Project Management

How do you Monitor Subcontractor Productivity?

If any part of executing on your projects includes hiring subcontractors to perform work for you, I’m sure you’ve run into many situations where you question whether or not some of them are any good. So, how do you measure that? How can you easily gather performance metrics on your subs so that you can make key decisions? Getting out of the Dark Being in the dark about whether your subs are performing to plan is a very common frustration for project managers. They may be out there working every day and appearing as though they’re making good progress, but then they mysteriously surprise you at the last minute that things are taking longer than expected. Of course, there may be good reasons for it taking longer; but maybe not. And maybe it would’ve been good to know that two weeks ago, instead of them coming to you with the last-minute stunner. Being able to objectively measure subcontractor productivity is critical for project managers, so that they can make key decisions to keep projects running smoothly. It’s more than just measuring productivity however; it’s also vital to also to benchmark what their productivity should be. Regardless of the type of subcontractor, you need to establish the planned daily progress, so that you can compare the actual daily progress against that.  But how do you do it? How do you objectively measure what they’re doing, as compared to what they should be doing? In this article, I’m going to discuss how the right software solution can provide you the platform for measuring Planned Versus Actual in terms of subcontractor performance. Not only that, but also provide real-time indicators of potential delays so

Rules of Engagement: Collaboration is Key

Tell me you haven’t heard this one before: “Our teams need to collaborate!” And then everyone in the room nods their heads in approval. But what does collaboration really mean on the construction project, and how do companies structure their personnel, teams, vendors and clients into a truly collaborative project working environment? It’s a question that bears a lot of consideration since the roles and disciplines that are at play on any project are diverse and highly specialized – each with its own dialect, toolset, and key deliverables. Each sees the world in their own way; but are nevertheless completely dependent on each other to achieve a successful project outcome. Project management must do more than simply coexist with procurement and project controls – and vice versa. They all have a vital role to play. They have key information inputs and outputs that can make or break a construction project. They need a very high bandwidth of collaboration to get things done. Some organizations opt for grouping specializations together in their own silos; thinking that like-minds will work effectively together. Project Schedulers can be in an entirely different building than the procurement team or the cost engineers. The communication mechanisms used between them will be emails and spreadsheets passed back and forth with an expectation that the other side will understand the significance of the details contained. Although this is not ideal, this isn’t that uncommon since projects can be global, teams can be virtual, and the knowledgebase so specialized in each discipline. It would be nice if all disciplines of a construction project team could sit in the same room and live & breathe each other’s world – but that’s

New Report Finds Project Profitability and Replacement of Manual Methods as Top Reasons For Project Management Software Buying Decisions

After interviewing thousands of buyers looking for Project Management software, Software Advice has compiled an insightful report that sheds light on key factors buyers are using in their purchasing decisions Key Findings Include: Nearly half of the buyers are looking to replace Manual Methods with dedicated software 100% of buyers expressed a preference for Cloud-Based Deployment Project Profitability was cited as a primary driver for searching for software solutions 90% of buyers were looking for an Integrated Suite that pulled together multi-discipline and multi-functional capabilities into a common platform or solution. If you’re currently in the market for purchasing project management, timesheet & billing, procurement or project controls software, how does your criteria compare with the findings in this report? Have a look through the presentation below for more information. Project Management BuyerView 2014 from Software Advice

Current Information and the Right Tools Drive Your Business Core

As most any project manager will tell you, you can’t manage the past. You have to manage in the Now to have a chance at staying on top of your projects.  "Managing the Now" means providing project managers with current, reliable information on what’s going on. The idea of “current” project data isn’t anything new of course, but it’s astonishing how many projects are managed using data from the construction site that’s days or even weeks old.  Historical information is interesting – and it does serve a purpose in the final analysis – but it doesn’t help much on a day-to-day basis when snap decisions need to be made to keep things running smoothly. If you can do anything to help your projects, your business and the mental health of your project management team, give them better information and good tools to report on that information. They’ll hug you and probably never stop. It’s like moving from print to digital photography. Digital cameras have made all of us better photographers; if only because we get immediate results on the photos we take. If the photo stinks, take another. The moment is still there and you can keep taking them until you get a good one. Back in the day of print film, it was days later before you could see the result, and by then it was way too late to do anything about it.  Giving your project managers that same kind of immediate feedback arms them with the power to make informed decisions on the fly. So, assuming you can equip your teams with current and reliable field data, the next thing you need to give them is good tools

How Long Does it Take You to Put Together a Status Report?

One of the most challenging aspects of successful project management is the ability to collect a vast amount of project data into one place for easy reporting. If you’re like most organizations however, when you get asked for a status report, you can’t just click a button and a report pops up that’s nicely formatted, with current and accurate information, ready to send to your boss or your client. No way. If you’re like most organizations, when you get asked for a status report, you kick into “Report Gear” and start gathering information so you can build your report. You need to request the latest actual costs, you need the latest vendor invoices, you need to make sure you have all the current change orders up-to-date, you need your progress forecasts entered, and on and on.  You need to start sending emails and making phone calls and trolling through spreadsheets – to pull together all the details you need to get that report ready. Any of that sound familiar? For a project manager, reports can take hours, if not days, to prepare. A guy I spoke with a couple weeks ago explained it like this, “It’s like using a shovel and wheelbarrow to excavate a trench,” he said, “You’ll get it done eventually. But that would be ridiculous.  Why would a company provide me with primitive tools like a spreadsheet to do complex work when there are better tools out there? Why am I using a wheelbarrow when I can use a digger and a dump truck?” Clearly, enabling a project manager to pump out reliable and accurate reports in a matter of seconds rather than hours makes good business sense.  The squandered hours

