Discover how an online collaboration platform can establish efficient systems to meet aggressive deadlines.

Most of the funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) was disbursed in late 2010 and early 2011, according to the United States Infrastructure Report Q1 2011 published by Business Monitor International (BMI). This means that many construction companies have just now been faced with the obligations associated with ARRA projects. ARRA "has made it clear that every taxpayer dollar spent on our economic recovery must be subject to unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability," according to the website, recovery.gov.

This increased transparency and accountability places pressure on government agencies and project managers to deliver ARRA projects with maximum efficiency and minimal waste. Improving transparency and accountability can have a direct and positive impact on bottom lines because it can lead to reduced costs, shorter project lifecycles and increased ROI.

Accomplishing this requires overcoming three of the biggest challenges to any large-scale construction project:

  • Managing the large amount of project documentation
  • Meeting aggressive project deadlines
  • Complying with tough regulatory requirements for records security and archiving

Document Inundation

 

Every company engaged in large-scale construction projects faces an overwhelming amount of blueprints, change orders, contracts, drawings, instructions, letters, memos, minutes, notices, reports, specs, schedules, tenders and more. Projects in the $10 million range can generate well more than 10,000 documents at more than 10 gigabytes in size from 50 participating companies.

Unfortunately, these documents do not flow along a neat, linear path. Each day, multiple participants within multiple project teams need to access, approve, comment on, refer to and update different documents and forward them to different contacts. Meanwhile, the network of project participants grows and shrinks over time, as various partners arrive, provide services and then leave the project.

To manage this and improve auditing and transparency, companies and agencies must develop a system that allows all project members to capture and exchange vast numbers of documents in an efficient and auditable manner.

The Dilemma of Aggressive Deadlines

Rapid completion is a key objective of ARRA projects. In fact, three out of five crucial ARRA objectives for federal agencies mention the following:

  • Recovery funds must be distributed "in a prompt ... manner."
  • Public benefits must be reported "in a timely manner."
  • All projects must avoid "unnecessary delays."

When aggressive deadlines in the public sector are successfully met, everyone benefits. Agencies get praise for efficiency, builders increase their profits and move quickly to other projects, and the public receives faster access to new facilities or improved services. Of course, meeting accelerated deadlines places a significant burden on every step and party in the construction lifecycle. In such an environment, carelessness and miscommunication can easily lead to costly mistakes that actually increase the number and length of delays, which can then result in squabbling and litigation.

 

To work productively and successfully in a world of aggressive deadlines, stimulus project managers must implement systems that facilitate and accelerate communication while reducing the likelihood of errors.

Complicated Compliance

ARRA requires government agencies to preserve all records relating to decisions, procedures and transactions and to report any removal, alteration or destruction of records. In addition, many states have their own regulations for archiving public records. To meet these requirements, agencies must require project managers to control how project documents are created, stored, maintained and protected.

To comply with the increasing number and complexity of government regulations, construction companies must have systems that enable public agencies to track changes to all documents.

Online Project Collaboration

An online project collaboration platform provides the solution to document inundation, aggressive deadlines and complicated compliance issues. A secure, on-demand, web-based system for managing information and communication on construction projects can centralize document management across the entire project. It will also give every participant proper access rights and immediate access to the latest version of each document and will create a complete audit trail.

The system must be platform-independent and easily integrate with each project participant's existing document management systems. It must also create a neutral ground giving participants control over how, when and by whom their sensitive information is accessed. Agencies, owners and builders using such systems report that this neutral ground fosters greater collaboration, leading to increased participation and better working relationships.

 

Although online collaboration platforms benefit all participants in public-sector projects, the lead engineering and construction companies will benefit the most. Accelerated project lifecycles that are free of errors and delays increase profits for each participating contractor while encouraging trust among all on the team. This, in turn, leads to future opportunities.

 

Construction Business Owner, July 2011