Online project management has given the construction industry a more efficient method to secure and perform work. Companies seeking to differentiate themselves on negotiated projects or build repeat business with good customers are finally getting results from web-based communication systems.
Contractors who continue to forgo some form of online project management tools and continue to use a combination of paper-based and software tools may be missing out on some important features. Web-based, project management systems followed with thorough implementation help owners, architects, contractors and consultants manage their projects effectively and profitably.
These available communication/management tools make it possible to speed up the time it takes to obtain the necessary approvals; design and construct projects; reduce or eliminate claims brought against the project team; communicate specific progress information to keep the public informed; control cost; and manage the critical project milestones.
Before any consideration is given to the types of technologies that are available, let's first identify the existing challenges. Without a clear understanding of the problem, there can be no clear path to the solution. Challenges may be identified broadly at first, but further discussions are needed to narrow the specific obstacles to success. Examples of broad challenges include 1) slow response times to questions, 2) the use of spreadsheets to manage projects, and 3) a low level of accountability that invariably leads to finger-pointing. Further refinement of these challenges might include: 1) an ill-defined process where employees located in disparate offices use faxes and email to communicate, 2) poor tracking of questions and answers that makes it difficult to make an informed decision, ultimately leading to errors, omissions, and rework, and 3) dependence on project administrators to determine how much project information can be seen, who sees this information and how this information is delivered.
One way to control costs, minimize claims, and handle schedules can be achieved with a secure web-based project management and collaboration system. The system improves communication between project participants, increases accountability, and streamlines the development process from site selection to design, construction, and operation. This reduces the costs incurred by change orders, claims and record maintenance as well as minimizes or eliminates delays.
Trend No. 1 - Wireless Integration
When one looks back at the development of project management systems, the integration of handheld devices to manage construction workflow was not on the horizon. But while the construction industry is still working hard to catch up to other industries technology-wise, developments continue in web-based construction management that can deliver significant benefits. e-Builder already has a program that allows professionals in the field to use their BlackBerry devices to receive, respond to, and close workflow items that are automatically updated in the system. This trend is putting additional pressure on project teams, as it can be argued they are now literally connected to a project 24 hours a day.
Trend No. 2 - Who's Driving?
The trend of owners demanding that contractors use online project management systems continues. Prior to 2002, contractors were the clear winners in bringing online project management systems to the project.At the time, owners did not know much about how such systems could benefit them, only that they would be able to view project status on a more frequent basis from the comfort of their home or office. It was a win-win for everyone involved because it placed the contractor in a preferred position to win work while helping the owner and contractor communicate more effectively with the project team.