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Project Information and Communications: Get it Together to Avoid/Manage Claims

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

When it comes to reducing the risk of claims or eliminating them altogether, your project information (and your ability to retrieve and analyze it) is your best asset.  Managing this information throughout the design and construction processes is critical to ensuring this valuable asset is developed to defend against contractor claims.

>>Join the CMAA Webinar on this topic – April 24, 2014

The best way to get ahead of claims is to be able to identify the biggest offending circumstances, and avoid them.  If you’re not sure where to start, take a look (like we did) at the latest research in claims management best practices, such as E.C. Harris’ Global Construction Disputes Report 2013.

According to the E.C. Harris report, steer clear of these most common situations (listed in order) to stay out of the claims business altogether:

1.  Incomplete or unsubstantiated claims
2.  Errors in or omissions from Contract Documents
3.  Failure to understand or comply with contractual obligations
4.  Differing site conditions
5.  Nonpayment of schedule/cost extensions due to change orders

Aside from just keeping it honest, the obvious way to avoid disputes/claims altogether is to focus all of your pre-project planning around the contract requirements, which serves as the pre-planning guide for all of your project workflows, notification timeframes, and documentation requirements:

  • Never communicate about your project via emailAlways communicate within the project system of record, in order to link your communication with the project and contract item.
  • Build project workflows and communications processes based on the contract, before any team collaboration begins.
  • Create a system of alerts/notifications that mirror the contract’s required workflows and notification timelines.
  • Categorize legitimate versus bogus RFIs.  Some contractors will try to overrun others with RFIs to make the owner or construction manager look unresponsive or deficient.  Learn to identify and organize legitimate and bogus RFIs.
  • Resolve disputes in real time. Don’t’ let them fester into claims with deep effects on cost and schedule. Set up bullets 1-4 above to support your dispute – just in case.

To get started applying these techniques today, join our CMAA Webinar:  Best Practices for Leveraging your Project Management Information System (PMIS) to Prevent and Defend Against Claims.


Printing and paper pushing: fuel to the fire of inefficiency in construction

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

The construction industry is one of few industries that hasn’t experienced significant productivity gains in the last decade. In fact, construction productivity is actually on the decline according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to the tune of a whopping $19.2 billion in efficiency losses per year.

Why? A lack of technology adoption and inefficient hard-copy paper pushing is among the top 3 contributors. Thankfully, the cost of lagging technology is probably the easiest to reclaim. We are all concerned with project cost, but in a manner of speaking, our budgets are consistently being busted by that rotund machine in the corner. It’s not the cost of the machine, paper or ink that will sink our budgets, but the labor inefficiencies that it fuels. Remove that fuel from the job site and watch bottom lines improve.

Some people simply have a need to print because it feels good to hold a document in their hand – to be in control of it. But we all know that paper is expensive and supports slow and risky business processes. The costs to print, file, ship, store, archive and track are through the roof. Proven by construction’s continuing productivity decline, paper processes are actually holding the construction industry back. So why do we continue to burn time and money printing and carting paper around when an electronic version is available form anywhere with an internet connection?

What some may not know is that the construction project management applications available today are very accessible for those of us whose core skills lie elsewhere. We can access drawings and project documents from the job site, corporate office, or on the road – as simply as we can “google” what we want to find through a web browser. Not only can we find information faster, but in a construction management application we can easily link corresponding documentation to track everything that ties to a specific issue. Even correspondence or memos related to the project. But don’t get me started on email inefficiency.  Check out our 3/27 webinar on how to start the transition from paper processes to collaborative construction management.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. There’s simply no need to print anymore. If we are concerned with cost, then cutting out the fuel that burns our budgets is a simple solution. And if you need to hold something in your hand to feel in control of it – your phone, laptop or tablet will serve you much better.

Want to see the relationship of several disparate documents, comments, RFIs and other activities?  Try that with printed paper!

 

Swinerton Builders, Assemble Systems and EADOC build “Location Aware” Bluetooth Beacon- enabled Mobile BIM App at AEC Hackathon

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Today marks the construction industry’s second AEC Hackathon at the FaceBook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. Bringing together top teams of the most influential construction and engineering firms and software developers, the goal is to build fresh solutions to some of the most complicated building processes faced by AEC professionals globally.  As we speak, teams are readying for 3 long days of intensive whiteboarding, designing and coding.

How is the Swinerton Builders/Assemble Systems/EADOC team “changing the world” at AEC Hackathon? Only by attempting to virtualize and mobilize the world of Building Information Modeling (BIM) using Bluetooth beacons to improve location accuracy – something not yet attempted in AEC technology as of yet. Introducing the prototype of “Location Aware”.

Picture this: James is a superintendent whose construction project is well underway. He’s doing a walk-through to check up on some recent work and update the status of several issues or defects in need of resolution.

James walks into the jobsite room, logs on to the Location Aware app, and his phone locates him within the building’s online BIM model. Better still, all relevant issues, documents, materials quantities, and design objects relevant to that space are attached to his location on the virtual building model within the app. As James physically inspects the space, he can simply use the app to review existing issues, resolve them and provide pictures of defects or new equipment as needed for the project record. Instantly, the affected subcontractors are updated on the issues and can do their own Location Aware follow up work immediately.

Good luck to this team of hackers as they aim to connect a number of currently disconnected technologies, including BIM, resource planning data, jobsite beacons, mobile devices, and project controls details like RFIs, change orders, project costs and inspection reports…in real time.

Kudos to the creators of the AEC Hackathon, and the willingness of industry software providers to work together for this much needed solution!

Construction Management Software selection requires end user buy in not just executives looking for dashboards

Thursday, December 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

Going beyond Enterprise to solve an Industry Problem

Monday, June 24th, 2013

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.

Eric Law

 

 

Changing Roles of Project Controls

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

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


IT Department Jeopardizing User Security to Cover Up Poor Performing Internal Applications

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

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.

 

Achieving Success in the Field: The Right Information in the Right Place at the Right Time

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

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

Monday, April 1st, 2013

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 sales@eadocsoftware.com

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
Document Management

  • 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

Financial Management

  • Budgets, Funding Sources, Change Orders, Pay Estimates, Allowance Orders, and Risk items are standard construction management finance module functionality.

Schedule Management

  • Integrate with MS Project and P6 or build schedules within the application.

Collaboration

  • 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.

Paperless Projects
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.

Customizable

  • 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
    entire team?
  • 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.

Training
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

Scalable
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.

Reliability
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?

Security
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.

Cost Savings
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.

Pricing
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:
Lump sum
Per month
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 Bottom Line

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

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.