Project Management

Top 5 Advantages of Cloud-based Construction Software

  With all the buzz recently about cloud based construction software, I’m sure many business owners and project managers are wondering if it’s the right fit for their business. So I thought I’d jot down a few of the considerations with adopting software in-the-cloud. You might first be asking why it’s suddenly emerged that the cloud is all the rage. The answer to that is it really comes down to timing. The idea of cloud computing has existed for many years; but it was only about five or six years ago that the technology and infrastructure were in a mature enough state to truly support complex applications that were web-based and hosted in the cloud. Prior to that, software like Facebook, Gmail and online trading systems were about as complex as you’d want to go. Today, however, that’s all changed. With new more powerful browsers, huge advancements in underlying software development tools and a proliferation of high-speed data centers; we now have the capability to do anything a desktop (or, thick-client) software solution can do. Construction software typically manages a lot of data and varying workflows such as: project estimating, earned value management, project accounting, change management, project cost tracking, procurement, etc. So, the demand it has on the server, as well as the client browser, is much greater than the typical website. But today's cloud software systems can easily handle it - and it just keeps getting better. So then, what would be the downside of cloud computing? Well, depending on what your priorities are, it’s hard to find a downside – especially in the world of construction project management software. The biggest concern that people express about cloud software essentially boils down to

Big Projects use Cost Controls – Why don’t You?

The use of project cost controls solutions is becoming pretty widespread these days amongst bigger construction organizations that execute on capital projects. For any big, billion dollar project (or any number near that), it’s understood that proper planning, cost controls and detailed progress reporting will be followed on that size of project. They have to. There’s just too much risk otherwise. Even 10 years ago, however, it wasn’t necessarily the case. There have been many bad years and a poor track record from the “project cost overrun” point of view in the world of big projects. So bad that people have got quite used to hearing about the colossal project cost overruns – you know the ones, the $3-billion project that ballooned into an $8-billion dollar project like it’s just a part of life. People have got so used to it that they’re often amazed to hear about these big projects that are actually running on budget and on schedule. The reality is, however, that projects which do actually run on budget are becoming more common. The big disasters still happen from time to time, but it’s becoming more and more infrequent. And that’s largely a result of: better planning, better controls, better information and better tools to get all that with. For a $1-billion project to go over-budget by even a modest 10% – that’s an enormous amount of money. Even for big companies & governments. They simply can’t afford to NOT use a cost controls solution. Unfortunately, this adoption of cost controls hasn’t trickled down to the typical mid-sized organization.  For this tier of company – the ones that are running $10-million to $100-million projects – they still mostly use spreadsheets and paper-based

How to Solve Project Management Client Problems

  Even the best project managers occasionally encounter clients who make completing a project difficult.  From being indecisive to delaying the project schedule, clients can impede what would otherwise be an effective and timely outcome.  By utilizing PMP training and being proactive, you will be successful in achieving project goals.   Communication Breakdown Communication can be the key to success for any project, but what do you do when you can’t get in contact with a decision-maker?  Keep in mind that it’s easier for a busy client to say yes or no than to provide a detailed explanation as to what they want or need. Do some groundwork in advance to explore possible options.  When a decision needs to be made, clearly indicate which course you think is best, and then confirm that this is direction your client wants to go.  It also helps to present a well-defined project schedule to the client prior to beginning work.  This can help manage expectations and provides a tangible framework for the client to either consent to or object.  Having these primary steps in place will allow a potentially “slow” client to make a yes or no decision and allow you to move forward.   Indecisive client Clients are busy, and not always ready to provide you with direction if you need it.  In fact, some clients may not be able to envision what they want until a certain portion of the project is complete.  Develop a foundation for your work by having the client explain the exact requirements of the project before you generate a plan. Use these guidelines to develop as specific a plan as possible.  The client may waver on making decisions, but referring back

