached to the project management processes that will be managed in PMWeb.

Risk Register

No project can be labelled as a risk-free project. The organization needs to perform risk analysis of the different assumptions and events that could happen or not during the project delivery. One of those risks is the unforeseen site conditions which have a likelihood to occur and if it occurs, it could have an impact on the project schedule and cost. PMWeb risk register module will be used to capture all those identified risks, analysis, exposure and proposed risk response actions.

Request For Information (RFI) Log

The Request For Information (RFI) is the recognized formal communication that the contractor can use to raise all queries that they might have on what is included in the project documents as well as the project site. Those will include the queries that could be related to the concerns that the contractor could have on the project site conditions. This form will show that the contractor has done his obligation of raising all queries and concerns that they have on the project. The RFI will include the response by the project owner and consultant on the contractor’s concern.

All those raised RFIs and related response will be stored in the same database repository for all projects being managed by the organization. The log will detail the status of all those RFIs which can be grouped in any desired form and format.

Occurrence Reports Log

At this stage, the risk of unforeseen site condition is still an assumption. Nevertheless, should this event happen, the contractor needs to be have the process for capturing the details of the unforeseen site condition and the actions to be followed already in place and agreed on. One of the custom forms created in PMWeb is the Occurrence Report form. This is a template that has been specifically design for the most common 39 project events that could impact the project scope, schedule and/or cost. Pictures and videos that are needed to better document the event needs to be attached to the Occurrence Report when submitted by the site management team.

Notification Log

Each contract agreement specifies the type of notices and notifications that the contractor is obliged to send when events that could affect the project scope, schedule and/or cost could happen. The Occurrence Report details the type of notification that the contractor needs to issue in compliance with the contract agreement clauses. As a best practice, it is highly recommended to have ready to use templates for all those notifications which will be drafted by the legal experts using the proper contractual language and references. PMWeb correspondence module allows creating a repository of all possible project’s correspondence to be used by the project team when needed.

PMWeb will maintain a real-time log of all those notifications and other related correspondence in the format desired by the contractor. Layouts can be designed to display the desired data fields, grouping and records selection.

Daily Reports

Unlike changes that could result in reducing or increasing the project scope, unforeseen site conditions could result in the need for having additional labor and non-labor resources to respond to the impact of the unforeseen site condition. Daily reports is the only recognized formal project communication that the contractor is obliged to issue and submit on daily basis. The daily report will explain what has happened on each project day including those events that have occurred as a result of the unforeseen site condition and actions taken to rectify the negative impacts of this event. The daily report will detail the additional resources as well as the resources that have become idle as a result of this event. Being a formal project communication, this means that the project owner has accepted what was reported by the contractor unless there was an objection for which the contractor will rectify.

PMWeb will maintain a log of all those daily reports for which the contractor can use to extract the details of the resources that were deployed to respond to the unforeseen site condition as well as the resources that had to become idle until this issue was resolved and work can be resumed as originally planned.

Delay Analysis

The data captured in the Occurrence Report, Daily Reports and other project documents and records along with the updated project schedule will provide the project planner with needed data to perform the delay analysis of the unforeseen site condition. The delay analysis will provide the contractor with a strong position to request for extending the project’s completion date should the delay have directly affected the project’s critical path. PMWeb custom form again used to create a template to capture the delay analysis performed by the project planner. The form layout can be designed in any desired format to meet the approach used by the project planned in quantifying the time impact of all project events that could have an effect on the project schedule.

Cost Estimate

The costs associated with the unforeseen site condition events are never included in the project’s bill of quantity. The contractor needs to calculate the cost impact of this event using the resources quantities and project prolongation costs to estimate the cost of this event. Using PMWeb cost estimate, the contractor will have access to the resources cost that were used in coming with the project awarded bid price. The cost estimate can be also used to capture the details of all other expenses that the contractor has incurred in rectifying the impacts of the unforeseen site conditions.

PMWeb will maintain a central repository of all cost estimates whether they were used to price a contract or changes to the awarded contracts as well as the project’s performance budget. There will be single repository for all cost estimates across all projects which could prove to be of value when coming up with a cost estimate for a change event where the contractor can add other cost headings accepted on other projects.

Change Order Request

Now the contractor is ready to request the additional compensation that he believes is entitled to that is based on the cost estimate for the additional resources and prolongation cost. The Change Order Request is usually the process that a contractor will use to submit the request for the additional compensation. The contractor will be required to attach all relevant project documents and links to related PMWeb records.

The contractor needs to maintain a single repository for all change order requests to identify which items are still pending the project owner’s action. In addition, those requests will be included in the projected project cost at completion as well as they will be used by the contractor’s corporate office to maintain details of additional revenue that could be anticipated from the projects being delivered. It will also help the corporate office to determine if management support is needed to get the project owner to issue the requested change orders.

Change Orders

The change order is the final project process to conclude all requests for additional financial compensation and time extensions. The project owner might approve the change order request as is which is highly doubtful or reach an agreement with the contractor on a fair adjustment to the project awarded contract value and completion date. Sometimes, the project owner might reject the change order request for which this change will become a disputed change order or claim.

Similar to all other project records including those associated with the unforeseen site condition, PMWeb will maintain a single repository of all change orders regardless of their status for all projects being managed by the organization. This data will be of great value when it comes to assessing the projected cost at completion for a single project or portfolio of projects that are being managed by the organization.

Conclusion

It has been always said that silos are used to store wheat but not data. Organizations and in particular contractors who continue to adopt the wrong practice of data silos are causing major harm for their projects. Those organizations are losing the great value of having real-time single version of the truth on the different events taking place on their projects. Those organizations are losing the great benefit from being able to trace the causes, events and actions that have resulted in a change order or a disputed claim.

