What you want, at the end of the day, is to give project managers a clear site line in project activities, without having to shuffle through cumbersome, tedious paper or comb through multiple systems looking for the right information.
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Upstream, downstream, and every point in between, persistent constraints in the construction supply chain have left companies and their project teams no choice but to become more patient, resourceful, and above all, nimble. .
Issues like a lack of information about when a timber order might show up at a project site, for example, and where to find enough skilled workers to move a project forward, test the resilience and determination of companies in the construction industry, to the point where many are looking for more efficient approaches to managing projects to deliver positive results to clients, preserve profit margins and keep the pipeline of projects moving .
One response we see more frequently among the companies we support in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries is to consider supplementing their proven project management practices with agile approaches like those that have proven themselves in software development. , and which are gaining ground in other sectors. Although applying project management principles from industries that seem to have little in common with construction may seem wrong at first glance, closer examination suggests that adhering to certain agile principles can indeed bring better project results. project for construction companies and their customers.
What we’re really talking about here is meshing a company’s trusted and proven project management practices with modern, proven agile principles. Agile project management is designed to improve the overall outcome of a project by mitigating risks related to schedule, quality of deliverables, etc., and delivering value more efficiently and quickly through a flexible approach, iterative and non-linear. As part of a construction project, agile project management consists of:
- An iterative planning approach that segments projects into shorter “sprints”, so teams have more leeway to quickly adapt to project changes and other changing factors (such as supply chain constraints). procurement) with minimal impact on project cost and schedule. The goal: continuous improvement and refinement.
- Scope, schedule and resource adjustments as needed, based on close collaboration and communication with the client. This limits scoop drift and helps keep stakeholders on the same page in terms of expectations.
- Specific execution teams, perhaps cross-functional and multidisciplinary, that are responsible for planning and executing their own work.
- Delivery of work product/value through the various stages of project execution.
- Verification and quality testing occurs when deliverables are produced throughout the life of a project, not all at once at the end.
No quantum leap is needed for a company and its project teams to start applying agile principles to project management. Rather, with a forward-thinking approach to construction project execution, this evolution can happen in small, non-disruptive but meaningful steps over time, enabled and enhanced by the right mix of digital project management capabilities. Here is an overview of five tools that can help a company become more agile in its project approach:
1. Reports, real-time tracking and mobile-friendly
Real-time information on project status, burn rate, schedule, etc. are the cornerstone of an agile project management approach. However, many companies and their project managers lack this level of insight in the moment, according to Unanet’s first AEC Inspire report, in which nearly a third (31%) of AEC leaders identified “limited visibility into project status” among their biggest challenges. As important as predictability is to generating profitable projects, a company will have a hard time predicting where specific projects and the company as a whole are heading if it can’t measure or see what’s going on inside. his projects.
2. Dashboard-Based Project Visibility
An ERP (enterprise resource planning) system capable of presenting real-time project data with task lists, KPIs and other key information in customizable and easy-to-understand dashboards enables trend detection and more agile decision-making.
3. Resource management, planning tools
Changing orders, material, equipment and product delays, new priorities, unplanned holidays or departures of a team member, weather – all of these can impact a plan. Agile project management is designed to enable project teams to adapt to the changes that are so prevalent in a construction project, with minimal disruption. A company’s resource management and scheduling processes and systems need to be flexible enough to easily adapt to changes on the fly. They also need to give companies and their project managers a solid understanding of the specific technical and soft skills each of their team members brings to the mix, and then leverage that knowledge to ensure they have the right resources on hand. good projects.
4. Feedback collection, communication, collaboration tools
As your business begins to take advantage of a more data-driven approach to project planning and resource planning, invite feedback early and regularly. Work with your internal customers first, then, if appropriate, engage your customers to discuss any necessary adjustments (to scope, planning, timelines, etc.) and to ensure that you are meeting their expectations from the point of view. of service and deliverables.
Having open communication channels around every aspect of a project, and to-do lists in particular, is key to maximizing engagement and productivity within teams. There is no substitute for regular interactions that generate trust and a strong sense of value among team members, as well as with the client and other stakeholders.
5. Task management tools
With task management capabilities such as real-time activity tracking and custom notifications about the status and changes to checklist items, companies and their PMs can better anticipate work bottlenecks. potential bottlenecks in resources and production. What you want, at the end of the day, is to give project managers a clear site line in project activities, without having to shuffle through cumbersome, tedious paper or comb through multiple systems looking for the right information. Within a single digital environment, they should be able to monitor and manage all project activities with Kanban-style collaborative tasks, track time, allocate resources flexibly, organize tasks, create forecasts, track KPIs, and ultimately get the job done more efficiently. .
Today, the construction industry is brimming with opportunity, but faces supply chain bottlenecks, labor shortages, inflation and other factors. . With a more agile, iterative, and non-linear approach to project execution, companies put themselves in a better position to maximize their opportunities while minimizing the impact of these disruptions on their business.