Three Steps Your Firm Can Take Now for More Effective Project Management
By: Dennis Stejskal,
Vice President of Product Management at
Sage Construction and Real Estate
Managing a construction project requires both attention to detail and
wide-scope foresight. There are a million moving elements that contribute to
the completion of a job - employees, equipment, subcontractors, permits and
contracts - all of which demand consideration and drive to get the project
from day one to the finished product.
It can be a full-time job in and of itself to try to gain access to all of
the key information and then gathering it in one place, so it can be used to
make critical business decisions. Although this may once have been an
optional strategy, it is increasingly becoming a staple for success.
When competition is stiff and construction jobs are few and far between, the
smallest mistakes can become large problems for businesses, making effective
project management more important than ever. This can seem daunting but
there are three steps your firm can take now to help you manage your
projects more efficiently: (1) select a software solution that addresses the
needs of your company, (2) increase mobility and collaboration, and (3)
conduct a business visibility audit.
Firms can ensure projects go as smoothly as possible from start to finish by
using business intelligence software, which is quickly becoming a standard
tool in the belts of companies across the industry. This software serves as
an important business tool, providing access to data that helps supervisors
and site managers keep tabs on every aspect of a project so they can make
timely informed decisions.
best systems fully integrate with a company’s estimating software so all
estimated costs flow directly to job costing. Job cost accounting systems
give the company control of the budget even as production levels vary due to
worker skill or equipment use. Integrated construction software enables
project managers to effectively monitor job costs and progress, which can
identify potential problems before they become an issue. This allows you to
adjust labor hours, equipment usage or other job functions to maintain your
Once a business solution is in place, a project manager must ensure that
communication and collaboration are top priorities. The ability to
communicate and collaborate is not just an issue of convenience, but rather
an essential project element where time is of the essence.
Construction decisions aren’t confined to a desk or executive boardroom.
Many of the most critical business decisions happen on the job site. In
order to keep projects on track and make sure your team is in the loop, you
need to have critical project data at your fingertips wherever you go.
a cloud-based mobile solution will ensure that everyone on the building team
has the most recent information and can keep projects moving in real-time.
You can share key project data and reports with building team members both
within and outside your company, and even with your customers to give them
the visibility they need into the project. In today’s digital world, we are
used to having instant access to information. The ability to provide your
customers with real-sight data about construction projects can help your
business gain a competitive edge and perform jobs with greater precision.
Having the right technology is only half the battle when it comes to
effectively managing a construction project. Gaining business knowledge and
understanding of how to use information and technology to better manage
projects is crucial to your company’s success. Today’s firms cannot afford
to deal with situations and challenges in a reactive manner. You need the
foresight required to make the right decisions for your company. When I
speak at construction events, I often tell contractors that decision making
is made up of two things: experience and data. The more you have of both,
the better your decisions.
Metrics provide project managers with information across departments to help
them get a sense of the big picture. Breaking down a project to easily
understood data can provide firms with better control over their workforces
So you may ask yourself: “What data can I use to make the most informed
The answer starts with understanding your business goals. In fact, it’s a
good practice to step back at least once a year and identify which areas you
want to focus on in your business. Is it profitability? Do you want to grow
top-line revenue? Maybe you specifically want to improve your labor
productivity. Then, through an annual “business visibility audit,” make sure
the processes and data are in place to measure your progress towards
reaching those goals.
Here are five steps to conduct a visibility audit:
1. Analyze your current situation
Based on your goals, look at your past performance and where you are today.
If you want to increase profits, for example, identify the projects which
have the best contribution margins. What patterns and anomalies stand out?
Does job location affect your profits? Or is it the type of work that makes
a difference? Could it be a particular project manager’s jobs that are
dragging down your overall margin?
Once you have completed your analysis, establish benchmarks related to your
current performance and how you compare to other construction firms. Several
contractors I know establish competitive benchmarks through regular contact
with peer groups. However, benchmarking does not always mean comparing
yourself to another company. You can benchmark within your company. Focus on
areas that are going well and identify what you are doing differently in
those areas and use that information to help with the areas that need
improvement. Set regular benchmarks to track your progress.
3. Consider “Big Data”
I’ve just described today’s world of benchmarking. In tomorrow’s world,
benchmarking will revolve around “big data,” the massive amounts of
information – text, audio, video, photography – that companies generate each
day. Cloud technology will help to quickly aggregate and analyze big data
across multiple construction-related companies who opt into sharing
information such as wage and materials pricing or productivity metrics.
Industry associations, publishers, trade groups, and even suppliers are
sources to look to for big data.
4. Set your KPIs
Based on your business goals and benchmarks, define key performance
indicators (KPIs), such as RFI cycle time, and the time frame you should
look at each metric. How often you track a KPI depends on how often the data
changes and how quickly you can make course corrections.
5. Put processes in place
Once you’ve identified what you want to monitor, make sure your processes
can deliver your data. For example, if you don’t currently update your
estimates with change orders, you can add that to your workflow to get a
truer picture of your estimate-to-actual cost variance.
Having the right tools, increasing mobility and collaboration among your
teams, and gaining greater visibility into your business will help you
increase efficiency and productivity in all of your projects. You will be
better prepared to tackle challenges and better position your firm to remain
competitive and grow your business in a tight market.
About the Author: Dennis Stejskal has over 30 years of experience
developing, supporting and selling software and technology to construction
and real estate companies. His comprehensive product knowledge and
understanding of customer and market needs propelled him into his current
role as vice president of product management for
Sage Construction and Real