How To Avoid The High Risk of Faulty Projects’ Data?

Today, most organizations understand the value that BIG DATA could bring to their business and enable them to become the leader in their business. This is also true for projects centric organization where BIG DATA can play a vital role in ensuring that the right projects are selected and then ensuring that those projects are delivered right from the first time. BIG DATA is the basis for having the right information which in turn will provide the right knowledge to have the wisdom to make the right decisions.

Nevertheless, failing to capture the right data at the right time by the right team member will increase the risk of having faulty and outdated data. This will lead in turn to report the wrong information to the project team members and other stakeholders which will limit their ability to have the true knowledge about their current projects performance and available choices to give them the wisdom to make faster and better right decisions.

Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) similar to PMWeb provide proven solution to address the high risk of reporting faulty and outdated data. PMWeb PMIS will help projects centric organizations in avoiding this high risk by addressing the following four causes of faulty data risk by providing a single web-enabled solution that will provide:

1.      BIG DATA repository for all projects managed by the organization

2.      Document Management Repository for all projects documents

3.      Platform to Capture the data of all project management processes needed to manage projects

4.      Data Visualization to monitor, evaluate, analyze and report the projects health and performance

BIG DATA repository for all projects managed by the organization

Projects centric organizations will rarely exist to deliver a single project. Even for Special Vehicle Enterprises (SVE), which are usually created to deliver a program of interrelated projects. Therefore, a PMIS needs to cater for this multi-project environment and enable the organization to manage all of their projects’ portfolio. Some of those projects could be projects opportunities that are yet to be approved for execution, others could be projects being executed but could be at different stages of the project life cycle while others could be completed projects.

PMWeb PMIS enables those organizations to capture unlimited number of projects and programs. For each project, the organization can capture the needed data including the project specifics, stakeholders, target budget and milestone dates, companies involved in delivering the project, attach all supportive documents such as the feasibility study, business case among others. All of this data is captured using predefined input forms for which most fields have predefined lists of possible data entries to ensure the quality and validity of captured data.

 

Since most organizations have already invested in having their own enterprise planning and scheduling solution like Oracle Primavera EPPM P6 and MS Project, PMWeb allows the organization to import the activities, planned and actual dates, % complete and other data that is needed to link other projects records to. Of course, PMWeb also provides its own scheduling tool for those organizations that might not require importing their projects’ schedule data from other applications.

In addition, PMWeb PMIS maintains a single database repository of all companies and stakeholders that the organization could consider when it comes to delivering their project investments. Those will include qualified contractors and consultants, suppliers and vendors, government authorities, financial institutions and any other entity that could have an impact or influence on their projects delivery. For each company, PMWeb allows capturing the details of all individuals that might be involved or were involved in delivering the organization projects. It also allows adding the resources that could be used to deliver the projects’ scope of work. Those could be manpower, equipment and other type of resources.

Using PMWeb Pre-Qualification module, the organization can enforce a formal process for maintaining that latest details of all organizations that could be used in delivering their current and future projects. The online prequalification form can be customized to meet the organization’s own needs in what information needed to enable comprehensive qualification for the right entities to be involved in delivering their projects.

Document Management Repository for all projects documents

Delivering projects in general and engineering and construction projects in particular involve the creation of many type of documents such as drawings, specifications, contract agreements among others as well as maintaining signed version of all formal project communications which could be needed in the case of disputes and litigation. Depending on the country regulations, some of those documents need to be maintained for as long as 15 years. Those documents need to be stored in a structured filing system not only to ensure ease of access but also to limit access to only authorized team members.

PMWeb PMIS allows the organization to create folders and subfolders to match each project filing structure. Access rights can be assigned to each folder and subfolder as well as notifications can be enabled to send notifications whenever a new document get uploaded or an existing document get downloaded. Other required functions like checking out and checking in documents to enable documents versioning is a default. In addition, the organization can specify the attributes or additional fields that need to be assigned to each uploaded document.

PMWeb document viewer allows viewing PDF and Picture files to enable the project team members to add their comments on the reviewed documents. For those organizations that might require more advanced redlining and commenting functions and features, PMWeb has built an interface with Bluebeam Revu to enable those advanced requirements.

Yet the most important function of PMWeb Document Management Repository is that all uploaded documents can be attached to any of the project management processes that will be implemented in PMWeb. Of course, PMWeb also allows attaching other uploaded documents to another uploaded document in case there is a relation between those documents.

Having the documents uploaded in a single document management repository will allow the authorized project team members to search for documents that could include the required key words. For documents with readable content, PMWeb allows searching for those key words within the document itself.

Platform to Capture the data of all project management processes needed to manage projects

Managing a project in a professional format requires the organization to implement a number of project management processes that need to be aligned with the best practices of scope, time, cost, quality, communication, human resources, risk, procurement, safety, claim, environmental, financial, benefits realization among others. Those processes are usually aligned with the project delivery life cycle stages for which the responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) will identify the stakeholders who will be involved starting the process by submitting the predefined document template and those who will be involved in reviewing and approving or rejecting the process.

PMWeb helps in automating those processes including the stage gate approval processes. This will be achieved by providing the input form with the required fields for each process to allow capturing the right data. It also allows attaching the related documents which were uploaded into the document management repository as well as linking other relevant project management records. When the record is ready to be submitted for review and approval, the assigned workflow will automate the distribution of the record to its intended recipient thus ensuring that data capturing, reviewing and approval is done by the right authorized project team member. This will ensure that the organization and the authorized team members have access to real-time BIG DATA that can trusted.