Mr. Doe Plans Everything in his Head

Mohamed El-Mehalawi, PhD, PMP Here is real story. A company that specializes in large project manufacturing has many planners and schedulers on staff. They plan and schedule engineering and procurement activities based on the information they get internally from engineering and procurement departments. They schedule manufacturing on the other hand, based on the information delivered from their vendors: since vendor information is as reliable as internal information. Both of these project types are estimated using gut feel rather than any estimating tool or empirical method, and for a long time this practice had worked fine. All of this, by the way, is based on project manufacturing which means that every product is unique.   One particularly happy customer that had received their product went on to ask for 100 more units exactly the same as the first one; and for those next 100 units to be delivered within one year. The situation then became quite different.  Does that look like they were moving into a mass production organization or what! Nevertheless, the planners and schedulers continued to follow the same estimating procedure and asked the vendor who manufactured the first unit if they were in fact able to manufacture the 100 units within one year; despite the fact that they had spent 7 months to produce the first one. The vendor of course without reluctance answered that they were capable of producing the 100 units within the required timeframe.   The project manager was smart enough to say, “That’s hard to believe. I need some facts and numbers to assure the organization that we will deliver on time.” He brought a scheduler with vendor relations and manufacturing engineering background to investigate the situation. Amazingly, the

Project Change: Strategies for Making the Best of it

A must-read article on the effects of change in projects by Arthur O’Leary called Coping with Changes during Construction takes a very savvy look at both the reasons changes happen, along with strategies around managing the risk. While O'Leary's focus is on construction projects, this advice and rules are equally valid for projects in any industry that have complexities such as: many moving parts, suppliers, subcontractors, customers, complex WBS, multiple resource types, etc. O’Leary states: “It is seldom that any construction contract can be pursued from start to finish without some changes having to be made. This is in spite of the best of intentions of all parties. Despite stories about fat contractor profits in changes during construction, in reality they are an onerous economic burden on all concerned. Contractors often have difficulty in breaking even on changes.”   So why is it that change has such a big effect on projects?  O’Leary goes on to discuss exactly that point: “Projects plagued by numerous changes can become mired in confusion if they are not administered in an orderly manner. Serious problems arise when multitudes of changes are in various stages of progress. Some in the stages of deciding what to do, redesign or engineering, pricing, reconsidering, negotiation of price, contention about responsibility, approval in part, final approval, or cancelation. Some changes will have a profound effect on scheduling while others will have unexpected effects on interfacing trades. Some parts of the work may have to be deferred while awaiting final decisions and ultimate approvals of proposed changes. In some cases the proposed changes, after careful consideration, are canceled, and the deferred work then becomes critical to the time schedule." "Often, controversy develops among owner, architect,

Kids Define Management, Planning, and Scheduling

Ty is a successful project manager by profession and volunteers as a youth community leader for most of his off-work hours. He decided to make a youth get-together once a week for his kids and their friends. The ultimate goal was to have the boys socialize among a group of kids of similar ages and challenges. Ty told the kids that they needed to brainstorm what to do every week to keep the get-together attractive and enjoyable for everyone. They agreed that they would have a weekly topic to be suggested, and its discussion to be moderated by one of them. The person that suggested a topic was to be prepared by reading and researching about the topic, which was then to be used to challenge the rest of the group. Another activity they agreed upon was to have a weekly lunch together in different places - some of which might even be out of town, in a park, or on a boat to break-up any kind of monotony. They decided also that the cost of every meeting should not exceed fifteen dollars per person.   Everyone agreed to these two activities. Then, Ty asked them to create a timetable which was to be used to assign which two of the kids would be responsible for the activities for each of the weeks. One would prepare a topic and the other would arrange for the lunch. They grabbed a calendar and started to put names with responsibilities for every Sunday.   In this simple situation, where is management, planning, and scheduling?   Here, Ty directs different resources (the kids) and harmonizes their interactions with him and with each other to accomplish the goal of socializing