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.