PMWeb comes ready with the most common project management processes like meeting minutes, safety incidents, request for information, daily reports, snag list, cost estimate, budget, budget adjustments, revenue contracts, commitment contracts, change management, progress invoices among many others. For organizations who might need to capture additional data, all of those forms allow adding user defined fields to enable capturing this additional data.

It is very much possible that many organizations might have the need to manage additional project related processes that are not available by default in PMWeb. The PMWeb custom form builder enables the organization to create unlimited number of new input form in What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) format. Those forms can be created in any language as it should be expected that projects might exist in environments that English is not the first language. For example, in countries like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait among others there will be a need to have some of those forms in Arabic and to capture data in Arabic.

In addition to the capability of attaching supporting documents to every project management record, PMWeb allows linking other PMWeb records that could be of relevance to the project management record. It also allows linking project email communications that were imported into PMWeb email inbox repository. In addition, it also allows creating hyperlinks to websites where related documents or catalogues could provide additional details for this project management record.

The workflow assigned for each project management process will incorporate the different workflow steps and condition branches that are used to simulate the authorities and approval levels that depends on the values of the captured data. For example, for a change order that has a value that exceeds US$ 100,000 and time impact of 10 days might require different approval levels of a change order that has a value that is less the US$ 100,000 and less than 10 days of time extension. It no wonder that some processes like submittal review and approval could have more 50 workflow variations depending on the project phase, specification category, submittal type, compliance to what was originally specified, location of the works among many others.

The real-time BIG DATA that will be generated from the every-day project management processes will become available for the organization and the authorized project team members in different forms and formats. Tabular and graphical reports can be designed to provide the needed analysis and information to provide the right meaning to what has happened on the project. Those reports can be designed to filter the data to be reported on as well as create measures that are based on the input of the different data captured in a specific process or group of processes. The information can be limited to a single project or portfolio of projects.

Data Visualization to monitor, evaluate, analyze and report the projects health and performance

The real-time information that a PMIS provides to the organization needs to be visualized in different form and formats to meet the organization’s team members and other stakeholders to monitor, evaluate, analyze and report projects health and performance. This is crucial to build the knowledge to provide the insight to be right when there is a need to take an action. This in turn will provide the project’s decision makers with the wisdom to make better and faster right decisions.

For example, for the project cost/commercial manager, there will be a need to have a single dashboard that captures details of the approved project budget, awarded contracts, potential change orders, approved change orders, disputed change orders and other claims, progress invoices for completed work in place and material stored on site, payments made against those approved invoices, project contingency and management reserve status and other cost related matters. The dashboard viewer can drilldown to view details on all pending and approved change orders using the Change Order log. The same applies to the other project information.

Similarly, the organization could have dashboards to report the performance of the project schedule, risk and issues, procurement, document management, quality assurance and control, health and safety, design development, prequalification of vendors, bids and awarded contracts among many others. The information and measures included in those dashboards will provide the content for the project dashboard which can be designed in any desired form and format. The same drilldown approach will apply where the authorized user can drilldown from the project dashboard to the desired project management stream dashboard.

The projects portfolio dashboard will be a dashboard that will summarize the information from all projects’ dashboards to present a real-time single version of the truth of all projects health and performance. The authorized team member can drilldown from this dashboard to a specific project dashboard and then drilldown to the specific project management stream dashboard. From that project stream dashboard, assuming document management, the authorized project team members can drilldown to the Request For Information (RFI) log report. This will enable the authorized project team member to select the specific RFI that he or she need more details and drilldown to that specific record. This will enable the user to review the record, attached documents and all linked records.

In conclusion, organizations who lacks the right setup to capture the right projects data, by the right team members at the right time will always have the high risk of faulty data. Managing projects is no different than managing any other type of business and actually can prove to be more challenging due to the fact that each project is unique in terms of its requirements, deliverables and those involved in delivering the project’s scope of work. Depending on MS Excel as the repository to record projects data will generate silos of projects data that not only will require considerable effort to compile, analyze and report on but also carry the high risk of data entry mistakes as well as delayed sharing of critical projects’ information.

How To Have An Integrated Project Financial Management System?

Regardless of the project investment that an organization has decided to invest in, there are best practices that had been identified by professional bodies to be implemented to reduce the risk of project cost overrun. From the project owner perspective, cost overrun means that the investment will have a lower return on investment and a longer period to recover this investment. From a contractor perspective, cost overrun means a direct loss that could impact the contractor’s cashflow and operation. Sometimes, the cost overrun could be very severe and could impact the organization’s ability to stay in business.

Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb has enabled those projects centric organization in implementing integrated project financial management at the project level to ensure that every-day events and activities that could impact the project’s financial status are captured, analyzed and reported on. A PMIS will eliminate the bad practices of using MS Excel to log project’s data not only with a practice that lacks transparency, accountability and real-time reporting but that creates data silos that prohibits having a single version of the truth on the project’s financial status.

This article details how a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb can be used to enforce the best practices of project financial management using ready-to-use out-of-the-box templates. Of course, there is always the option of adding new process using the custom form builder. Nevertheless, all those ready to user or custom forms have access to the document management repository to attach all supportive documents as well as the option of having a workflow to formalize the process for capturing, submitting, reviewing, analyzing and approving the different financial management processes.

Setting Up the Project Financial Management

To be able to have an integrated project financial system that can applied on a single project or projects across the enterprise, we need to define two important documents. The first is the Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS) or Cost Control Accounts (CA) while the second is the financial periods which are the same financial periods used at the corporate office to report the organization’s financial health.

The Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS) represents that control level that the organization wants to exert on their project’s financial performance. Similar to the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), the CBS included multiple levels to decompose the project scope and associated cost. It is highly recommended that organizations adopt the same CBS across all projects or at the least the first 3 to 4 high levels and then use lower levels to decompose the project scope further.

In addition, it is important to have standard financial periods across all projects managed in the PMIS that are aligned with other corporate financial systems that are used to capture other cost data that could have an impact on the project’s financial status.

Project Cost Estimates

Regardless of the project size or type, every project should have an estimate of the costs associated in delivering the scope of work as defined in the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and project schedule. The cost estimate will quantity the resources, manpower and others, that are needed to deliver the project scope of work. Some organizations might use their own advanced cost estimating systems to come with those cost estimates, others might use MS Excel while others might use the PMIS like PMWeb to come with this cost estimate. The most important of all, is that the cost estimate must be reviewed and analyzed before it can be improved as the project cost estimate. Further, all supportive documents such as drawings, specifications, bill of quantities among others need to be attached to the cost estimate to ensure that the basis of the cost estimate are documented and available for review whenever it is needed. In addition, all cost estimate versions need to be maintained.

Managing the Project Approved Budget

When the cost estimate is formally reviewed and approved, the organization can them proceed and generate the project budget from the cost estimate. The project budget will include in addition to the cost estimate the other costs of risk contingency, management reserve, funding and financing cost, corporate overhead contribution, profit allowance, price of the land in the case of a project owner among others. All versions of the project budget need to be maintained although only one budget version can be labelled as an approved budget.

An important aspect of every project budget is the spending plan for the budget against the project’s financial periods to enable the organization to allocate those funds when needed. The planned budget value or as sometimes known as the budget cost of work scheduled needs to be aligned with the approved project schedule that will detail the start and finish dates of the project’s cost accounts. The distribution of the budget over those periods can be linear, front loaded, back loaded or any other desired distribution.

All changes to the approved project budget need to be managed in a governed format. Budget changes could result in increasing or decreasing the budget as well as in transferring funds from one cost center to another within the same project or to other projects that are being managed by the organization. Workflows need to be assigned to those budget changes to ensure that the necessary approvals are secured before this change can take place.

This will provide the organization with a single report that provides real-time status of the project budget performance that is based on the real-time data captured in the project budget and budget request modules. The layout and format of this report can be designed in any desired format to provide the needed information and knowledge for the project’s team member.

Determining the Desired Project Revenue

Now the organization needs to verify the project’s expected revenue or income will justify the project investment as detailed in the approved project budget. For a project owner, the revenue will be generated from selling the completed products of the project whereas for the contractor, the revenue will be the bid price that will be assigned to each item in the Bill of Quantity or Schedule of Values. Similar to all other out-of-the-box modules of PMWeb, the Contract or Revenue module of PMWeb will be used to capture the details of the expected revenue along with all supportive documents. In addition, a workflow can be assigned to the contract to formalize the review, analysis and approval of the document. All payment terms and conditions including provisions for taxes and other adjustments will be captured and become part of the agreement.

All changes to approved contract will be captured in the change order module to detail why this change has occurred, who has requested this change and by whom it was approved. All supportive documents will be attached to the change record similar to other PMWeb records.

The actual earned revenue for which in the case of the contractor this will be the monthly progress invoice submitted for approved work in place and materials on site whereas for the project owner this will be the actual sales or lease of project’s completed products. Workflows can assigned to enforce transparency and accountability in submitting, reviewing and approving those records in accordance with the project’s responsibility assignment matrix.

With the project budget and revenue captured on the same PMWeb platform, the organization can run different business intelligence reports to analyze the attractiveness of the project investment and the recovery of the investment.

Committing Actual Project Costs

Up to this point, the organization still did not commit to start spending the approved project budget. For the project owner, this will commence when the successful contractors, consultants, vendors among others are awarded their relevant contracts. Similarly, for the contractor the spending will commence when the contractor starts deploying the resources, awarding subcontract and material supply agreements among others. Of course, there are other expenses that could be incurred by project owners and contractors from sources other than the signed contract agreements like permits and other expenses. Those commitments are the awarded contracts that the organization has selected from the different offers received either using online bidding or the traditional approach of physical bid submissions.

The commitment contract will include the details of the bill of quantity or schedule of values line items. It will also include the contract agreement terms and conditions such as retention, advance payment, taxes among others.

Similar the project budget, the organization needs to ensure that the anticipated commitment spending is aligned with the approved budget spending otherwise there were will be either a shortfall in making payments for approved work in place or funds sitting idle that could deprive using it on other projects that is more needed. The distribution needs to be aligned with the project approved schedule and the method those funds will be spent.

With this additional project’s data becoming available, more reports can be generated to report on the commercial and technical analysis of the different bids received by the organization, comparing planned budget spending with anticipated commitment spending among many others. The Business Intelligence (BI) reports depends on what matters most for an organization or a project team member when it comes to having the needed information and knowledge to manage the project’s financial performance.

Managing Project Changes

No project will ever be delivered without a change that could be attributed to many reasons. Most of those changes could have an impact on the project cost and schedule for which an adjustment to the contract would be needed. Depending on the organization’s change management practices, different processes could be needed to manage those changes. Nevertheless, the minimum change management processes that an organization need to adopt at the processes of Anticipated Changes or Anticipated Variations and Change Orders or Variation Orders.

Similar to other PMWeb processes, PMWeb anticipated variation and variation order will be used to manage all changes that could affect the project. They will be used to capture the cost and schedule impact of each change. All supportive documents will be attached to those records and workflows will be used to formalize the submission, review, analyze and approve or reject those changes. In addition, other PMWeb records like Request for Information, Occurrence Report, Daily Report, Meeting Minutes among others need to be linked to the change order.

