How Can Technology Improve Reporting Safety and Accidents on Construction Projects?

Today, most construction contract agreements and country regulations, have a legal requirement to injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences that might occur on the construction site. Those regulations require the responsible project party to notify and keep records of specified workplace incidents. This includes certain workplace accidents, occupational diseases and certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ (including near miss accidents).

The responsible party must maintain accurate records of any safety incidents. The records must include details regarding the incident or disease, personal details of the individual(s) involved, time and place of the event and the date and method of reporting.

Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb which comes ready with the Safety Incident module, all those reporting requirements can be fulfilled. Starting with capturing the general particulars of the safety incident like project name, phase, WBS level, record ID, description, submitted by, incident date and time, report date and time, company, incident type, incident category and weather conditions. In case there a need to add more attributes to the safety incident, then user defined fields can be created with the option of having predefined list of values to select from.

Nevertheless, what is more important to report is the detail the Describe the “Work Activity in Progress at the Time of the Accident” and “Describe the Incident”. In addition, the form provides sections to capture the details of the “People Involved”, “Causes” and “Witnesses”. Much of those details will be available in a predefined list of values to ease and expedite the completion of the form correctly.

Since most organization would either have their corporate or project Health, Safety and Environment manual as well as Safety Manuals provided by the local authorities, PMWeb has a feature to capture all these clauses and make them available to be dragged and dropped on the reported safety incident that has relevance to those clauses.

Similar to other PMWeb modules, text notes be added to the reported safety incident. All those notes will be time and date stamped along with the name who have issued the text note. Those notes could be added by the different project team members who are involved in reviewing and approving safety incidents that could occur on the project site.

PMWeb attachment option when PMWeb is assessed from a mobile device that has a camera like iPad allows the safety officer to capture, upload, store and attach pictures and videos that are relevant to the reported safety incident. This provides the organization with complete and comprehensive documentation of the safety incident. In addition, the attachment tab allows linking other PMWeb records that could be relevant to the safety incident. Those could be for example the safety meeting, hot permit, site permit among others. Of course, documents such as the police, hospital, civil defense and other relevant documents can be uploaded the document management repository and attached to the safety incident report.

The PMWeb workflow module will enable the organization to formally share the safety incident with all project stakeholders that need to be made aware of safety incidents that could occur on a project site. The PMWeb workflow allows to map those steps in the desired sequence as well as impose conditions and workflow branches depending on the type of accident and its degree of severity. For example, the workflow could include the project manager, project owner, head office HSE manager, insurance officer among others.

Since safety incidents is considered as one of the formal project communications and there could be a need to formally share the details with entities that are not part of the project, there will be a need to print the safety incident in the format required by the project management team. Using PMWeb report writer, the form and layout of the safety incident can be designed in the desired format.

The log and register of reported safety incidents can be also designed in the desired format. The organization can develop different logs to provide real-time reporting of all safety incidents. The report can be designed to group data in the desired format as well as show the needed details and ordering the captured data in the desired preference. The reported safety incidents can be filtered to display the data for a specific project, type of accident, severity among others.

Of course, for an organization who is serious about enforcing project safety management best practices, safety incident is only one of the processes that must be adopted on each project site. Safety management requires implementing other processes including safety meetings, hot work permits, job safety analysis, material exit and material entry passes, safety checklists among others. Some of the processes like safety meetings are available as PMWeb default module while the PMWeb custom form builder will be used for the other forms that are not readily available in PMWeb.

The great benefit of capturing safety incidents and other related HSE processes across the organization’s projects portfolio is the trust-worthy real-time data that will become available for the organization to monitor, evaluate and report on the HSE performance for a single project or across selected projects or the complete projects portfolio. The real-time information will provide the organization with the insight to make better and faster decision as it relate to HSE.

Formalizing the Acceptance of Project’s Milestones Using Punch Lists

One of the growing trend in delivering construction projects is to establish milestone dates for which parts of the project’s scope of work will be formally handed over to the project owner and accepted. Those milestone dates will be part of the project’s contract agreement and will be linked to the project’s detailed execution schedule. For some projects, there could be a weight factor assigned for each milestone date where the total weight of all milestones should be 100%.

The list below is an example of possible milestones that a building construction project could have.

