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The 7 Biggest Benefits of IT Project Management in Construction Industry

construction

Although growth in the construction industry slowed in the last three months of 2014, the UK's booming property market contributed to the best year for British builders since 1997.

However, margins are tighter than ever and with increasingly punitive clauses being written into contracts for delays to construction projects, building firms are looking to minimise risks and canny operators are bringing the computer out of the Portakabin in an attempt to achieve this.

Trouble is, without the same Project Management disciplines that you commit to the physical side of your business your IT operation will not yield its full potential and therefore those potential risks might not be eliminated.

The good news is that the upward trend looks set to continue into 2015. Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit, says, "Four times as many construction companies anticipate an upturn in output over the year ahead as those that expect a reduction."1

With the imminent UK General Election likely to dent short term confidence and slow down the pace of growth now is the time for the construction industry to build effective IT Project Management infrastructure.

The construction industry is catching up with other sectors that have adopted effective Project Management Office procedures across their IT function and is subsequently now beginning to enjoy the same benefits - but there is some way to go.

I did smile over Christmas, Superman III was on the television (run with me on this). There is a scene at the end of the movie where Superman drops computer hacker Gus Gorman off at a coal mine and asks a miner if his boss has a computer - the reply is that he has ... one ... in the office. That was 1983. Of course, if Superman had returned to a mine today he'd find that computers were running the whole operation.

In construction, that "80s Time Capsule" moment Superman III gives us has been the state of the game for many years, the PC has traditionally been tethered to a dusty desk and it is only fairly recently that IT has put on a hard hat and steel toe-capped boots and ventured out onto the site.

Of course it makes perfect sense - everybody else in the chain, the surveyors, the architects, etc have embraced digital working practices, even the building regulations guys from the council have (mostly) abandoned their clip boards in favour of iPads.

Cloud based solutions allow data to be accessed and information shared on mobiles anywhere speeding collaboration and decision making and facilitating smooth delivery of your construction project. It also improves security – not just from viruses and hackers but concerns about the physical security of data left on PCs stored on building sites has always been a barrier to IT adoption within the industry.

That increased mobility has revolutionised what IT can achieve on a construction site but that's only part of the story.

If the project leader needs to know if a key target is going to be hit or not, alerts can be set to predict this and issue appropriate notifications.

Automatic material stock thresholds can be set up by your purchasing office, mobilisation of labour teams can be automated and real time transparency of project progress can often identify and eliminate potential issues before the guys digging the earth are even aware that they exist.

Greater connectivity puts the site in instant communication with the architects, your plant machinery hire firm or any number of stakeholders in the successful delivery of a project.

Construction is a growing and increasingly global industry, an office in Manchester might be overseeing the building of a hotel in the Far East, that uses labour teams and on site managers drawn from across Eastern Europe. Just a few years back the sharing of drawings, for example, might have taken days but now they can be accessed on site on demand, updates and changes can be made in a fraction of the time and questions that previously might have held up the job can be answered instantly.

Those that have adopted IT PMO report the following 7 key benefits:

  1. Improved customer relationships, enhanced client experience and added value for clients
  2. Reduced costs and project profitability and increased margins
  3. Successful partnering of business processes with key organisations within the construction industry
  4. More success at winning work and better delivery of projects
  5. Better control of cash flow, the death of many construction projects
  6. Improved employee performance through effective staff governance and measurement
  7. Elimination of inefficient and time consuming processes

However, profits can still be diminished by delays caused by a lack of IT Project Management and more often lack of change management. Practical application of IT is only ever as good as the data and your capacity to analyse and react to it, poor execution of systems and simple human factors can affect the yield delivered by IT investment to a construction project.

The early adopters of PMO also reported teething problems and resistance to new IT based practices - the meeting of the very physical business of construction and the highly virtual world of IT was never going to be easy and change management is a crucial part of project management.

A phased implementation approach is best, well structured and well thought through - you should definitely take advantage of the experiences and advice from experts in IT Project Management from other sectors who are further downstream and you will certainly benefit from a paradigm shift away from seeing the change you are implementing as an "IT project". By approaching more with a mindset that you are re-thinking and re-engineering your business processes through IT solutions you are more likely to stay true to the goals and achieve your objectives.

And you stand a greater chance of success by implementation of a Project Management Office or by hiring in Project Management as a Service which offers you the same “off balance sheet” benefits you enjoy hiring in a digger or a dumper truck.

In construction, the physical act of building - the bricks and mortar - is project managed down to the smallest detail. It makes utter sense then that the "virtual side" of the operation is subjected to the same rigorous and robust governance and compliance. And if you have ever laid one brick on top of another that’s a truth that you already know.

Contact us to learn more about how Stoneseed's Project Management as a Service can give you access to project management staff, resources and tools at a flexible and predictable cost via a fully structured managed service.

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed

Source: The Telegraph - UK construction industry growth slows after bonanza year

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