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.