·        Issued building and grading permits

·        Completed site work

·        Completed foundation

·        Completed carpentry

·        Installed HVAC

·        Completed plumbing rough-in

·        Completed electrical rough-in

·        Installed roofing

·        Finished exterior

·        Finished paint

·        Finished flooring

·        Finished trim

·        Completed landscaping

·        Final hardware installation

·        Completed inspections

·        Completed walk through

·        Completed punch list

·        Finished cleaning

·        Completed final walk through

·        Moved in

To formalize the acceptance of the project’s scope of work associated with each milestone date, the Punch List or Snag List project management process will be used. For each milestone date, a separate Punch List will be created. Each Punch List will be used to capture the details of work items that were not completed in accordance with the project’s specifications and other technical requirements.

Adding the Punch List

Using PMWeb Project Management Information System (PMIS) out-of-the-box Punch List module, a new Punch List will be created for each Milestone Date. The header will include details of the Punch List like title, date, status, revision, revision date and WBS level. The WBS level ID is a critical field and should relate the WBS level that the Milestone Date is associated with. Should there be a need to add additional fields or attributes for the Punch List, the specification module will be used to define those fields.

Reporting Defects and Unacceptable Work in Place

The team responsible for creating the Punch List will identify all defects and unacceptable work in place that needs to be rectified by the Contractor and the Subcontractors. For each reported defect or unacceptable work, the team should identify the location of this work, description of the work to be rectified, trade responsible for rectifying the work, who have been assigned to be responsible to ensure that it will be rectified, when this was reported, reported to who and who was advised of this rectification, when it needs to be rectified, days delayed in rectifying it, actual date rectified and amount to be withheld until this work is rectified. In addition, PMWeb allows attaching a picture or video of the work to be rectified and after it has been rectified.

Formalizing the Punch List Process

PMWeb allows creating pre-defined list of tasks or items that need to be inspected and performed for each Milestone. This will ensure that there is formal and agreed upon process and list of tasks to be done for reviewing and accepting each Milestone. This will capture the organization’s knowledge and past experience in inspecting such scope of work instead of leaving it to the project team to decide on what to be inspected and performed. This approach will not only reduce the period needed for performing the Milestone Inspection but also will reduce the possible conflicts and disagreements between the parties of the contract. This approach will also reduce the chance for re-snagging for items that were missed when the first snag was done. The checklist will capture the details of those pre-defined tasks, assigned to who, skills needed, notes and if they were performed.

Identifying the Specification Sections Referred to in the Punch List

Since the Punch List needs to be aligned with the project’s technical specifications, PMWeb Punch List module allows to drag and drop all relevant specification sections that need to be used in inspecting the work in place. The specification list, contract agreement clauses and other documents sections are usually the same across all projects although they could differ on some projects. Those clauses are also used on many other PMWeb modules like RFI, Submittals, Contracts, Change Orders among many others.

Capturing Notes Made by The Different Project Team Members

PMWeb Punch List module allows the different team members to add text notes that are related to the Punch List closure. All notes made are name and time stamped to maintain a trail of all such notes. Notes are captured in rich text to allow redlining important comments, insert pictures, inset tables among others.

Attaching Drawings, Bill of Quantities and other Documents as well as Link PMWeb Records

The project team can upload drawings and other type of documents for the Punch List module. Usually, those documents will be uploaded and stored in PMWeb document management repository at the appropriate folder or folder. Of courses, documents can be uploaded directly even if they are not already stored in PMWeb. In addition, links to other PMWeb records that could be relevant to the Snag List like meeting minutes, correspondence, RFI, daily reports among others can be selected, dragged and linked to the Snag List.

Formalizing the Acceptance and Closure of Punch List

To ensure that there is a formal process for accepting the completed Punch List, PMWeb workflow will be used to map the steps and sequence for those will be involved in submitting, reviewing and approving the completed Snag List. The workflow could include conditions to incorporate the approval authorities assigned to each project role. For each step, the workflow allows setting the duration, notes and available actions to be made in addition when the submission is rejected. PMWeb allows capturing the actual dates for completing each step and notes made by the reviewer.

Informal Sharing of The Punch List

Should there is a need to share the PMWeb Punch List with other project team members including those that do not have access to the PMWeb PMIS, PMWeb Notification can be used to email the Punch List and other attachments to those recipients. PMWeb will keep log of all notifications sent for each Punch List to keep track of whom the Punch List.

Formal Submission of the Punch List

Since the Punch List is considered to be a formal project communication, the contract agreement might require submitting hard copy of the Punch List. PMWeb allows designing the hard copy Punch List in any desired format and layout to be aligned with organizations project management procedures. It is recommended that the formally submitted Punch List get signed, stamped, scanned and uploaded into PMWeb document management repository.

