Leading firms are upgrading processes & tools to optimize project performance

2017 is bound to be a year of change for the construction industry. Is your firm ready to take advantage of new project opportunities? Can you be confident in the bids you submit and the deadlines that were promised? The answer is more likely to be "yes" if you have a systemized approach to project scheduling and management.

2017 cranes

Not surprisingly, those organizations that plan the best are the ones most likely to benefit from the opportunities. Planning provides a strategic and competitive advantage—ensuring that they bid the right jobs at a fair profit margin and then make their clients happy by delivering on-time and on-budget more often. Leading firms like Pepper Construction have made project scheduling central to each job. In fact, they will often spend more time up front in planning and scheduling so they “can actually compress the overall timeline,” according to Eric Bullion, Pepper project director. Then, throughout the project, Pepper’s project team members update task status (from their desk or the jobsite) in order to provide real-time visibility into overall project progress. Project managers often customize templates and reports to meet individual client needs or bid requirements. Regardless of whether your firm is in the ENR Top 100, like Pepper, or still working to get there, it is worth taking another look at your project management processes and tools to see if they still work well for your team and still align with your business goals. Your team’s project scheduling process should be logical, measureable, and repeatable by every project manager on your team and understandable by all others. If you’re starting from scratch and not sure where to begin, you might consider an experienced CPM consultant to help your team establish a process. Take a similar measured approach to selecting your scheduling system. Look for one that is tailored for your needs as a construction firm. Not the other way around. If there’s a huge learning curve you (and your team) are more likely to get frustrated and less likely to actually use it. Consider shared licenses for part-time scheduler to save money and give more people access. Make sure the software maker also has an established track record in the industry, listening to user feedback and feature requests and providing regular updates to keep pace with the quickly changing industry. Pepper had well-defined criteria as they searched for a new system. In addition to the those just mentioned, they also wanted the software to be scalable and easy-to-integrate with their other systems. After an exhaustive review of nearly a dozen options and an extensive trial of each, they found that Asta Powerproject was the clear choice. While it is true that making a change will require some work, it comes with a substantial return on investment. Produce and manage a schedule for every job and you are more likely to:

  • Get your bid right—You can be sure you’re charging a fair price given the staff and other resources that need to be committed to the job. Additionally, a solid schedule shows your potential client that your firm is serious about project controls and likely to deliver.
  • Optimize project schedules and resources—A detailed schedule allows you to visualize the many different tasks of a job and how those tasks and resources can most efficiently be sequenced. It also helps you avoid logistical conflicts like scheduling the HVAC and drywall crews on the same day.
  • Communicate better—Real-time progress reports are standard in most construction-grade scheduling software and easy to share with management and owners. Many systems also include the ability to filter and share task lists for trades and subcontractors.
  • React more quickly—It’s construction. Things will go wrong. A good schedule helps you get out of the mess by conducting “what-if” scenarios to assess impacts of changes and what changes (to resources, sequencing, etc.) need to be made in order to still make the ultimate deadline.
  • Measure effectiveness—Comparing a project’s performance with others across the team’s portfolio allows you to spot what is working well and use that information to continue refining your standardized process. These incremental improvements can really add up to significant savings.

Remember that opportunity favors the prepared. Make sure your project scheduling is up to the challenge and plan for success in 2017!

Asta Powerproject