Organising work is critical for getting the job done. It’s especially important for large and complex jobs. Organising work on construction projects is not an easy task, as evidenced by the all too-common schedule and budget overruns.
Organising Work Has Two Components
- Social – The leadership and managerial skills required to create an environment that motivates and fosters teamwork.
- Structural – The technical framework necessary to define and coordinate all the details, including the ability to react to changes and unexpected events.
This blog will address the second component, the structures associated with organising work. Our focus will be on techniques and tools to support construction project management. We believe that improved techniques and tools will lead to better organised projects and better project outcomes.
Construction has been described as the world’s second oldest profession. It has had centuries to evolve its best practices. The infrastructure we use on a daily basis is a testament to a mature industry with sound practices. Best practices include the structures required to manage projects. They are familiar to all project managers: scope, org-chart, schedule, budget, contracts and the like.
The Computer Revolution and Construction
With the advent of computerization there has been a revolution in construction engineering. Drafting, design and communication are now largely electronic. The Internet has made globally distributed project teams possible, with support from team members spread all over the world. The availability of the Internet and desktop computers has led to the development of a wide range of software tools for specific construction needs, such as scheduling, document filing, task management, etc.
You would assume that computerization has made construction project management easier. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. Project management primarily focuses on coordinating work, which requires cross-checking the structural components, e.g. the schedules, budgets, resources, documents, etc. While there are some very good specialized software tools, when viewed as a whole, they are a patchwork of disjointed systems that are unable to work together. This makes the coordination aspect of project management a tedious and error prone job.
We Can Do Better
The multitude of systems makes it difficult to find all the information required to deal with an issue. As a consequence, project teams spend considerable effort filing and searching for documents and correspondence (particularly emails). The situation is further aggravated because software used for construction projects has often been adapted from other industries, ignoring construction’s well-established best practices.
Our assessment is that the lack of appropriate software tools leads to inefficiencies in construction projects, and that construction software tools have not yet evolved to support the industry’s best practices. Essentially, we don’t have the right tools for the job.
We believe we can do better. Future articles will explore issues associated with improving the structural part of project management, so that construction projects have better tools that help us organise our work, so that we can work better.
We encourage your feedback and comments.