Tabular and graphical reports will be created to analyze the impact of changes on the project’s financial status as well as to analyze reasons for those changes and growth trends. Since the project’s data from other processes are all on the PMWeb platform, the organization can perform analysis to identify if there is correlation or trend worth to consider and study for why changes happened on their projects.

Managing Project Actual Cost

The actual cost will be incurred from progress invoices made against approved work in place and material on site for each awarded contract. Those invoices will usually be submitted at the end of each project financial period. Those invoices will be subject formal review and analysis before they are approved for payment. PMWeb progress invoice module will be used to capture this data.

In addition, actual cost could also result from miscellaneous invoices for permits, transportation, facilities, lease of warehouses among many others. All those expenses will be captured using PMWeb miscellaneous invoices module. In addition, actual cost could result from the organization’ own resources spent on the project which are captured using PMWeb timesheet module. Those resources could be manpower, equipment among others. The timesheet module allows specifying if those hours were spent during normal working hours, overtime or over weekends.

With the actual cost data being captured along with the planned cost, the organization can run meaningful and trust worthy project financial performance reporting using the best practice of Earned Value Management. Cost and Schedule Variance metrics and Cost and Schedule Performance Indices will be used to provide real-time single version of the truth status of the project financial performance.

Consolidating the Project Financial Performance

PMWeb cost ledger captures the details of the different financial-related transactions listed above in a single table to allow the organization to present this consolidated information in any desired format using the Cost Worksheet. This module which looks like a MS Excel spreadsheet, but it is not, allows the organization to select the cost data fields to be displayed, add new fields along with formulas to calculate the value of those new fields, filter reported data by status (approved or pending) and time periods that are related to. The organization can create different layouts to fulfill the different reporting needs but with the content all based on the real-time data captured in PMWeb by the different financial management processes. Those cost worksheets can be saved as MS Excel file if needed.

The same data will also be available to graphical reports that will summarize the project’s financial status and provide the organization with a visualization of how the project is performing from a financial perspective. The layout and content could vary from one organization to another but they are all based on the real-time data captured in PMWeb.

Of course, this financial performance data will become part of the overall project performance reporting which could provide performance details of project schedule, risk, issues, safety, quality, document management among many others.

Since PMWeb is an enterprise solution that allows capturing the performance of the complete projects portfolio of an organization, the data captured for each project will become part of the projects portfolio performance dashboard for which the organization’s executives and top management will use to understand how their projects are performing. PMWeb dashboard drilldown approach allows those executives to drilldown to the project dashboard, then to the financial status dashboard then to the specific financial data log, for example the variations log, and then drilldown to the specific variation order record to review including who was involved in the approval or rejection process as well as review all attached documents, linked other related PMWeb records and imported email communications that have influenced this change order record.

Conclusion

In conclusion, no projects centric organization can afford not having an integrated project financial system. Organizations who continue to use MS Excel to log those records are not only losing the real-time aspect of reporting information but increasing the high risk or wrong or incomplete data capturing as well as promote the lack of transparency and accountability in reporting the project’s financial status. Those organizations will store their valuable financial data in data silos that will take effort to compile and consolidate at a project level as well as at enterprise level.

The financial data captured in PMWeb will provide the organization with real-time single version of the truth on the project’s financial status. For those organization who use ERP and other accounting systems to capture some of the data captured in PMWeb, can either integrate PMWeb with their ERP application or simply extract, associate and blend the data from both PMWeb and ERP application to reconcile and report on the project’s financial status.

How Can Technology Improve Project Risk Management?

For those who are involved in delivering engineering and construction projects, regardless of their type, size, location among others, understand that they need to make many assumptions to address the many unknowns that could impact the project schedule, cost among other project objectives. By definition, a risk is the possibility of a problem that has not occurred yet, and if it occurs it would have a negative impact on a project budget, schedule and scope.

Managing Projects Risks

To enforce professional project risk management practice, an organization needs to formalize the processes of risk identification, assessment, response and control. PMWeb Project Management Information System provides a single web-enabled platform to manage all project related processes including those of project risk management and other related processes like project issue management and project change management.

Similar to other type of project management related processes, risk management process requires having an input document template to capture the data needed to manage the risk particulars. The level of detail of risk-related data to be captured differ from one organization to another differ. Therefore, PMWeb custom form builder will be used to design the Risk Form that is specific to meet each organization needs. The form below is an example of a basic risk input form. The risk form should include as a minimum the likelihood and impact of the risk before taking any risk mitigation actions (pre-mitigation) and the likelihood and impact after risk mitigation (post-mitigation). This will provide the risk score values.

Of course, the output risk form can be designed differently to take into account the risk identification, analysis and assessment results in the desired output format. This format could differ depending on the project life cycle stage, risk type and project that the risk relates to. Nevertheless, what is important to maintain is that the same data fields are used across all projects. This is critical when it comes to analyzing, monitoring, evaluating and reporting project risks across a program, portfolio of projects or the enterprise.

For ensuring that the right data for the risk identification, analysis, assessment and response is provided by the right project team members at the right time, workflows need to be created to formalize the risk management process. PMWeb workflow will be used to map those steps as identified in the project risk management plan and the sequence to be followed in completing risk identification, analysis, assessment and response actions.

For each step, the actions that need to be taken by each reviewer will be identified. Those will also include the duration allowed for each step, description of what needs to be done, what will happen if it needs to be returned, options available for the step owner and notifications rules.

PMWeb workflow also allows incorporating conditions in the workflow that could for example depends on the risk type, risk likelihood, risk impact, risk response among others. When those conditions are incorporated in the workflow, PMWeb will allow creating branches and decision points that will affect how the risk management process will behave to comply with the authorities and approval levels assigned to each project role.

