It’s no secret that project managers face a gauntlet of issues when it comes to timely delivery of on-budget projects; the best project managers make order out of chaos while keeping clients happy. But how do they accomplish this?
Construction project management is one area in particular where firms have struggled to adopt tools like project management software to manage their processes more efficiently. According to Chris O’Halloran, project management consultant at the Australia-based Striking Group, large firms are making headway with enterprise-level solutions like Oracle’s Primavera P6 or Microsoft’s MS Project, but small-to-medium enterprises often aren’t aware that there are tools that can fit their needs and, more importantly, their budgets. He said, “it is important to note that [software] is only one tool in the project manager’s toolkit and if this is the only tool being used, there is the real risk of the project failing.”
TechnologyAdvice, has conducted interviews with several successful project managers, and assembled primary source research, in order to identify the three main areas where tools like Celoxis can aid construction project managers.
Anyone who has spent any time on a construction site has seen that project manager — you know the one. He or she is the person struggling with their laptop, a tube of blueprints, and a collection of three-ring binders — trying to manage all the project documentation by disseminating hard copies and storing each draft in triplicate. Sometimes you just want to yell: “IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!”
Project management software with collaborative document management allows the project manager to share the current version of every document electronically. Revision history, email integration, role or user-based access, and approvals management workflows allow for easy tracking of modifications and collecting signoffs from investors, owners, building code inspectors, and other stakeholders.
Every project management tool offers task management features, and it’s well-documented that task management software aids PMs in keeping track of the myriad of tasks they perform or oversee. It can also help construction PMs keep customers happy and vendors and contractors on task. Giving view-only taskboard access to investors and executive management lets them track project progress on their own, reducing the need for time-wasting update meetings. Similarly, stakeholders will feel more involved when given full access to special task boards where they can manage their own punch lists for the project managers and other leaders.
Vendor/Customer Relationship Management
Besides the relationship managing functions mentioned in the task management section, most leading project management software tools can be used as a holistic repository of customer or vendor interactions. Everything from materials orders to payment management and all email, phone, or other interactions can be logged and referenced later.
Of course, project management tools like Celoxis can manage more than the three areas highlighted above, but these three were the most often identified ‘pain areas’ for construction project managers. The most important thing for any project manager to remember when selecting software is that the software should work to conform to their existing processes, not the other way around. The very best tools offer flexible, platform-independent application programming interfaces (APIs) to integrate with existing systems and import historical project data.
The most cited reasons for not adopting project management software are concerns about the total cost of ownership. Medium-sized firms feel they need to have an on-premise tool with VPN access for their project managers in the field in order to properly secure their sensitive data. The considerable equipment and payroll costs of implementing an on-premise system like Primavera P6 scare many construction firms away. Fortunately, in 2014, web-delivered software is as or more secure than often mismanaged on-premise software installations, and reasonable monthly subscription rates mean that cloud project management software can be delivered at a fraction of the cost of an on-premise enterprise solution.
In short, if you’re still trying to manage your construction project with paper documentation, manual signature processes, and multiple versions of spreadsheets accessed by multiple people, you owe it to yourself to look into a modern project management software system.
Drew Settles is a product analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers topics related to gamification, healthcare IT, and project management.