Digital Transformation for Formal Communications in Engineering and Construction Projects

Formal communications in engineering and construction projects are a must requirement to comply with the contractual obligations set in the contract agreements between the different parties of the contract. Formal communications usually take the shape of document templates, letters and even emails if permitted under the contract. With the growing trend of construction claims and disputes, the volume of formal communications is becoming extensive and the need to effectively managing them becoming a must. Organizations who understand the great benefits that digital transformation will bring to their projects delivery, formal project communications is one of the areas that need to be covered.

Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb is used by organizations who seeking successfully digital transformation for their projects delivery. PMWeb can drastically improve the management of formal communications in engineering and construction projects by automating project communication processes under one single web-enabled platform. This will enable the organization to effectively issue, respond, track, search, locate, analyze and report on all types of project communications.

Document Templates

Engineering and construction projects are very much acquainted to use document templates as a method for formal project communication. Those are used for submittals, transmittals, daily reports, safety incidents, request for information (RFI), permits, authorities no object certificates, request for inspection, non-conformance report, snag list, potential change orders, change orders, progress invoices, material delivery among many others. The Construction Specification Institute (CSI), American Institute of Architects (AIA) and many other professional institutions as well as organizations have most of those document templates pre-defined. Of course, those document templates would need to be modified to suite the requirements of the projects they are used on.

PMWeb comes ready with most of those document templates as well as the PMWeb form builder is used to create the additional document templates that PMWeb does not readily have. Each document template usually has two parts, the header and the detail. The header section is usually used to capture details of the project, contract, date, phase, category, WBS Level, priority, status, document reference number, among others. Whereas the detail section will include the particulars of each document template. For example, a RFI will include the query raised by the issuer, if there is a proposed solution, the response from the consultant or the party assigned to respond, if the response is in-scope or out-of-scope of the contract, if the response could have a cost impact and if the response could have schedule impact along with which activity it will first impact.

Most of the standard content for the fields at both header and detail section of each document template will be usually selected from pre-defined list of values or calendar dates. For example, the CSI Category values will be picked from the CSI Master Format values list which will be defined by the user. PMWeb allows importing those lists’ values in bulk using MS XLS. On the other hand, for fields like WBS and Schedule Activity there is an option to populate the data when the project schedule is imported to PMWeb from Oracle Primavera P6 or MS Project.

In addition, it is very common that each document template would have documents attached to it. Those could include drawings, specifications, contract agreements, bill of quantity, insurance and performance bonds policies, catalogues and manuals, pictures, videos as well as copies of other project communications like authorities’ approvals. Using PMWeb document management repository, all those documents will be uploaded in their designated file folder along with their metadata attributes.

Those documents can then be attached to the relevant document template. In addition, the user can link other PMWeb document templates to a specific document template should those document templates have reference or relation to this document template. Further, hyperlinks to websites or online documents can be created. For project related emails which have been imported into PMWeb, those will also become available to be linked to the document template.

Document templates used for formal communication would usually have a workflow for submitting, reviewing, sharing an approving or rejecting the communication. The workflow steps are usually defined in the project management plan. Those workflows should be aligned with the contract agreements used on the project to govern the relation between the contracting parties. The workflow should also take into account the approval authorities level set for financial amounts as well as the values of some of the attributes that are part of the document template. Those could include for example, specification, phase, priority among others. The value of those attributes could impact on who will be involved in the workflow review and approval steps.

Using PMWeb to automate the workflow will ensure that each document template is received by its intended recipient as per the established workflow. The workflow will establish the time allotted for each step as well as the escalation rules should the review period exceed the allotted duration. In addition, comments from the different workflow reviewers will be captured to maintain an audit trail of those comments and remarks

The data captured in those document templates will enable the organization to have real-time reports on all project communications. Those reports can be limited to the transactions associated with a single project multiple projects. For example, the Request for Information (RFI) log will list the different RFI transactions that were issued on the project along with their current status.

Using interactive business intelligence and data visualization tools like MS Power BI, provides the organization with real-time access to data analytics to analyze project communications performance trends, correlations, growth and exceptions.

Letters or Correspondence

During the engineering and construction project life cycle, there are many letters that are issued as part of the project’s formal communication. Those could be letter of intent, letter of award, termination letter as well as many others type of letters that are used to confirm the occurrence of an event or incident that might have an impact the project’s scope, cost or schedule. In addition, there are many other letters that although are needed but might not have impact on the project scope, cost or schedule.

For letters that could have contractual or legal implications as well as letters that are commonly issued on a project, an application like PMWeb can help in creating reusable letter templates that will not only expedite the issuance of such letters but also ensure the legal or contractual content being correctly communicated.

Of course, and similar to document templates, documents can be attached to the letter as well as links to other PMWeb records and emails can be created. Also, workflow can be assigned to the letter although this might not be needed. Nevertheless, there could be a need to email the letter to individuals who might be authorized PMWeb users or not. For this purpose, PMWeb notification will be used to email the letter. PMWeb will keep record of all those sent emails at the Notification tab of the correspondence module as well as all other PMWeb document templates, whether they were default or custom created.

Emails

There is growing trend to use emails for quick communications between the project team members. Some of those communications could be considered formal communications if they included certain instructions. PMWeb allows the organization to import those emails by setting a unique email address for each project for which any email communication need to be carbon copied (CC) to this email address, for example file@ProjectX100.com. Those imported emails can then become available to be linked to any project document template or letter in PMWeb.

Searching and Locating Project Communications

Capturing project communications in PMWeb allows project team members to search and locate communication records that include the key words to be searched for. Record search can be done across all projects or a single project, limit selection by document template type and record status. The identified records can be selected and saved in an issue file to allow the project team member to review those records and decide if they are relevant to what is being sought.

Putting it All Together

Since all project communications whether they are using PMWeb default document templates or those created using custom form builder, letters and emails along with all documents uploaded on PMWeb document management repository are stored on a single database, the project team can create a wide variety of reports and dashboards. Those could be tabular logs, graphical reports and dashboards. Regardless of the form or format of the report or dashboard, they all use the same data source. This enforce single version of the truth reporting on all project communications.