During the different steps of the risk management process, the project team members involved in this process might find it necessary to upload and attach project and other related documents. For example, this could include specification sections, drawings, progress photographs, weather conditions for the past years, contract agreements, insurance documents among others. Those documents will be uploaded into PMWeb document management repository where they can become available to be attached to the risk form.

In addition, PMWeb allows linking the Risk Form to other PMWeb records like the project schedule, cost estimate, budget, awarded contract among others. This will enable the reviewer to launch that record and review the details. PMWeb also allows linking the Risk Form to websites like the Meteorology and Seismology website of a specific country where the project being executed.

The risk data captured by PMWeb will become the basis for creating the real-time risk register which can be designed in any desired format. The risk register will provide details of each risk along with pre-mitigation and post-mitigation risk scores along with the approved risk mitigation actions. In addition, the risk register data can be saved in MS Excel file format to enable the organization to conduct advanced qualitative and quantitative risks analysis using Business Intelligence and Monte Carlo simulation software applications to run the needed risk analysis.

In addition, using PMWeb Business Intelligence (BI) reporting tool, the organization can create dashboards to analyze risks and the impact of those risks on projects objectives across all projects. The enterprise risk management dashboard can be designed in any desired format to provide the organization with the knowledge and trends needs to better manage their projects risks.

In conclusion, although many organizations are now more conscious about the need to manage their projects’ risks, nevertheless, the majority continue to use MS Excel or risk logs provided as part of project planning and scheduling software applications. Although, this is far better of not having a risk register in place, nevertheless, it lacks enforcing transparency and accountability when it comes to risk identification, analysis, assessment and response due to the absence of having a formal risk management process. A process that requires a document template, workflow and access to supportive documents. In addition, capturing the risk register in multiple data silos, not only prohibits the organization from analyzing risks across programs and projects but also wastes the knowledge gained from identifying, analyzing, analyzing and responding to risks. Further, risks cannot be managed in isolation of other project management process such as cost management, schedule management, communication management, procurement management among others. Finally, project risk management needs to be closely associated with the project issues management which are the risks that have actually occurred and project change management which quantifies the actual impact of those risks that have actually occurred.

Why Daily Reports Are a Must for Assessing Productivity Rates on Construction Projects?

One of the key challenges that faces contractors and other organizations who are responsible for delivering projects is how to determine the actual resource productivity rates. Using time attendance systems including timesheets, RIFD and other advanced technologies are good for assessing the actual total resource hours spent on the project but they all fall short from accessing the actual resource hours spent against completing specific project scope elements which is needed for assessing the actual resources productivity rates.

Daily Reports which is a must requirement on all construction projects can provide a quick and robust solution for this challenge. Along with adopting professional project management practices and using applications like Oracle Primavera P6 and PMWeb PMIS, organizations can implement effective project control system that address the resources productivity analysis and reporting needs.

Defining the Control Accounts Needed to Deliver the Project Scope of Work

For a construction project and prior for developing the cost estimate and project plan, the project scope of work needs to be well defined using the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). In addition, the responsibility for delivering this scope needs also to be determined using the Organization Breakdown Structure (OBS). The intersection of the WBS and OBS will identify the control accounts for which the project’s resources, cost and schedule will be estimated, planned, monitored and controlled.

The control accounts are usually the cost accounts that will be used across the project to have a common definition of the level of control to be performed on the project. The cost account will consist of multiple levels to map the level of detail the organizations wants to have their projects controlled at. In addition, the cost account number will be the same cost account number will be used in Oracle Primavera P6, PMWeb PMIS and other applications used by the organization in controlling project’s resources and expenses.

Planning the Resource Hours Needed to Deliver the Project Scope of Work

It is very common in construction projects to have the planned resource usage for delivering the project done in Oracle Primavera P6 where the schedule activities will be loaded by the labor and non-labor resources needed to deliver each activity. Usually, the resource loaded schedule will be created from the cost estimate where the project work quantities, productivity rates and required resources will be estimated.

Oracle Primavera P6 will be used to create the estimated resources report which will include the following fields:

·        Cost Control Account

·        Schedule Activities included within each cost control account

·        Resources Assigned to Each Schedule Activity

·        Planned Resource Hours Estimated for Each Activity

Capturing the Estimated Resource Hours

The Oracle Primavera P6 estimated resources report will be saved as a MS Excel file and then imported to PMWeb Estimate template where it will be saved as the Baseline Estimated Resource Hours. It is recommended to attach the detailed resources report and other schedule layouts and reports, in PDF file format to the Estimate template. The template will have a pre-defined workflow that will map the steps for reviewing and approving the project’s estimated resource hours. Should there is a need to have an updated version of the estimated resource hours, then the process will be repeated to ensure that all versions are maintained and can be tracked and reported on.

Capturing Actual Resource Hours Used to Deliver the Project Scope of Work

The Daily report is a formal project document used to capture the details of completed work in place and the resources used in completing this work. It is formal because all construction contract agreements require the contractor to submit the daily report to document the work accomplished, events occurred and other details on what has occurred during that particular day. The contractor should itemize the completed work for each particular day to the level that will enable the contractor to make full use of this data to report actual progress, assess productivity rates and provide support when there is a dispute on what work was done on a particular date.

For the reported completed work on each particular day, PMWeb daily report module allows the contractor to capture the location of the work done using the Location Breakdown Structure, Company who did this work, description of work done, quantity and unit of measure for completed work and the relevant cost control code for that work. Again, those are the same cost account codes used in Oracle Primavera P6.

