As more and more construction companies downsize, the all-important project management role is under threat, which is compromising the overall quality of construction work. When the top-quality, experienced project managers retire they are often replaced with relatively inexperienced staff who are now more reliant than ever on data management. Without a good system in place, an inexperienced manager will struggle badly.
The skills that matter
As part of the US Construction Industry Talent Development Report, construction bigwigs were asked to outline what they believed to be the most important “core competencies” in the construction process. Top of the list was “effective communication”, with “leadership” and “strategic thinking” coming second and third respectively.
Tellingly, the survey stated that strategic planning and control of projects were the hardest competencies for managers to learn. This is where data management and new technology come in to play.
Where a company has previously relied on a vastly experienced project manager, they are left with a big problem when they leave or retire. Despite extensive mentoring programs, KPMG’s recent survey found that 45% of respondents didn’t feel they had the required talent in their planning and project management functions. Despite this, only half of the respondents said they used management information systems to bridge the gap.
Using technology to manage
Of course, simply having technology in place will not act as a magic wand towards smooth project management. A system must marry up properly with the workflows already in place, and if these workflows are not sound in themselves, any new system will be doomed to fail.
Beyond over-arching project management, a good system ought to improve accountability on site, i.e. the hours worked by staff each day, the logging of safety certificates, the mix of the crew.
It’s far easier to keep a hold on the above by automating the process. RFID badges are a great example of how technology can do some of the management donkeywork. By ensuring every employee carries one, the project manager will have easy access to real-time data. This will massively help with day-to-day planning, but not only that, it can easily be turned into the management information required to develop long-term strategy.
Contractors have found RFID indispensible in the process of qualifying new workers. It allows them to easily see the employment history of anyone they are planning to take on, both in terms of the roles they have occupied and in some cases, their day-to-day productivity when carrying out those roles.
Finding the ‘right’ system
This can be difficult. Just what exactly constitutes the ‘right’ system? Below are the three key points:
To buy a system with the purpose of solving one particular issue is generally not the way to go. If you’re going to take the plunge, it’s better to identify multiple issues across the business and have a system that alleviates all of them.
So many organizations fail to get the best out of their systems because staff are not trained properly in how to use it, or if they are, they soon forget the fundamentals. That’s why it’s vital to have one or two ‘champions’ of the system on the ground — staff who know the system inside out who are on hand to give ongoing help to their colleagues after formal training has ended.
Buying a piece of software off the shelf and hoping for it to do what you need is a big risk. Make sure that any system comes with substantial support as part of the deal.
What a system needs to have
A system needs to work across the many different variables of the business, i.e. size of site, number of staff etc.
Ease of use:
If a system doesn’t work for the least tech-savvy staff, it won’t work at all.
An open platform:
It’s very rare that there is one system that fits every requirement for day-to-day business, so it is important that a new system is compatible with the other links in the chain.
If an organization gets the technology right, even an inexperienced project manager can succeed. Having transparency over working hours and productivity is the most powerful tool a manager can have to deliver a successful project.
For more information on construction project management technologies visit: http://esub.com/