EPCMs Need to Up Their Game When it Comes to The Software They Use

EPCM organizations that are using just Timesheet & Billing software are finding themselves swamped in spreadsheets to cover the greater technology needs they face.  It used to be that all an EPCM needed for enterprise software was a decent-enough timesheet tool to track their billable hours; and an integrated billing tool to invoice their customers. Things have evolved however, and EPCM’s are now seen as the go-to company for project management, procurement, document management, project controls, etc.  These requirements obviously go well beyond what a timesheet tool can support.  So, confronted with a lack of available tools, project managers & engineers have resorted to building cobbled-together solutions in spreadsheets to cover the gaps. The many challenges with using spreadsheets for this are vast – and can cause issues from productivity loss, to errors, to a compromised service to customers.  I was in a meeting with a new client a few weeks ago.  During the meeting, one of the guys – who had obviously faced the pain of too many spreadsheets for too long – said to me, “I’ll be happy if I never have to see another spreadsheet for the rest of my life.” He was clearly motivated to up their technology game. And that’s just looking at it from the perspective of providing the right tools for their staff.  There is an additional growing pressure on EPCM’s to demonstrate good practices and tools before they can even bid on certain projects. Many clients aren’t willing to hand over critical pieces of their project to an EPCM that’s using hacked-together or home-grown solutions. Owners especially are looking under the covers now as part of their due-diligence to determine which engineering companies they’re prepared to work

Canadian EPCM Wins PMI Award For its Use of 4castplus

In the following video clip, Peter Timmins, VP Operations at Triumph EPCM, explains how their use of 4castplus has dramatically improved their business - and has led to winning this prestigious award for Project Management Excellence.

Resource Management for EPCMs – It’s a Big Deal

Do you have a regular Monday morning meeting where your management team plans out who is doing what for the week?  EPCM organizations spend a significant amount of time and effort on resource management. And no wonder – resource management is a critical, continuous exercise in projecting resource loads, along with planning and managing who is doing what on any given week or month. Not every company plans at a level that's quite that granular – some companies with larger resource pools and projects forecast their resource needs more at the discipline level.  Others prefer to plan each named person in the organization. Regardless of the approach taken, it remains a complicated exercise that requires good process and good supporting software to do. This isn’t a challenge faced only by EPCMs, but they’re the professional services companies that we work with the most, so it’s a very familiar world to us. Here at 4castplus we obviously have to do a great deal of resource and task management with our own staff, so it’s a fairly universal affair.  Part of complexity lies in the fact that many professional services companies (like EPCM) work on a time & materials basis, so the questions of ‘who is billing to what project’ is an integral part of the resource management exercise.  On fixed price projects, moving resources around is less of an issue of being transparent to customers – but still requires careful internal management.   However, regardless if you are an owner, contractor or EPCM – you still need a software system that elegantly handles your resource management needs. For this posting, I’m going to throw out a few scenarios that I’d like you to

Should you Adopt Standards for Project Controls and Procurement?

I was visiting a client yesterday helping them get started with some new projects they were planning. They’re a fairly new client and are still working through some of their internal processes with respect to how they’re going to take full advantage of this enterprise software they've just adopted. They were engaged in a very productive, but heated dialogue about how to manage this transition. The challenges they face are similar challenges that most companies would in this situation, so I thought it’d be worth writing about. To start with, they’re a mid-sized EPCM that is growing fast and taking on bigger and more complex projects. They’d long outgrown the spreadsheets they had been using for project management, project cost controls, procurement and estimating. It was a critical business choice for them to adopt a robust software system that’s designed to take on those activities – otherwise they would have been severely limited in their ability to grow. Still, despite adopting powerful technology, they still had some decisions and challenges to tackle.  As the director of projects put it, “This software will do everything we need and much more. It’s great, we’ll have lots of room to grow to take advantage of its full capability. The problem we have is: us. We pose our own biggest risk to ourselves. We need to establish the processes and the rules and standards so that we don’t create a big mess in this software.” It was good to hear him say that because it’s a message we continuously reinforce with clients new and old. As the consultant in the room, I often try to take the role of helping facilitate the conversation towards people discovering the answer themselves.

Why Intelligent Workflows are so Important

Back in the 18th century there was a period of new thinking called the Age of Reason; or the Enlightenment. The thinkers of the time were moving towards a largely fact-based view of the world and all things in it – using reason rather than sentiment or religion to explain things. Dominated by a well-known group of French Philosophers, it’s this period that has significantly influenced our current scientific approach to our view of the world.  Amongst other things, they described the process of understanding things by breaking them down into individual parts. Like, a bicycle is made up of wheels, a chain, handlebars, pedals, etc. As though all whole things in the universe were merely a sum of their parts.  At the same time as the French philosophers were enjoying their breakthroughs in thinking, there was a smaller group of British philosophers, like Edmund Burke and David Hume, who believed that there was more to it than just Parts. This idea of pure reason clearly breaks down when it comes to living things: like people. It’s far too simplified an approach to say that we’re merely a collection of parts: like arms, head, skin, liver, heart, legs, etc. What Hume & Burke argued to all those Frenchies across the Channel, was that it’s not just the parts that matter, it’s what’s between the parts that also matters. Maybe even matters more. It’s the connections, and the intelligence in those connections that makes the whole much greater than the sum of its parts. I’m telling that story as a simple metaphor about Workflow. We often talk about workflow in the software business, and how important it is in creating easy-to-use and intelligent software.  When describing