EADOC has joined the Construction Open Software Alliance (COSA). This alliance is a community of software developers and providers who support an open standard in construction applications, in order to provide the most useful, integrated solutions to the end-user. This is a great opportunity for EADOC to work with other software vendors in integrating our application with their to further improve productivity in the construction industry.
Construction Management Software selection requires end user buy in not just executives looking for dashboardsDecember 12th, 2013
Why do over 50% of Enterprise Software implementations fail? Because executives select software that delivers no time savings for the users who have to manually enter the data into cumbersome forms. Also these applications provide little to no collaboration resulting in users re-entering data over and over again. Executives need to select tools that meet the needs of the end users and the executive team. This means you must consider how the data is going to get into the application for populating the reports. Data should be coming from vendors, contractors, consultants and field personal. Those who generate it should put the data directly into the application eliminating the need for redundant data entry. It should also be easy for them to enter the data.
How can you tell you are about to buy one of these Expensive solutions for managing capital construction projects?
- Collaborators are supplied with basic web portals for entering data<this is not collaboration>
- Application daily users are not excited or even included in the decision process
- Implementation services are billed on an hourly basis instead of lump sum
- Word Enterprise application appears in product name and marketing material extensively
- Product is called Microsoft Sharepointe, see why there are 290,000 Google search results for “Sharepointe Sucks” <http://www.huddle.com/blog/sharepoint-sucks/>
- Implementation takes 1 to 4 years.
Remember friends don’t let friends buy Enterprise Software
For years every one has talked about the lack of gains in efficiency in the Construction Industry. Many articles and books have been written around this issue and theorized on why and how it can be corrected.
The biggest challenge we see with construction is that you bring together many individual firms to design and build a project. This project can last from several months to decades and encompass a dozen organizations on up to thousands. Historically each organization has procured their own software tools to manage their own silos of information. To convey this information to the parties in the team siloed data would need to be transferred via ftp or email to other participants. Adding to this issue was this data was transferred in pdf format reducing it’s value and ability to be reused by the receiving party. A perfect example is the engineer sending drawings to the contractor in pdf format. This would force the contractor to start from scratch with their shop drawings. Not only do engineers put their drawings in pdf for transmission purposes but also they thought this would protect their Intellectual Property. This transmission of data process creates tremendous inefficiencies within a project.
To improve efficiency in the construction industry we need to go beyond the Enterprise Construction Software applications and look at everyone involved in building a capital project. Here are three steps we believe could dramatically improve efficiency immediately in the construction industry.
- Transmit all information electronically.(it’s amazing how many projects still use paper) this allows people to improve the efficiency of moving information. Electronic transmission of information across construction project teams increases the rate of transmission, increases control of the information, and delivers unparalleled accountability when the appropriate tools are used.
- Transmit all information in native file format. This means the engineers and Architects provide design drawings in CAD format. By transmitting this information electronically a record is established of the original drawings going to the contractor. Eliminating the worries
- Stop buying Enterprise software aka “data silos”. Enterprise software was architect-ed for users to enter data once for reporting. They were never designed for data re-use or information sharing. This is why they are typically sold on a named user or concurrent user basis, they only want a small group of users using the software. Enterprise software creates a dramatic inefficiency on construction because we have to share large amounts information across our teams and enterprise software products prevent this. Project participants need to be looking at collaborative project management solutions that foster usage(unlimited users) and the ability to quickly share and exchange construction project information across the entire team.
I would be interested to hear other ideas around how we can improve efficiency in the construction industry. Feel free to comment on this blog and discuss ways either with technology or procedures that we can improve efficiency within the construction industry.
EADOC has moved into larger offices at 180 Grand in Oakland.. Our new address is 180 Grand Ave, Suite 995, Oakland Ca 94612. The new building is LEED Silver Certified providing modern amenities for the EADOC team. This new space is 50% larger then our previous space and will support the continuous growth of our team in Oakland.
With the continuous integration of project information through BIM and collaborative project management applications, the traditional role of project controls personnel is changing.
Traditional project controls teams focused on project cost and schedule using software designed for each task. With the introduction of BIM and the integration of project teams, roles are expanding beyond time and cost. They also need to incorporate project information from the designers and field personnel that relates to costs and schedules. This is even more important when it comes to change control on a project. Very rarely is there an issue that affects time and cost that did not originate from a change in the design or from field conditions encountered by the team. With the advent of information relationship diagrams and BIM models that tie cost, time, design, and field information together, the role of project controls has expanded to cover all project information generated on a project. An example is this information relationship diagram showing schedule activities, documents, and communication all related to a change on the project.
