Chris R

About Chris Ronak

Chris Ronak has spent his career in software, project management and business in Canada, USA, Germany and the UK. His passions include music, food, family and friends - and has an intense commitment to delivering the kind of technology that truly helps businesses and people make strategic improvements.

How to Reduce Errors when Tracking LEM from the Jobsite

It’s typically not until the end of the day at the construction site that the field personnel sit down to collect and enter all the time & expenses for their crews, equipment and other charges for that day.  They’re tired, hungry, and this is likely their least favorite thing to do. They’re in a rush to get it done and they don’t often have the greatest computer skills – so it’s inevitable that mistakes are made. Things get coded to the wrong place, charges are missed, incorrect rates are used, etc.  And then all this error-filled information gets compiled and submitted and ultimately is routed to the back-office finance team for processing. And this is where the nightmare begins. If you put 5 site foremen in a room with 5 finance people, how much do you think they’ll have in common? Finance types are by nature very detailed, fastidious and are usually the ones responsible for making certain that everything is precisely correct before billing clients, paying vendors or routing charges through payroll. It’s not that a site foreman can’t be detailed by nature – it’s just that he or she has a very different spectrum of priorities; especially at the time of entering the LEM data.  What this translates to, is that it’s often the finance group who are left with the cleanup job of correcting and adjusting the chaos that’s recorded from the Jobsite. Shifting the Burden of Responsibility We refer to this as “shifting the burden of responsibility” to the last guy holding the bag.  It’s really a flawed approach from so many aspects – not least of which is that you end-up with a bloated finance group full of people whose

By |January 15th, 2016|Categories: Project Tracking|0 Comments

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

Everyone Likes to Pick a Winner

Risk is everywhere in business. Whether you’re a large or small company; or whether you run large or small projects – you are always running the very real risk that you’re project won’t succeed according to plan. How your business performs on a project however, goes well beyond just your own internal issues of cash flow and resourcing. The interdependencies that are inherent in construction projects means that what you do has a direct effect on your peer organizations and the owner. In other words: what you do is not just your own problem. If you blow it, you may end up blowing it for everyone around you. That doesn’t go over well – people talk. It’s in everyone’s best interest to know who delivers and who doesn’t. There are others out there watching you. Evaluating you. Building a database of metrics on you. Your company’s performance, your productivity, and your ability to deliver at a high degree of quality. You are being continuously monitored by those that are affected by you. One of the most popular features of procurement management software like 4castplus is its ability to gather historical performance metrics on vendors. Every shipment, every completed job, every item of communication from documents to emails, every milestone, every request for extension, every price change; and a ton more things are all captured and available to be reported on. Vendors get ranked. Vendors get compared and evaluated for future jobs. The owners and Engineering-Procurement organizations that are leveraging technology to collect performance information are the ones who are in a far better position to pick the winners in the crowd. It’s in their best interest to pick winners - they

What is the Cost of Inaction?

Businesses suffocating from internal systems they've grown out of should have a close look at what it's costing them to delay improving things The Pain of Same vs. The Pain of Change It’s common for organizations to simply cope with their current solutions and avoid or delay required technology upgrades. This delay is typically rooted in a fear of the effort and disruption the change may cause – the easy route is to hesitate and avoid the pain of change. The cost of inaction is the business and opportunity costs associated with organizations not deploying necessary technology and other business-innovation improvements to match the complexity of their business. To be clear, these are businesses that have recognized that they’re struggling with their current solution, and they’re aware that they need to do something, but they nevertheless postpone it for one reason or another. At some point, of course, any growing business will be forced to make a switch. All too often, that tipping point comes long after the pain of same has outweighed the pain of change. It's about Money The thing is, it’s not just about pain. It’s also about money. And it’s about opportunity. You have to ask yourself, what are you leaving on the table by not taking action? What is it costing you to hesitate? If you were to take the plunge and upgrade your software and underlying processes to something that was built to match the complexity of your business, what would that cost you, and when would you see a return on that investment? To help you get an answer to that, we’ll need to first quantify your situation by using a few key metrics. To

Ever Feel like You’re Buried by Content?

How on earth do we manage to make sense of the chaotic volumes of information that gets thrown at us every day? If you’re anything like me, in any 24-hour period you can get hundreds of emails, documents, txts, tweets and messages filling your inbox and various other mediums. It’s impossible to believe we can do a decent job of cataloging and organizing it all in order to get back to it later. I don’t have any stats on this, but I bet that over 90% of people use Outlook as an information management system – supported by hundreds of folders located somewhere on a company shared drive. And to some degree that works ok. There does come a point, however, when that system simply breaks down. I talk to a lot of people who plan, manage and procure construction projects, and easily one of the biggest struggles they fight to endure is how to tackle the barbaric amounts of information they need to stay on top of. Contracts, drawings, change orders, vendor invoices, daily site reports, budgets, status reports and on and on it goes. Each document and email thread can contain important information that’s critical to a project’s smooth and healthy progress. At some point, engineering and construction companies need to upgrade the systems they use for managing all that project-related content. It’s like when you used to have no kids, and now you have three kids: you have to face the reality that you need to upgrade your two-seater car to something that can haul around the whole family.  I specifically wrote project-related content as opposed to enterprise content. There’s a very big difference. The difference is: Project

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

Do Bigger Projects mean Disconnected Teams?

