Is it not time to stop data waste in construction projects?

I doubt if it will take any effort to convince anyone of the low efficiency in delivering engineering and construction projects globally in general and in the Middle East in particular. Of course, there are many reasons that had attributed to this low efficiency which as per McKinsey report on the construction productivity imperative (http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/the-construction-productivity-imperative) has resulted in having 98% of projects incur cost overruns or delays, the average project cost increase is 80% of original budget, and the average schedule slippage is 20 months behind original completion date. One of those reasons that is common to all researches done on the low construction efficiency is the massive waste in capturing, collaborating, analyzing, acting and storing the every-hour BIG DATA generated during the project life cycle stages.

The Negative Impact of Data Waste

No one can argue that for having a sustainable business, waste should not be allowed while running the business. Eliminating waste should not be limited to energy, water, material, manpower and other type of tangible waste that many of us tend to focus on. Actually, the negative impact of data waste could be as harmful as the damage caused by the tangible waste.

The waste in data capturing and collaborating affects an organization ability

  1. for providing their project team members the insight to make better and faster decisions that could have direct impact on the project’s budget, schedule, quality, safety, efficiency as well as reducing tangible waste.
  2. to build the knowledge to improve efficiency and avoid repeating the same mistakes.
  3. to enforce project governance to improve transparency and accountability which will reduce the likelihood of fraud actions.
  4. to share real-time single version of the truth of project’s health and performance status

Similar to all other waste-reduction measures, reducing data-waste needs to have commitment from top management to enforce the set policies, procedures and measures. It will be a naïve assumption to assume that the reducing data waste is an easy initiative which will be welcomed by all project team members and stakeholders. Frankly, for some project team members and stakeholders, their influence and power stems from ensuring that data continue to be wasted. It is no wonder that for those individuals would usually be able to come with many excuses and reasons why data should continue to be wasted on their projects rather than trying to stop this bleeding of lost data. By the way, this is true in most businesses and not limited to only projects delivery.

So how can organizations, using technology available today coupled with the best practices of managing engineering and construction projects put an end to data waste in the most efficient format. How can those organizations make opportunities from this wasted data to improve their projects delivery and ensure that it will become a sustainable business? An effort, if it is implemented successfully, will create the priceless organizational asset of knowledge that not only will increase the value of those organizations’ business but helps identifying innovation opportunities that will help them to become the leaders in their market.

The Right Data

Similar to any other business, the focus should be on ensuring getting the right data. The construction industry has always used document templates as a method for enforcing formal communications on projects. Those include Request for Information (RFI), Meeting Minutes, Daily Reports, Transmittals, Change Orders, Progress Invoices, Snag List, Safety Incident, Non-Compliance Report (NCR), Permits, Risk Forms, Issue Resolution among many others. Standard document templates can also include standard letter templates that are aligned with the contract agreement clauses to be used to respond to contractual incidents that could occur during the project life. Therefore, it is very critical that an organization develop the project document templates and letter templates that are needed to manage the different project management and contract management processes included in their project management standard operating procedures manual.

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Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb which is specifically designed for managing engineering and construction projects come ready with most of the input forms to generate those document templates. It also has a custom form builder to create their own document templates based on their own experience coupled with internationally recognized best practices. We have worked with Project Owners who have hundreds of document templates that they use to capture the data that matters to them in managing their projects portfolio.

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Another particular requirement of project communication in engineering and construction projects is that most document templates as well as letters will be accompanied with documents like drawings, pictures, videos among others to provide the additional details that the communication is all about. Therefore, the PMWeb form can be have all the needed attachments including documents, emails, links to other records among others attached to the record to enable having the complete right data captured and stored for each document template. Those documents will be stored on a central document management repository were folders and sub-folders are created to map the physical filing system that a project would have.

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The Accountable Data

Again, and similar to any other business, the right data needs to be provided by the right individual who is contractually accountable for providing this data. Therefore, it is a common practice in engineering and construction projects to have what is known as Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) to detail who will be involved in the submission, review, approval and sharing each document template which will be used to comply with the project’s formal communication and notification requirements. It is also very common to have a workflow template for each RAM row to detail the sequence of performing those steps although this can become somehow complicated when there are multiple reviewers and/or there are varying authorities and approval levels depending on the document template attributes and values.

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Organizations understand that one of the reasons of data waste is the manual collaboration process in exchanging those document templates. PMWeb PMIS allows the organization to automate project collaboration process by defining the workflow steps associated with each document template as well as set the conditions to direct the document template into the different review and approval branches depending on the document attributes, monetary values among others.

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Having this workflow built into each document template will ensure the needed accountability that many engineering and construction projects lack today. Real time reports can be generated to identify the real-time status of every single project communication. It helps to identify who is holding the document and whether there is a delay in responding to this document.

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The Right Information

Having the right data by the accountable team member in a real-time environment will ensure that project team members always have the right information available to them. The right information can be presented in different form and format depending on the purpose of having this information. It can be presented in tabular, graphical or any other format. The data be summarized, aggregated or details. It can be shown in full or filtered to represent certain criteria. The data can be grouped and sorted in any needed format. Those layouts are saved and can be made available for the project team members that need this information.

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Project Management Information Systems like PMWeb comes ready with their own Business Intelligence (BI) to enable analyzing the captured real-time data to identify performance trends that would provide the insight to predict future performance and use this knowledge for make better and faster informed decisions. The decision maker can drill down to the data source to verify any concerns he or she might have before making the decision.

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For some of the project stakeholders, their interest could be having a single version of the truth of a specific project’s performance and health status. For others, they might be interested in having those performance details for a portfolio of projects or a program. The BI of a PMIS will allow creating the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that are used to assess and report the performance as it relate to the project’s schedule, budget, quality, safety, risks, issues among many others.

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In other words, regardless of the form, format and level of detail of the information that the project team and project stakeholders wants to have, having the right data captured in a real-time accountable format will ensure having a real-time single version of the truth of this information anytime, anywhere in any desired format.

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Eliminating Data Waste Also Improves Project Efficiency

Having a Project Management Information System (PMIS) to end the massive data waste in engineering and construction projects also reduce the cost associated with manually presenting the information needed by project team members and stakeholders. It is estimated that on average, organizations who are responsible for managing engineering and construction projects spend at least 20 FTEs (Full Time Equivalent Resources) to collect, verify, compile, analyze, present and share vital project performance data. It will take those organizations at least 6 working days after the performance data cut-off date to be able to present this information in a meaningful dashboard meeting the different project team members and stakeholders’ requirements.

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This estimated 6 working days duration could vary drastically depending on project’s complexity, location, parties involved, project management processes, project controls quality, reporting requirements, quality of data sources, etc. In addition, there is always the risk of data quality and validity usually associated with manual data collection, upload and preparation to enable to enable the desired information sharing.

Can We Expect a Law to Curb Data Waste?

Recently, the UAE government has launched the Smart Buildability Index (SBI) to ensure the implementation of smart solutions and best practices to accelerate construction processes, increase productivity and rationalize the use of unskilled labor (http://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/local/uae-launches-smart-buildability-index). The ‘Smart Buildability Index’ aims to standardize building designs that adopt modern building techniques such as 3D printing and use locally manufactured steel structures, pre-fabricated pillars and walls. I strongly believe that smart technology solutions such as Project Management Information Systems (PMIS), Internet of Things (IoT), Building Information Modeling (BIM) among others will eventually become part of this Smart Buildability Index (SBI) so it can maximize the benefits such smart solutions and best practices bring to the community.

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