Punch List Reports and Logs

The data captured in each Punch List for each Milestone Date and for each project being managed by the organization can become part of tabular or graphical reports and logs. Those real-time reports will be used to report on the captured data in any desired format, grouped and order. The data can be filtered to display the needed information and records.

The captured data can be also used to run business intelligence analysis to identify trends and correlations between the data captured in the Punch List module and other modules.

How Can We Give the Engineering and Construction Industry the Transparency It Deserves?

No one can deny that the Engineering and Construction industry and in particular in the Middle East region lacks the transparency and accountability best practices adopted by other businesses. This lack of transparency and accountability results in wasted funds that cannot be recovered. Although most institutional and public sectors bodies have enforced stringent audit practices on their projects, but most of those practices are based on trying to identify what went wrong after the fact. Project management professional practices and technology can provide those institutions with proactive project audit control that can identify possible wrong doings while project execution where recovery of misused funds can still be recovered and remedial actions can be still done.

By reverse engineering the results that usually trigger an organization to audit a project, we can come with the actions and processes that could reduce the likelihood occurrence of wrong actions and doings. In other words, instead of treating the symptoms of the questioned project, we need to focus on preventing the causes that have resulted with those symptoms.

Usually a project gets subjected to audit when certain triggers occur. Those usually include going over budget, being late, large number of Request of Information (RFI), quality of completed products among others. For each one of those outcomes, the institution needs to have in place the processes to enforce capturing the actions the have could have caused this outcome.

Automating Project Management Processes

Project Management Information System like PMWeb will automate the different project management processes that are needed by the project audit team to ensure that the right data is captured by the right project team member at the right time. The PMWeb forms will ensure the quality and validity of reported data for each project management process. PMWeb comes ready with most forms needed for managing a project as well as it has a custom form builder to create any additional form for capturing data for forms that are not readily available in PMWeb.

Each project management form in PMWeb allows those involved in submitting, reviewing and approving the project management process to attach all supportive documents for the form. Usually, those documents will be uploaded in PMWeb document management repository. The document management repository allows creating folders and sub-folders to exactly map the project’s documents filing system.

The PMWeb workflow will ensure the formal involvement of all those project team members that are part of each process submit, review and approve steps in accordance with the predefined sequence and authorities assigned to each. Each project team member involved in the workflow can add his/her notes and remarks during the form review process. Workflows can include conditions and branches to map the authorities and approval levels assigned to each project team member.

This will provide the project team as well as the audit team with trust-worthy real-time logs and registers of all data captured in each project management process. Those logs and registers will become the basis for creating triggers that will be used to identify performance trends that will call for immediate project’s audit attention.

Over Budget

Projects can exceed the approved budget for many reasons starting with having the wrong cost estimate. Therefore, it is critical that the institution maintain a log of all cost estimates submitted during the project’s design development stages. The cost estimate needs to be detailed to the desired level and needs to provide all documents such as drawings and specifications used to quantify the project’s scope of work. The different cost estimates need to be formally reviewed and approved by the qualified and authorized project team members before it can be approved to create the project budget.

Understanding that projects are unique and assumptions need to be made to address the likelihood and impact of those unknowns, a risk register need to be created and maintained at all times. The risk register should also detail the response actions taken to mitigate the high exposure of those risks. The risk register will also provide the backup data needed to determine the project’s contingency and management reserve.

The approved cost estimate will become the basis for setting the project’s performance budget which needs to be maintained during the project’s execution. Any changes to the approved budget including transferring funds from one cost center to another or one project to another needs to get the needed approvals as per the predefined workflow.

The approved cost estimates will also become the basis for comparing the bids received for the different bid packages. Comparing the received bids with the approved cost estimate will help the institution to immediately identify unbalanced bids, front loaded bids or bids that had wrong prices due to lack of understanding of the project scope of work. In addition, those cost estimates will help the institution in verifying the correctness of their cost estimates.

Of course, institutions should avoid inviting unqualified contractors to bid on projects just for the sake for increasing competition. Unqualified contractors might simply bid on projects to get the advance payment to fund other projects or business requirements. Therefore, a formal prequalification process needs to be adopted by the institution to ensure that only qualified contractors are bidding on projects.