By combing project document management , cost control and scheduling today’s project controls personnel provide complete project information management. This gives teams stronger control over their project outcomes
We were recently involved in the selection process by a large East Coast municipality of a construction management information system. During the technical interviews, the department’s software Architect wanted to know if data could be transmitted unencrypted to speed up performance. Our answer was absolutely not, and why would anyone want to do this? His use case was field personnel working on cellular Internet access or public Wi-Fi systems could experience performance problems due to the additional overhead of encryption. We found this question very troubling considering the data our clients move should be protected at all costs. Drawings, photographs, specifications, security plans, and all the other project data of client projects should never be transmitted unencrypted, especially over public Wi-Fi networks. He went on to explain that he did this to improve performance from the end users perspective. This is obviously a case of trying to compensate for a poorly written application and lack of knowledge by the department’s Architect. With today’s Internet and computer speeds increasing every day and the constant threat of hacking and information theft, data should be encrypted at all times. The overhead cost to perform encryption on all communications is incredibly small compared to the cost of compromising or losing your data. Many of our clients operate in rural sites using cellular access, satellite access and fixed line wireless without our security impacting their performance. To put into perspective the low performance cost compared to the security benefit, even Facebook and twitter encrypt user data being transmitted from the end user back to their servers. And most of this data has no security value beyond celebrity gossip. This is a classic case of an IT executive having no idea what their end users are doing and protecting their turf at the expense of user productivity and data security.
Today’s projects are increasing in complexity and size with ever tighter budgets requiring teams be more efficient with scarce resources. Whether they are project superintendents working for the Contractor or Inspectors working for the Construction Manager, these highly skilled individuals need to remain productive. Having access to the right information in real time is crucial to completing projects on time and within budget. This means eliminating wasted time walking to and from field offices to retrieve drawings, RFI, Submittals and inspections as well as eliminating the volumes of paperwork they must carry and search through in completing inspections, daily reports, time cards, and quality control procedures. With the advent of tablet computers, teams in the field have real time access to every piece of project information with the tap of a button. Field personnel now have instant access to the volumes of information that used to be stored in large filing cabinets. As soon as an Engineer issues a change, the field is notified immediately, allowing them to respond quickly and reducing the potential for delays. Responses to RFIs and submittals are provided directly to the field, eliminating the lag time associated with processing them through field office personnel. Not only can Contractors and Construction Managers improve field personnel efficiency, but they are also able to reduce office staff, office space, and the cost of generating the traditional mountains of paper required to support the field team. With every member of the team accessing EADOC’s collaborative construction project management application, project teams are ensuring that the right information is in the right place at the right time every time.
Evaluation Criteria for Web Based Construction Project Management Applications
EADOC has developed this guide as a way to assist Facility Owners and CM/PM firms in evaluating project management applications. This guide is based on experience evaluating software applications for our own use as well as our experience selling the EADOC project management application. This guide is only intended to be a starting point for organizations looking to evaluate project management applications for capital projects. You can request a pdf version of the guide by contacting EADOC through our website or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Defining The Objectives
Before researching project management applications you need to define your objectives for the software you are looking to procure.
Consider size and types of projects or programs you are looking to use the application on. If you are a CM/PM firm, you need to look at the types of client projects you work on in establishing your criteria. Are you looking to standardize on a single application or select a couple of tools that fit your various types of projects?
Core Functionality Areas
- Track and control all your project documents or just some of them?
- Submittals, RFI’s, Inspector Daily Reports, Meeting Agendas/Minutes, Quality Control, Special Inspections, Punch List, etc
- Budgets, Funding Sources, Change Orders, Pay Estimates, Allowance Orders, and Risk items are standard construction management finance module functionality.
- Integrate with MS Project and P6 or build schedules within the application.
- Are you looking to have project participants actively participate in the system? For example Contractors and their subs are uploading submittals, RFIs, and pay application into the application for you to review.
- Are you looking to have every project participant using the system? Consider Specialty Testing firms, Environmental consultants, stakeholders, and the public.
- Be sure to define your expectations carefully here as many vendors market their software as collaborative but they provide the same level of control and functionality as an FTP site.
If you are looking to truly go paperless then you will need to select an application with strong collaboration functionality.
- Also consider support for digital signatures
- Workflow enabled Payment applications and change order process.
- Customize standard forms and add new ones.
- Who makes the customizations? If made by vendor, what are the costs?
- Customize form labels, fields, and general UI nomenclature.
- Who makes the customizations? If made by vendor, what are the costs?
- Can users build their own reports? If so, do they require special training? If vendor builds reports, what are the costs?
- Can the workflow be customized? Within my firm? Across multiple organizations? Across the
- Can outside participants add their subs? If so, how is workflow impacted?