PMWeb daily report module also allows capturing the actual resources, labor and non-labor, hours that were used to accomplish the reported work in place. For each resource entry, the daily report will capture the schedule activity that those resource hours were spent against, the cost control account associated with resources, the achieved activity % complete and the actual resource quantity spent on that date. For the resource hours, PMWeb daily report allows capturing when the resource started and finished working, total hours and whether those hours were normal pay, overtime or weekend pay. In Summary, PMWeb Daily Report module will be used to capture the actual resources hours spent at each control account which is also known as Actual Quantity or Actual Quantity for Work Performed.

Similar to other document templates in PMWeb, a workflow will be created for the daily report to ensure that it is formally submitted by the project team member who was assigned to prepare the daily report. The daily report will be forwarded to those team members who are responsible for reviewing and approving the content of the daily report before it is transmitted to the project owner’s authorized agent.

Of course, the PMWeb daily report is not limited for capturing the completed work and actual resource hours spent, but also include all other requirements of a daily report such as weather conditions, progress photographs which can be attached to reported completed work, checklists to confirm quality of delivered work among others. The daily report output format can be designed in any desired format to meet the project’s daily report reporting requirements.

Nevertheless, the most important aspect of the daily report is that it is a formal project document that needs to be transmitted on daily basis to the project owner’s authorized agent. A PMWeb Transmittal will be generated from the daily report to ensure that it complies with the project’s communication requirement in terms who need to review and approve the report.

The importance of being a formal project document is that the same work in place and resource hours spent used in assessing the productivity rates will also be the same data to be used by the contractor in case there is a claim for disruption, lost efficiency among other claim headings that require assessment of actual resources hours spent on completing specific scope of work.

Why Using Daily Reports to Capture Actual Resource Hours and Not Timesheets

Although PMWeb Timesheet module allows capturing the actual hours spent by each resource against each cost account and schedule activity similar to what was captured in the PMWeb Daily Report module, nevertheless it lacks capturing the details of what work was accomplished during each specific day of the week. In addition, it is not a formal project document like the daily report where the contractor needs to submit to the project owner’s representative on daily basis. The hours captured in the timesheet could be good for payroll purposes or when reporting engineering tasks rather than construction tasks but for sure not for measuring resources productivity rates on a construction site.

Nevertheless, the resource hours captured in the Timesheet module could be of great value to assess the resources efficiency rate which is unlike the resource productivity rate, its purpose is to determine the total hours charged by each resource as reported by the Timesheet against the total actual hours spent by each resource in performing specific work as reported by the Daily Report.

Assessing and Reporting Resources Productivity and Efficiency Rates

The resources productivity and efficiency analysis will use the data captured in the Estimated Resource Hours module and the Daily Report module. A combined tabular report will be produced that will have the following fields:

·        Project. This is the project reference for which the reported resources data is presented.

·        Cost Account. This is the cost account used in the Estimated Resource Hours and Daily Report Modules of PMWeb as well as all other modules. It is also the same cost account number used in Oracle Primavera P6. It is a recommended best practice the projects across the organization use the same cost account number reference.

·        Task. Those are the tasks that are part of every cost account.

·        Resource. Those are the resources needed to perform each activity. It is a recommended best practice the projects across the organization use the same resources reference.

·        Budget At Completion (BAC) Hours. Those are the estimated hours for each resource to complete the activity scope of work.

·        % Complete. This is the activity % Complete as reported by the updated schedule at the end of the reported period which is usually the same as the monthly financial periods.

·        Earned Resource Hours. This represents the resource hours that should have been spent based on the reported % Complete. It is calculated by multiplying the Budget At Completion (BAC) Hours by the % Complete.

·        Actual Hours. For each task within a resource, there will be the actual resource hours spent to complete the scope of work as reported by the daily report.

·        Spent Hours. For each task within a resource, there will be the actual resource hours charged as reported by the timesheet or any other time attendance system.

·        Variance Production which will be the difference between the Earned Resource Hours and Actual Hours.

·        Variance Spent which will be the difference between the Actual Hours and Spent Hours.

·        Resource Productivity Index which will be the Earned Resource Hours divided by the Actual Hours spent in completing the same activity.

·        Resource Efficiency Index which will be the Actual Hours divided the Spent Hours.

·        Period and Year for which the reported resources data is reported at.

This report is a standard report across all projects being executed by the organization. Data can be selected for a single project or for a group of projects or all projects. The reported can be filtered by period, cost account and resource reference. It is recommended to limit using the Task filter till after a project is selected as task or activity numbers would vary from one project to another.

The same reported data can be also displayed in different graphical formats to make it easy to identify variances at project, cost account, resource and even task level. In addition, graphical reports can be created to display the variance and efficiency trends during the project duration as the data is captured at each period of the project duration. This analysis can be also done across multiple projects.

In conclusion, contractors and similar to other organizations who are involved in delivering construction projects are always faced with the challenge of having reliable resources productivity that will help them not only in coming up with better project cost estimates but also to reward productive resources. Daily Reports which are a contractual obligation to use and maintain on construction projects, can prove an effective solution to overcome those challenges.

How to Extract More Benefits from Your Construction Project Schedule?

Almost all construction projects in the GCC and Middle East region have standardized on Oracle Primavera P6 as the planning and scheduling tool. P6 provides the functions and features that enables contractors to develop detailed execution schedules that can be loaded with all type of resources as well as cost. It provides powerful resource levelling and analysis to help the contractors to better allocate and manage their resources during the project duration.