Another reason for projects to exceed their approved performance budget are change orders for either in scope or out of scope of work. Changes could happen for many reasons including but not limited to intent of documents not “reasonably inferable” and corrections required, unknown conditions necessitate changes, owner’s requirements change, changes in code or changes in interpretation of code, specified product no longer available, consider new product because of cost savings or other benefits, specified product inappropriate, estimated quantity of work for unit prices changes and revision of unattainable requirement.

In addition, the actual cost for approved work in place and materials stored at construction site needs to monitored and controlled to avoid payments for rejected work or work that is not yet approved. This will also include payment for all material supplies, professional services and other miscellaneous expenses.

The data captured by PMWeb will provide the project audit team with real-time dashboards that can trigger alerts for the team to review, analyze and drilldown to the data source that have resulted in this alert. The audit team can also design that helps in better visualizing and analyzing the captured data in any desired format. Those dashboards can be specific to a single project, portfolio of projects or all projects.

Schedule Delays

In engineering and construction projects, the project’s execution schedule will usually get developed by the general contractor. Before using those schedules to monitor, evaluate and report the project’s schedule performance, the project owner and his authorized representative needs to have a formal process for reviewing the project’s baseline schedule and all subsequent updates to ensure the validity, achievability and comprehensiveness of the schedule. The formal schedule review and analysis checklist needs to be address items that relate to contract compliance, general schedule submission, submittal and procurement, activity duration, float, calendar, activity codes, logic, critical path, good schedule practices and resources requirement.

The institution needs to have the approved baseline schedule and all subsequent schedule updates captured in an electronic format to enable creating variance reports to identify schedule slippage and to report the reasons that caused this slippage. The schedule data can also provide great value in running delay analysis using the time impact technique. In addition, this data can become part of other reports used to monitor, evaluate and report the project’s performance.

All project delays, critical or non-critical, excusable or not, with compensation or without compensation as well concurrent delays needs to be formally captured. For each delay event, the institution needs to ensure that complete delay analysis have been performed. All support documents including daily reports, correspondence, meeting minutes, schedule updates among others need to be attached to the delay event form.

Some of the project delays that could be claimed by contractors could be related to the delayed approvals of material samples and workshop drawings. It is therefore very critical that each project should have detailed submittal log that is integrated with the construction schedule to ensure that all submittals are reviewed and approved before affecting critical activities. The submittal log will also detail the reasons for delayed submittal approvals which could many attributed to the contractors when failing the submit the contract specified materials and equipment.

For delay events that could involve having idle resources or impacting the resources productivity rates, it is important to use the daily reports submitted by the contractors to identify the actual manhours spent by labor and non-labor resources on those periods. The daily report will also include details of work accomplished during the same period as well as the weather conditions which could have impacted to work on site.

The data captured by PMWeb for the different project schedules, delay events, delayed approvals, actual manhours among others can provide the project audit team with great insight in determining the reasons for project’s delays and the project party responsible for those delays. In addition, the manhours captured in daily reports will become the basis for determining labor productivity rates and determining the extent of inefficiencies that the project have encountered.

Excessive Request for Information (RFI)

RFI are usually the result of incomplete contract documents, inconsistency or conflict between more parts of contract documents, insufficient amount of detail to determine design intent, inability for contractor to provide specified product or system, unforeseen site conditions encountered among others. RFI could be used by contractors as the reason for initiating change orders. In addition, failing to respond to RFIs in a timely manner could give the contractor the excuse to request for time extensions.

Some of the RFIs could result in having the need to issue revised drawings to rectify the design mistakes or provide the needed clarifications. Therefore, it is important to maintain a log of all contract documents including drawings for which the log will detail all revisions issued to supersede the earlier versions. Of course, the drawing or any other contract document that has been revised needs to be uploaded into the document management repository and attached to the appropriate version reference.

The data captured in the RFI module will provide the project audit team with great wealth of information that can be used to analyze those RFIs including the reason for issuing the RFIs, the time it took to respond to those RFIs and whether those RFIs have resulted in additional cost or delay to the project’s milestone dates.

The same approach can be implemented to other project management processes that are essential for providing the data needed for the project audit. Those could include for example inspection forms, non-conformance reports, snag lists, project handover documents, safety incidents among others.

Improving the Management of RFIs in Engineering & Construction Projects

Rarely an engineering and construction project is ever delivered that did not have Request for Information (RFI) issued by the contractor, subcontractor or suppliers who are responsible for delivering the project.

