When did project managers become firefighters? Many project managers look around at what they’re managing and wonder what happened? When looking at the project plans and project actuals it can feel like they spend more time putting out fires rather than actually building. This is reactive project management rather than proactive project management and can be a huge issue when it comes to construction project management.
Field to Office Communication
Field to office communication is absolutely vital for construction. For some companies communication between the field and the office is limited, because there isn’t a quick way to get information between the two. Sometimes changes are made in the designs and handed to the project manager, but those designs aren’t handed to the foreman which can cause rework. These changes make the overall project more difficult and can reflect poorly on the company.
And these issues shouldn’t be a problem because we have the technology to stay in communication with the field and office. People have phones with the same memory and processing power as computers in the 90s. There are tablets with the same power as a desktop. There are so many options out there that it is hard to understand why communication between the two, the rfis and markups, aren’t shared more readily.
Siloed Off from the Organization
Everyone in the construction industry is talking about data silos. The silos are what separate the field from the office. It’s not intentional across the industry, it’s just what happens. In most businesses, there are whole departments that don’t know what the other departments are doing. Even if they’re supposed to work together everything is so fragmented that important information slips through the cracks.
This is even more problematic as data becomes more important. Data is change orders, rfis, drawings and designs, and more. These important pieces of information have to be shared across departments and across teams to build better projects.
Risk and Accountability
While communication between the field and office, and oversight into the field are lacking for many companies and many projects, the risk is only increasing. Risk is increasing for subcontractors. General contractors are writing contracts that shift all of the risk from themselves onto the subcontractors, even if it’s not a risk the subcontractor should be responsible for. In the end, subcontractors are fighting for the last dollar and losing out on countless change orders, delays, liquidated damages and undocumented changes.
Because of the way the risk is written and accountability is written it is harder for subcontractors. Documenting any and all work done, and more importantly, any and all work not done can help with the risk and accountability that subcontractors face.
Impact of Risk and Accountability
There are so many different areas of risk that contractors have to be aware of and cautious of. From supply chain and operation risk to environmental risk, not every type of risk can be easily managed. Many types of risk can be problematic. Companies can lose thousands of dollars because of undocumented risks, and issues that are not their fault, to begin with. This is when the flames of poor management start to burn the project down.
Breaking Silos and Reducing Risk
The only way to be able to manage projects proactively and to reduce risk at the same time is to break the data silos between the office and the field, between design and project management, and between estimating and accounting. Breaking down the silos allows for the free flow of information between different departments and between different companies on a project. That free flow of information makes it easier to complete projects to time and to budget. And the only way to get that breakdown of silos is to implement a system that works with the different departments.
Often times this means getting a system that connects the accounting, estimating, and design software with project management. By implementing a similar system, project managers can use proactive project management techniques instead of putting out fires.