Nevertheless, for the project owner and other project executives, this detailed construction schedule is very complicated and difficult to use when it comes to reporting the project’s schedule performance. Those executives are keen on understanding how the project’s milestones are performing and reasons for their favorable or unfavorable performance. They are interested to know about project’s delays and why those delays have occurred. They are also interested to know the impact of delayed decisions and actions on the project’s milestone dates.

Formal Review and Analysis of The Project Schedule

For the project’s detailed construction schedule to become an approved document that can be used by all project’s stakeholder, it needs to be compliant with the project’s requirements. Similar to other technical submittals, a project schedule must comply with the specifications specified by the contract agreement. Section 01 32 16 Construction Progress Schedule is the specification section that sets the requirements for the Baseline, Revised and Updated project schedules. This section will detail the WBS levels, activities attributes, schedule level of detail, resources and cost loading schedules, list of milestones, among many others.

To ensure the quality and compliance of the submitted schedules with the project requirements, the project owner needs to implement a process to formalize the schedule review and analysis and assign the roles and responsibilities for this review. For example, using PMWeb Project Management Information System (PMIS), a document template will be created to include all items that need to adhered to when conducting the schedule review and analysis. The schedule review and analysis form will also have the different schedule reports like the detailed schedule report, critical activities report, resource loading charts among others attached to it. In addition, the form will include a workflow to identify the roles and responsibilities set for reviewing, analyzing and approving the schedule.

Using Project Schedule Data in Other Project Management Processes

When the project schedule is approved, PMWeb PMIS allows the organization to import the schedule data so it can be used in improving the management of other project processes. For example, the schedule activities and dates are of great value for the project owner and other stakeholders in driving actions for time-sensitive project communications like submittals (shown below) and request for information. In addition, daily reports and timesheets will be used for capturing the actual resource hours spent in performing the different schedule activities on daily basis. Further, the schedule data can be used to create schedule reports in the desired layout and format without the need for having Oracle Primavera P6.

Delay Analysis and Extension of Time Requests

You would rarely find a construction project that will not encounter events and incidents that would result in delaying the originally planned schedule activities. Sometimes, those delays could result in extending the project’s milestone and completion dates. Those time extensions could also result in entitlement for compensation for prolongation costs, lost productivity, additional resources among others. Some of those delays could be concurrent with other delays which could affect the entitlement for time extension and associated financial compensation. PMWeb PMIS custom form builder can be used to capture the data needed to perform this delay analysis.

Making Use of Captured Everyday Data in Construction Projects

Of course, the value that a PMIS like PMWeb will bring to this delay analysis is the accessibility to all project communications and documents that are needed for the delay analysis and which are captured by PMWeb. Those could include daily reports, RFI, meeting minutes, submittals, correspondence among many other default and custom created document templates. One of those interesting forms is the Occurrence Report which is a custom form created in PMWeb to ensure that all incidents and events that occur on the construction site get captured on the spot by the site engineer or field superintendent and then shared automatically with the management team using the predefined workflow. This will ensure that the right notices as set in the contract agreements are issued in a timely and correct manner.

Monitoring, Evaluating and Reporting Project Schedule Performance

The project’s detailed construction schedule needs to be updated on periodical basis and in accordance with what has been specified in the Construction Progress Schedule specification section. The updated schedule will be subject for the formal review and analysis process before it is approved. The contractor will be required to provide different type of reports including detailed schedule, past period progress, delayed activities, critical activities, near critical activities and others which will become part of the updated schedule submission.

Nevertheless, project executives and senior management will never use those reports to find out on their own on how the project’s milestones are performing and if there are delays and the reason for those delays. They would expect that the experienced project planner to prepare an executive report that will analyze and summarize the current status of each milestone with narrative description of the events that could have an impact on the milestone’s expected completion or had an impact on the actual completion date. The PMWeb Milestone Tracker report will be used by the project planner to report this information at the end of each progress period. All of the updated schedule reports will be attached to this form should the reviewer have interest in viewing those reports.

The Schedule Performance Dashboard

The information generated from the imported project schedule data, milestone tracker, delay analysis form, daily reports, timesheets, submittals, RFIs and other schedule-related documents will be presented in the schedule dashboard. The dashboard would usually include schedule related key performance indicators (KPI), scorecards, progress curves, progress pictures among others.

Dashboard Drilldown

Similar to other dashboards in PMWeb, the schedule dashboard can be part of multiple dashboards and reports for which the project team members can drilldown and rollup project information to the desired monitoring, evaluation and reporting levels. For example, the organization’s chief executive can start at the projects and programs portfolio dashboard. Should he or she decides to have more details on a specific project, then he or she will click on this project entry to drilldown to the project dashboard. Assuming that the executive is interested to know more on the project’s schedule performance, he or she will click on the schedule tile. This will display the schedule dashboard for which the executive will be able to have a completed understanding of the project schedule performance and all matters that could have an impact on the project’s milestone dates. From this dashboard, the executive can drilldown to the project’s schedule, delays log, earned value curve, delayed submittals and other project communications that could impact the schedule among others.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Oracle Primavera P6 and similar to other planning and scheduling tools can provide great information and knowledge on the project schedule, resources requirements, schedule performance among many others. Using a PMIS like PMWeb along with the organization planning and schedule tool will help in extracting more benefits from the project’s schedule. PMWeb will help in formalizing the many schedule related processes that project planners need to perform. Those could include schedule review and analysis, delay analysis, extension of time requests among others. In addition, the imported schedule data can help better managing time-sensitive documents by identifying the tasks that they could delay if approval is not granted in a timely manner. In addition, it allows analyzing the actual productivity rates as reported by the daily reports and linked to the project schedule. Further, it provides project executives with an easier yet effective and reliable format for monitoring and evaluating the project’s schedule performance.