What Seems Like a Complicated Problem, Can be a Very Simple Solution

I recently had a meeting with a group of project managers and engineers at a mid-size oil & gas producer. For managing their construction projects, this team have an immediate need to improve efficiency, improve project cost reporting, and reduce the amount of manual movement of documents. Especially the high number of documents shared through emails. Throughout the meeting, the four guys were passionately articulating their many diverse challenges they have day-to-day and month-to-month. Each time one piped up to speak about his own version of the ideal solution they needed, another would chime in with a slightly different take on his version of utopia.  They went back and forth just unleashing their troubles and desires for a better system. My role in meetings like this is often to listen and facilitate. And, ultimately, to distill their needs down to a straightforward plan that would improve how they operate, and simplify their lives.

Although they brought up many examples and frustrations – the underlying cause of what was truly troubling them was not that complicated. In their case, the challenges they articulated in our meeting could be broken into three broad categories:

  1. Field tracking of: labor hours, materials received & used, and daily log information
  2. Project Cost Reporting related to the above tracking captured. Reporting that’s easily accessible by multiple users through a common ‘cloud’ interface
  3. Document Workflow management and multi-user collaboration & approvals around documents

Their perception was that their struggles are quite involved and complicated, but in reality, a very simple solution would eliminate a large percentage of their current pain. This perception is common amongst groups like this, because their daily work-lives are over-complicated by the many manual steps they have to take to accomplish a relatively simple task. A task that could be largely handled by dedicated technology.

Construction project management software

They all agreed that they needed to adopt a construction project management software solution that is cloud-based and will reduce the clutter of files and emails; and will update cost information in real-time from the field. They also wanted to have something easily accessible; something where anyone in the organization (with the right permissions) could login and print a report.

Yet, they also wanted something simple, easy to use and that didn’t require a huge investment of time or money to get started with. A common concern amongst groups like this is the barriers around achieving buy-in from all the people who would be asked to actually use the new system. Sometimes the old and inefficient ways die hard, and people can be suspicious of change.  The push for change is often spearheaded by a few individuals who either have the energy and/or the experience to take the lead. The acceptance of change increases gradually as more-and-more other individuals begin to question why they’re still fighting with the same old technology dark-age they’re using.  With the 4 guys described above, a better system is in their future. In the meantime, they’ll limp along waiting for utopia to arrive.

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