When you bring up the need for business transformation or construction project controls, the responses are often lamentably predictable: “Our current system is outdated and frustrating to project teams, but it’s what we know.” Or: “We need to change but just don’t have the time.” 

When scouring your business for potential efficiency gains, no area can be off limits. In an industry where even the smallest of changes can translate into big savings, no stone should be left unturned. 

Complexity is growing across all areas of construction. Aligning field and office workers, sharing information with external and dispersed teams, interpreting vast amounts of data, and making rapid decisions – these all require new ways of thinking and working to be successful. The legacy systems and spreadsheets used throughout the years to manage projects do not allow contractors to operate with needed levels of productivity, transparency, or control. This can impact project delivery success – and limit an organisation’s ability to adapt quickly and grow in today’s market

Project controls are mission critical – and that makes them difficult to change. Change requires a pivot from systems and practices that place emphasis on individual organisations, towards end-to-end solutions that focus on projects.

Collaborating for project success 

Project teams want to focus their attention on successfully executing work, not pushing and recreating data across multiple systems and groups. 

While technology and new methods, such as building information modelling (BIM) and lean construction, are advancing physical efficiency, some of the tools and systems used to execute projects have not kept pace. The level of effort needed to interpret and report on data increases significantly as projects grow. Teams are burdened with the never-ending task of collecting, feeding, and maintaining cost data in outdated systems that do not support the extensive requirements for team collaboration. To successfully deliver a project, collaboration is key. 

A recent TechValidate survey administered by Oracle’s Aconex explored how organisations use project control solutions. Out of 174 respondents, 57% agreed that the inability to support collaboration between internal and external teams was what frustrated them the most about their current project control solutions.

Cost management of construction projects: Maintaining the status quo means being left behind 

In the survey, the primary systems used to manage budgets, costs and contracts were cited as spreadsheets and email (45%) and legacy software (38%). 

At first glance, it may appear you’re in good company in maintaining the status quo. Why the need for change? 

The real concern, if you identify with the majority, is in the outlying 17% – leaders that have invested in modern, cloud-based project control solutions. Staying with the status quo means being left behind. Contractors leveraging these newer technologies are the industry leaders, gaining efficiencies and accuracy while transforming the way projects operate. 

The perceived cost of maintaining the status quo may seem low at first glance, but the hidden costs for the following issues can add up quickly: 

  • Data security
  • Accuracy of information
  • Internal talent to maintain systems 

Modern, cloud-based project control systems enable businesses to rapidly deploy new projects, adapt to unique and changing business requirements, and operate leaner with teams using data rather than collecting it.

One example is Austin Commercial, one of the largest contractors in the US. It entered a joint venture with Webcor, a California-based constructor, to undertake an expansion of San Francisco International Airport. Both companies needed access to the same information – a single source of truth – and on top of housing their combined project teams side by side in the same location, ran everything through one end-to-end construction project control and cost management system from Oracle.

As a result, the project team spends 75% less time tracking and reporting on RFIs and submittals. They need 66% fewer document control hours to manage communication. And lastly, they are able to quickly and easily consolidate all data into the airport owner’s system of record.

If we collaborate, who owns the data?

Construction has, of course, evolved since the days you stored data in physical files, which required an army to find anything. 

Today, most data is stored digitally, but it can still take an army to interpret and distill it into something meaningful to steer decision making. That could be why only 29% of stakeholders in the TechValidate survey feel they have access to accurate and timely information. 

But who owns the data? That’s a central question for contractors, as your multiple stakeholders – such as architects, subcontractors and, of course, owners – will all stake a claim.

They’ll hold their own data on the same project, and these independent versions of truth translate into added costs impacting the supply chain. It is difficult to quantify the extra hours spent creating and maintaining separate records – such as the time spent searching for information or the effort spent resolving communication errors. This lost time impacts the bottom line for every project participant, increasing the cost of performing the work and reducing or degrading performance.

These increased costs can linger on long after you’ve completed the construction phase, especially when operating and maintaining the asset. Because everyone maintains their own records, centralised project systems may not contain the most accurate or complete records, and valuable information remains locked in other systems.

Are you ready to challenge the status quo? 

Consider these five questions when evaluating modern project control solutions. 

  1. Will it keep my data safe? Cloud-based systems are secured by teams that focus solely on data safety and security. This contrasts with typical IT departments that must oversee a variety of applications and systems across the entire organisation. 
  2. Is it easily configurable by end users? One size does not fit all. The system should support your current business processes with flexibility to scale and support future needs. 
  3. How does it increase my efficiency? Modern project control systems must support the way project teams work and the collaboration necessary to keep information flowing. They need to eliminate duplicate entries across multiple systems and reduce risk by increasing accuracy. 
  4. Will teams enjoy using it? Adoption of a system is as important as functionality. It must be used to provide real benefit. Teams tend to find workarounds for difficult systems; data gets locked away in spreadsheets and email, making useful insights and a single source of truth impossible. 
  5. How easily can it be deployed? The ability to rapidly deploy new projects allows teams to execute immediately and reduces the risk of errors.