Ease of use and Usability
This is highly subjective and depends a lot on your ability to customize the application to meet your requirements. You will also need to balance the need for features with keeping it simple. More features and functionality in your application will typically lead to a more difficult user experience.
Investigate what types of training are offered by the vendor and how long they are. This is typically a good indicator of how easy the application is to use. Training from various vendors can range from a couple hours to weeks.
Training should be done on the application after it has been configured for you. Many vendors will train users on a generic version of the application causing user frustration and leading to a poor experience. You want user training to occur on your configuration
Can the application scale from 20 to 5,000 concurrent users? This range depends on whether or not you intend to involve all project participants or just a select few.
Vendor SLA should stipulate scheduled down time, system availability and disaster recovery time.
The vendor should also have a hot disaster recovery site, not just tapes stored in a vault.
If you are going to be hosting the application yourself, your IT department should have a hot disaster site. Your team in New York is not going to accept an outage because there is an earthquake in California.
When was the vendor’s last unscheduled outage and how long did it last?
SSL 128 or 256 bit is mandatory in today’s web environment.
Password strength should be configurable. Your team working on a highway repaving project should not have to change their password weakly because you are also working on a military base.
Vendors should provide a security statement outlining their security procedures and protocols.
End of project deliverable and data ownership
How do you get your data out of the software and delivered to the client in a format they can use without having to buy special software? Typically this can be accomplished through PDF.
Whether you buy software or subscribe to a service, you should always make sure you own the data and can retrieve it from the vendor at any time.
Budgeting for software should be based on the cost savings delivered. For example, going completely digital with a collaborative application saves money by reducing headcount needed to manage project information as well as project overhead costs.
Cost savings also help sell the cost of your solution to the client if you don’t want it in your overhead cost.
Software pricing should align with how you bill your clients and do business if you are planning to pass the cost on. There are many different models to choose from. Also make sure the vendors pricing matches your intended use. For example if you are looking for collaboration across your entire project team you do not want to purchase based on users. You want a solution that encourages you to add users and project participants. Below are a few examples:
Per named user or concurrent user
Per gigabit of disk space
Many other variations combining those previously listed
Selecting a software application follows the same principle of selecting an Engineering or Construction firm: Start early, define your requirements, and invest the time up front to make an informed decision.
The software solution you select must reduce the costs of managing projects. Gone are the days of spending six figures on an Enterprise software solution that delivers dashboards, charts and gauges without providing any cost savings in labor. Many of these Enterprise class tools require you to hire additional staff to enter the data in the application that drives these reports. If all you wanted were fancy charts and reports, your staff could do this in Excel at a fraction of the cost. Today’s proactive project managers need to be looking at solutions that can be deployed quickly, reduce labor costs associated with data entry and deliver unparalleled accountability. To accomplish this, you need a collaborative project management application that captures data from your project participants. Combing the power of the Internet with today’s web based collaborative tools allows you to eliminate costly data re-entry.
The majority of the data that drives the management reports is coming from Contractors, Architects, and Engineers participating in the client’s projects. Traditionally, this data was exchanged through email, FTP sites, and physical shipments. These methods would require every participant in the review process to manually log this data in excel spreadsheets. They would track the content and transmittal information of what was being sent through their organization. For example, CM firms would track when they received a submittal from a contractor, what the submittal contained and when they sent the submittal to the designer for review. Then when they received the comments back from the designer, they would have to log when they received the comments and when the comments went back to the contractor. These laborious processes are no longer necessary with EADOC’s collaborative construction project management application. By capturing the submittal information directly from the contractor, the comments directly from the Engineers, and automatically recording the transmittal information, the Construction Manager no longer has to waste time logging and tracking this information. EADOC software does it all for them, freeing up resources to focus on the project and not administrative tasks.
When evaluating software solutions, most directors and managers are looking for tools that give them better visibility into how their projects are performing. They need to take into account the productivity benefits of capturing that information. It is expensive to employ an Office Engineer whose sole job purpose is to re-enter data so that the project managers and executives can have dashboard reports. With collaborative project management, the directors get their project performance reports and the project engineers can focus on the project, not data entry tasks.
EADOC has introduced a new mapping feature to its application. Users now have the ability to add project maps to their dashboards. Users can choose to display project locations and projects on their maps. In order to maximize the effectiveness of this feature, users will need to enter the detailed GPS coordinates for their projects and each project location. When the user clicks on a blue icon (indicates project location) within the map, project information is displayed with a link that brings the user to the project’s information page within the EADOC application. Users can choose either street or satellite view, can click ‘bounds’ to show the area encompassing the locations and click ‘lines’ to visually connect all of their locations within a project. For example pipeline segments can be connected to show the complete route.