In most Construction Documents (agreement, drawings and specifications), developed by the Engineer, it is inevitable that those documents will not adequately address every single matter. There may be gaps, conflicts, or subtle ambiguities. The goal of the Request for Information (RFI) is to act as the project communication management process to resolve these gaps, conflicts, or subtle ambiguities during the bidding process or early in the construction process to eliminate the need for costly corrective measures. Should the response to the RFI lead to additional work that represents added cost or delays to the project’s scope of work, then this could lead for a change order request by the contractor.

The Effective Management of the RFI process

Similar to all other project management processes, managing the Request for Information (RFI), or Request for Interpretation or Request for Clarification, process requires have a document template to be used by the project parties to raise the RFI query and receive the answer for this query. In addition, there should be a documented workflow to enforce the process for submitting, reviewing and responding to the RFI in accordance with the contract agreement and project execution plan. The details of those RFIs will be then logged in a register to provide the status of submitted, responded and pending RFIs. The Construction Specification Institute (CSI) have developed document templates for more construction management processes including Request for Information as shown below.

How Can Technology Improve the RFI Process?

Using PMWeb RFI Module, organizations not only can automate the RFI management process but actually capture the data that is part of each RFI to enable the organization the analyze this data to identify trends associated with the reasons for those RFIs, effectiveness in responding to RFIs, time and cost impact resulting from those RFIs among others.

To start with, the PMWeb RFI Form provides the organization with the capability to add the following general details for each RFI:

·        Project

·        Phase (Design, Tender, Construction)

·        WBS Level same used in the Schedule, Budget, Contract Agreement and other Project Management Processes

·        RFI Reference ID

·        RFI Subject or Description

·        Reference

·        Status (New, Pending, Closed, etc.)

·        Revision and Revision Date

·        RFI Date

·        From and To

·        Trade (Substructure, Superstructure, etc.)

·        CSI Specification Section 5 or 6 Digits

·        Category (Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, etc.)

·        Priority (High, Normal, Low)

RFI Query and Response

In addition, each RFI needs to have fields for the query or clarification, proposed solution by the issuer or other, and the response or answer to close the RFI. Should the RFI response has an impact on the project’s scope of work, cost and/or schedule, then this needs to be highlighted. For the schedule, the project schedule activity that could be impacted by this RFI response needs to be provided. In addition, should the RFI has relation with other project management processes, then the relevant documents need to be linked to the RFI to provide those involved in responding to the RFI with the complete details on the RFI.

The RFI Attributes

It is highly recommended to provide additional details on submitted RFIs to improve the management of RFI process and also to provide the context to analyze those RFIs to identify the different trends needed to improve the management of RFIs. For example, it is highly recommended to add the following additional data fields for the RFI template:

·        Reason

o  Substitution/Construction Modification

o  Clarification or Additional Information

o  Construction Deficiency

o  Construction Document Deficiency

·        Building

·        Level

·        Room

PMWeb allows the organization to add all these additional fields with a pre-defined list of value to speed data input while ensuring data consistency. Those will be added at the specification tab of the RFI.

The RFI Specification Reference

As almost all RFIs are raised against what was included in Contract Documents, it is a recommended practice to require the issuer of the RFI, to include the relevant technical specification section or sections that are related to the RFI. PMWeb Clauses tab allows the organization to add all technical specification sections and then drag and drop the relevant specification section to the RFI template. The same approach could be also done for the contract agreement clauses that have relation or could impact the issued RFI.

Attach All Supportive Documents

The RFI should have all drawings, specification sections, contract agreements, bill of quantity, pictures, videos and all other supportive documents attached to the RFI submission. Although those can be uploaded directly into the RFI, it is recommended that all those documents be uploaded first to PMWeb document management repository and then attach those the RFI. In addition, PMWeb linking project related emails that were imported to PMWeb to the relevant RFI. In addition, hyperlinks to external websites like those for seismic activities, building codes among others.

Submitting, Reviewing and Responding To RFI

PMWeb Workflow will detail the different roles involved in submitting, reviewing and responding to RFIs. What is important in PMWeb workflow is that all possible workflow scenarios can be mapped using the conditional workflow rules and branches. Those rules could be specific to the RFI category, CSI specification section, location, WBS level, reason, impact on scope, cost, schedule among other RFI attributes or fields. This will ensure that the RFI will be properly distributed and circulated among those who are part of the pre-defined RFI management process.

