For those involved in engineering and construction projects, regardless of being the project owner, project management consultant, engineering consultant, contractor, subcontractor or supplier understand the challenges of ensuring the effective management of everyday project’s communications. This is even of greater challenge to the project management team for which it is estimated that approximately 70-90% of their time is spent communicating.
What is project communication?
Project’s communications include both formal and informal communications. Examples of project communications include correspondence, transmittals, RFIs, meetings, phone calls, email communications, written and verbal instructions, inspection requests among many others. Those involved in delivering projects understand that project’s communications need to be properly captured and documented should they become required to confirm taken actions, record project events, resolve issues, report performance, support change requests, resolve disputes among others.
Project Communication Channels
The volume and frequency of everyday communications can grow rapidly during the execution of an engineering and construction project which can take up to 5 years to complete taking into consideration the complete project life cycle stages. For projects that end in dispute, those communications might need to be accessed for an additional five years if not more. The formula for determining the number of communication channels show how extensive the number of possible communication channels that could exist between the team members of the different project parties.
The Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)
Managing engineering and construction project’s communication requires the implementation of many project management processes that involve the different project parties. Processes like notice to proceed, request for information, meeting minutes, site inspections, non-conformance reports, submittals, transmittals, safety incidents, daily reports, potential change orders, change orders, progress invoices, permits, site work instructions, confirmation of verbal instructions, snag list, budget, budget adjustments, project closeout, project charter, letters, delay analysis and EOT request among many others. One of the proven project management techniques used to streamline the execution of project management processes is the responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). The RAM describes the participation of the various project roles in completing the project management processes. In an engineering and construction project, the RAM will list all project pre-contract and post-contract management processes and the specific roles from each organization involved in managing those processes. Those could include the roles of initiating the process, reviewing and approving the process, those available to be consulted and those that need to be kept aware of the process status.
Managing A Project Process
In engineering and construction projects, a common practice that has been adopted for many years is the use of document templates, known as forms, to capture the details of each specific process. Each form will have the fields needed to manage each process including the status of the process and project team members who made the approval or rejection action and when. The form would usually list the supportive documents that are needed for each process for which they need to be attached to the form. Many professional bodies like the Construction Specification Institute (CSI), American Institute of Architects (AIA) among many others have developed samples of recommended forms to be used in managing engineering and construction projects.
When a form is initiated by one of the parties of the contract, the form will be distributed to the project’s team members in accordance with the approved RAM. To ensure that the sequence of reviews and approvals as well as project team members involved performing the task is well defined and without ambiguities, workflow charts are created for each process. The workflow charts also help in showing decision points and how they will affect the workflow process. Those decision points should be aligned with the project’s authorities and approval levels which is part of the project’s execution plan.
For each project management process, a log is usually created to capture the status of all transactions of each process. The log will usually capture part of the data recorded in the process’ form and would usually include reference number, description, dates and status. It is not feasible to capture all data in those logs as it will take considerable effort and time in addition to encountering the high risk of wrong data entry specially for text fields. The log is usually updated on weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis to share the status of the project management processes.
How can Technology Improve the Management of Project’s Processes?
Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb, an organization can automate all of the processes needed to manage a project. This will be achieved by having an input form to capture the data needed for the process, upload and attach supportive documents needed for the processes, link to a workflow that maps the steps defined in the RAM and process workflow, produce the output form in the exact format needed for each project and maintain a real-time automatically generated log of all transactions for each specific process.
How Can Technology Provide the Insight for Better and Faster Informed Decisions?
Having access to the real-time data of each project communication, the organization can consolidate, review, analyze, monitor, evaluate and report the performance of each project management function during pre-contract and post contract project phases. Those could include cost management, document management, risk and issue management, schedule management, bid management, design management, contract management and administration, quality management, HSE management, sustainability management among many others. For example, the organization can create a dashboard that will report on the project’s cost status by consolidating the data from budget, budget adjustments, commitments, potential change orders, approved, pending and disputed change orders, progress invoices and actual payments against approved progress invoices.
How Can Technology Provide Single Version of the Truth Projects Performance Status?
In addition, the organization can use the same projects’ communications data to consolidate, review, analyze, monitor, evaluate and report the performance of each project as well as the organization’s projects portfolio performance. This provides executives and project stakeholders with a real-time single version of the truth on how a project or a portfolio of projects are performing. In addition, this enables those executives and stakeholders to drilldown to the specific form of a specific project management process to understand or verify the reported performance at a function, project, or enterprise level.
PMIS solutions like PMWeb can bring massive benefits to organizations involved in engineering and construction projects in particular to their project management team who spends approximately 70-90% of their time communicating. In addition, process automation will improve efficiency and reduce wasted manhours in performing everyday project communications. Some of the benefits that were reported by organizations who are using project management information systems include:
1. Enforce transparency in capturing everyday project’s communications and project management processes data.
2. Enforce accountability in submitting, reviewing and approving project management processes.
3. Improve project’s collaboration and communication among all parties involved in managing the project delivery.
4. Capture everyday knowledge acquired and lessons learned from delivering projects.
5. Save and store project’s records and documents electronically to enable quick search and locate them when needed and even after the project is completed.
6. Enforce the adoption of professional project management best practice processes across all projects. This will enable the organization to achieve and maintain the ISO 9001 certification.
7. Eliminate the high cost of project records and documents loss and dislocation risk.
8. Improve the insight to make better and faster informed decisions.
9. Have a real-time single version of the truth of your projects’ performance reporting and status.