It’s always very interesting to me how much difference there is between how organizations structure the management of major projects.  Naturally, the bigger the project, the more bodies they’ll need for project controls, construction project management, procurement, etc. Adding more people of course, adds more complexity (to anything). When you add more people, those people need to be organized into groups and disciplines; each requiring key inputs and outputs and deliverables. In defining this organizational structure; I’ve found that there is a tendency for major to mega projects to disconnect these groups into individual silos. Working in silos, they coexist with each other, but with minimum interaction. No-one wants this to happen, of course, and any person would tell you that healthy communication is vital for streamlined success. As a company that builds construction project management software to handle the intricacies of keeping construction projects in a happy place, we often find that the additional role we take on (besides providing technology) is to also provide tools for improving the interactions and cooperation between the various groups charged with project cost management. These groups can be: Project Controls, Procurement, Engineering, Project Management, Accounting, IT etc. If we can create an environment where, for example, the Project Controls group have a solid level of co-habitation and healthy collaboration with the Buyers in the Procurement department, we’ll see that as a mini win. Even if that cohabitation is in a digital sense. I can safely call that a win because we hear the periodic grumblings from people in all groups about the challenges they face in managing complex projects.  Looked at objectively, the underpinnings of many of their challenges are rooted in the fact that they live in

The Future of SAGD

How can we Make SAGD more Profitable and Sustainable? Large SAGD projects in the Alberta Oil Sands have suffered an unfortunate reputation for cost overruns, delays and productivity issues over the past ten years.  These results have thrown the whole industry into question as to whether SAGD is a viable and investible solution for extracting bitumen from this oil-rich area of the country. Despite the criticisms and skittish investment community however; these challenges have invited a tremendous amount of analysis and an industry-wide awareness of the need to innovate new technology to prove it as a viable and sustainable solution. In this article, I’ll have a look at some of the lessons learned in recent years and a number of recommendations as to how we can apply better techniques and technology to make it a practical, sustainable alternative that we can all feel proud to be a part of.     SAGD stands for Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage and it is a common and growing technology in Alberta and worldwide to extract heavy oil that is deep below the earth’s surface. Invented in the 1970s, SAGD is relatively new to the oil industry, and has only been utilized in large-scale commercial projects over the last 15 to 20 years. This slow adoption rate was due to a number of barriers that SAGD projects presented.  It was not until horizontal drilling techniques were perfected, for example – and the price of oil was high enough – for SAGD to become a feasible option for oil producers.  Nevertheless, even with these barriers lifted, oil producers continue to struggle to try to make SAGD a practical solution going forward. The sheer size of these projects poses a broad

Are we nearing the end of Cost Reimbursable?

Get Ready for Convertible Price Projects   When we see quotes like this from the Globe and Mail, “Investors are increasingly applying pressure on oil companies to trim their investments in oil sands projects,” it becomes clear that a change in how we do business in Alberta is on the horizon.  If the investment community is losing faith in our ability to extract oil at a reasonable and predictable cost, our industry is in serious jeopardy. There is a shift underway. Cost overruns on construction projects aren’t uncommon of course, and the oil and gas industry in Alberta has not been an exception. It has in fact shown to have one of the worst records for budget overruns of any energy geography in the world. There are a number of underlying challenges that have contributed to this unfortunate track record; but one of the primary culprits has to do with the predominantly cost-reimbursable contract culture that exists in Alberta. This culture creates a challenging environment for projects to stay on budget. The nature of these contracts suggests that there is compensation for all costs incurred plus a rate uplift, with little to no risk absorbed by the contractor for when projects are extended or when they aren’t executed at maximum efficiency.   When the cost-risk is so lopsided like that, the owners face having to bear all the added cost of any inefficiencies, productivity issues and errors that occur with any contractor or engineering firm on the project. There can be dozens of contractors and engineering firms (EPCM) on a project, and with the way contracts are currently structured, everyone just passes their problems up the food chain (even the best, most efficient contractors).  Nobody’s

People Hate Change – 6 Tips for Making it Easier

  People Hate Change? People generally like the idea of change, but they really hate the effort that goes along with it. The idea of change brings with it feelings of hope, opportunity and the promise that things can get better. But sometimes it can be hard work and require a lot of perseverance. The challenge to any organization is to get good at change – because as your company grows, change is going to have to happen, whether you like it or not.  You might as well get used to it, and get good at it.     I’m probably like most people in that sometimes I can be good with change and sometimes I’m pretty crap at it. I recently, for example, had to get a new laptop. I was avoiding making the change for a long time because: I was dreading having to reload applications and transfer all the data from my old laptop I hate shopping So, I suffered with my ancient laptop (4-yrs old) as it gradually fell apart.  I could visualize that day in the future when I had that shiny new machine that was fast and clean, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go through the hassle of making the transition. The defining moment came when the cooling system broke down and it overheated. Disaster.  After that, I could only run it for ½ hour at a time before having to shut it off for 20 minutes while it cooled down. You could say I left it a bit too long. It started seriously affecting my work and life.   Most organizations behave pretty similarly. They know they need to upgrade their technology, systems and processes, but