Should there be a need to involve a project stakeholder that is not part of the pre-defined workflow or a stakeholder that is not part of the PMWeb authorized users, PMWeb notification module can be used to email the RFI and other forms and reports to be reviewed by those recipients.

Integrating RFI with Change Events

Should the response to the RFI result in additional cost or delays to the project milestone dates, then PMWeb allows the authorized user to generate a Change Event that will be used to capture the impact of this RFI on the project budget as well as the awarded contracts. This will then become the basis for issued the project change order. This will enable the organization to track the RFIs that could have resulted in increasing the project cost or delaying the project completion date.

Formal RFI Submission and Single Version Of The Truth Reporting on RFI Status

In most countries in the MENA region, contract agreement and local legal requirements makes a must that all RFIs and similar to other formal project’s communications need to be printed, signed and submitted. PMWeb allows the organization to design the output in any desired formal for which the content will be automatically extracted from the RFI input form.

Of course, real-time RFI log and registers can be design in any form and format. The RFI Log could be grouped by reason, status, location among others. Similarly, the data can be sorted by those fields or RFI data or priority level. In addition, logs can be designed to filter reported RFIs by the same codes or any other possible fields.

The RFI performance data can also become part of the real-time project performance dashboard where the status of change orders, progress invoices, submittals, non-conformance notices, safety incidents, milestone dates among others will be reported on along with the RFI data.

Analyzing RFI Management Process

The knowledge wealth that an organization could have from capturing projects BIG DATA in a trust-worthy format can be prove to be of great value. Since PMWeb is designed to capture data from unlimited number of projects whether they are active or completed, the organization can use this data to analyze and identify trends on RFI growth patter, RFI issued by contractor, RFI issued on projects designed by specific consultant, RFI that resulted in change orders, RFI by reason, RFI by specification section, RFI by location among others. Of course, this data value can be grow exponentially when it is combined with other data captured from the other project management processes automated in PMWeb.

Improving Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability in Managing Project Transmittals

In Engineering and Construction projects, Transmittal is one of the most used formal communication method among the project parties. Transmittal is a kind of “packing slip” for a document or collection of documents that are used to formally dispatch technical documents from one project party to the other. The transmittal is the front page that contains details of the documents that are sent along with the needed action on those documents.

What Transmittal is Used For?

There are many uses for transmittals but they are mainly used for

·        The issue of drawings, meeting minutes, letters and other documents by the Engineering Consultant, Project Management Consultant or the Owner to the contractor for the purposes of procuring the work or items specified on the document.

·        The issue of drawings, project schedules, letters and other documents by the Contractor to the Engineering Consultant, Project Management Consultant or the Owner, for which approval is sought.

·        The return of these documents indicating their suitability making comments or markups as required, but including a “Status”. The status could be approved, approved as noted, approved as noted resubmit, rejected or for information.

What is Being Transmitted?

The transmittal could include hard copies of the documents being transmitted and/or soft copies of those documents. Those could be the original documents or copies of those documents. In addition, in most projects, contract agreements require submitting three or four sets of the hard and soft copies.

Why is Being Transmitted?

Transmittals are made to fulfil contractual obligations set by the contract documents that the project parties need to comply with. Therefore, the transmittal needs to identify the reason for why the transmittal is made which could include:

·        As Requested

·        For Information

·        For Record

·        For Approval

·        For Review and Comment

·        For Your Use

What Actions Are Needed?

When a transmittal is made, the party who issued the transmittal is expecting an action from the party the transmittal made to. Those actions usually include:

·        Approved

·        Approved As Noted

·        Approved As Submitted

·        Resubmit

What A Transmittal Should Include?

Usually a transmittal will include details on

·        Date of the sending.

·        Name details of sender/company and recipient/company.

·        Project name, number, and other references to the project

·        WBS level for the project scope of work the transmittal covers

·        Subject or description of the transmittal

·        Actions to be taken by recipient

·        Deadline or Due Date for those actions

·        Transmittal status

·        List of documents sent

Transmittals for Technical Submittals

In addition, for transmittals that are made to fulfil the project’s technical submittal requirements, additional details need to be added to cover

·        Specification section reference

·        Submittal documents type, for example, product data, test reports, design data, material sample, shop drawings, catalogue, manuals, certificates among others.

As a best practice, it is not allowed to bind together separate submittals from different specification sections. In addition, transmittals should only include submittals that are not deviating from what was specified in the contract documents. Should there be a deviation, then a separate document template form needs to be used for those transmittals.

In addition, it is recommended to add a “Contractor Certification” for those technical submittal transmittals. The certification statement will usually state that the contractor has formally verified that all material or equipment contained in the submittal meets all the requirements specified with no exceptions.

How Can Technology Improve the Managing of Transmittals?

Projects can often involve hundreds of transmittals per month. Failing to manage Transmittals could result in delays that could have drastic impact on the project’s milestone dates. Transmittal is a critical project management process where the project team members must have rapid and correct identification of who has seen specific documents or drawings, what version they saw, when they saw it, and what response they issued.

PMWeb Project Management Information System is used to automate and control project’s transmittals. The out-of-the-box transmittal module will be used to capture the transmittal data, attach or link the transmittal documents, automate the transmittal review process, monitor, evaluate and report on the transmittal process among others.

The Transmittal Form

The PMWeb transmittal form comes ready with most of the fields that are usually needed for Transmittal Forms. In addition, PMWeb comes ready with the option of adding custom user defined fields to capture additional data that the default transmittal form does not have. Of course, there is also the option of creating the organization’s own transmittal although this is rarely needed.

Adding the Documents to Be Transmitted

Although PMWeb provides the option to generate transmittals from other PMWeb records like meeting minutes, submittals, drawings among others, nevertheless, we are assuming that the organization will use the Transmittal module to initial all transmittals Accordingly, when selecting the option to add documents, PMWeb provides the option to add those from scratch or add those by linking the relevant PMWeb record to the transmittal. For example, the contractor could be using PMWeb Drawings List module to maintain the register for all shop drawing and as-built drawings that need to be transmitted for approval. The link command will allow the transmittal issuer to drag and drop those drawings on the transmittal form. The same also applies when there is a submittal set that is ready to be transmitted.

Should the Transmittal initiator selected the option to add those documents from scratch, then again there are a number of option to attach the documents being transmitted. Those documents could be already uploaded and stored on PMWeb document management repository, or still need to uploaded, or need to provide the hyperlink on where those documents are located.

Aligning Contract Clauses and Technical Specifications with What Is Being Transmitted

PMWeb comes ready with the option to capture all contract agreement clauses and technical specifications in a module called clauses. This enables the Transmittal Issuer to add those clauses and technical specifications to the transmittal. This will ease and expedite the Transmittal review process as the review team can review and verify the transmittal compliance with the contract documents.

Transmittal Checklists

Another best practice for expediting the process of reviewing and approving what is being transmitted is to have an agreement among the parties of the contract of what to be checked against each type of documents being transmitted. Those checklists will be based on the organization’s past experience in delivering similar projects as well as the requirements of the project being delivered. The transmittal issuer needs to drag and drop the checklist that is relevant to what is being transmitted.

Adding Text Notes

In addition, all text notes and remarks that are usually added by the project team members to the transmittal document 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.

Automating the Transmittal Review Process

The transmittal responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) is an important document for enabling governance when it comes to transmittal review and approval. Since transmittals can be used to transmit different type of project documents and records, the team involved in reviewing and approving what is being transmitted. Sometimes there is the requirement of joint review of those documents or review to be done in a specific sequence. The authority for approving or rejecting a transmittal could be affected if the transmittal could have implications on the project scope and objectives. Further, the team involved in the transmittal review and approve process could change due to the unavailability of those were originally assigned to the review and approve resource due to vacations or being replaced. Adopting a manual process for the transmittal submission, review and approve process not only carries the inefficiencies of delayed transmittals circulation but also carries the high risk of not involving the right reviewers in the process.

PMWeb workflow module allows the organization to capture all those workflows including the conditional branches, time allotted for each reviewer, conditions for approving the transmittal when multiple reviewers assigned to the same step, what will happen when a transmittal is rejected, who replaces who in case the original reviewer is not available among others. All comments made by the reviewers during the review process gets captured and documented.

Sharing the Transmittal with Others

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

Formal Transmittal Submission

If the organization wants to generate the transmittal and print it to be sent along with the documents and communications being transmittal, then the transmittal issuer can print the transmittal form. The form can be designed in any shape or format to match the organization branding and relevant project management processes.

Monitoring, Evaluating and Reporting on Transmittal Status

The data captured from each transmittal 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 transmittals. The report can group and order data in any desired format as well as include filters to select the needed transmittals to be reported on. The user can drilldown to the source transmittal if a link was created in the report.

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.