How technology is providing the solutions the industry needs
Construction projects usually comprise a complex variety of interdependent activities and can often appear like well-ordered chaos to the casual observer. Successful projects are usually judged by the way they perform under the headings of safety, cost, resource allocation, time and quality, meaning that project managers need an effective planning mechanism in place to deal with the challenges that inevitably lie ahead.
Construction projects go through multiple phases, involving armies of people and myriad resources that all have to be skilfully guided through the design stage, planning, and then scheduling, followed by the build itself. Projects frequently require the involvement of a range of disciplines from architecture to engineering, and the scheduling of a whole host of diverse trades in order to successfully reach completion and handover.
Add to that the inevitable vagaries of the weather and environmental conditions, and it’s easy to see why there’s a need for a comprehensive project plan to assist in the organising, recording, scheduling (and often rescheduling) of a whole list of activities, the maintenance of budgets and the adherence to time schedules.
Making it all come together
All this means that putting together a comprehensive plan that sees a project delivered on time and within budget is no mean feat. Outlining all the tasks that are required to get a project over the line, building in time for overruns and contingencies at every stage, keeping an eye on budgets, catering for unforeseen events and overspends – all of these are crucial elements of an effective project plan.
There are usually four major stages in any given construction project:
- Handover of the project to the end user/owner.
In general, the construction industry has been relatively slow to embrace the benefits of IT. According to consultants McKinsey & Company, the construction industry is one of the least digitised sectors of the economy.
However, it is becoming clear that the drive to manage projects effectively, as well as to collaborate closely with partners such as architects and engineers, is giving rise to a more tech-savvy outlook. This means that laptops are now increasingly likely to be found alongside hard hats and high-viz jackets on any construction site.
Effective software solutions
Just as you need the correct resources to build the structure, you need the right IT tools to manage the key stages of any construction project. Having effective project plan software in place to help deal with everything from time recording to resource allocation is becoming increasingly important to the timely delivery of any project.
These days, the use of sophisticated project management software that guides the project manager through the key stages and devises a comprehensive project plan is becoming more and more common across construction sites. The scheduling features built into these software tools allow users to create detailed plans not only for project activities, but also for individual tasks. Establishing dependencies, performing critical path analysis, estimating activity durations, allocating resources including human resources, and carrying out cost analysis are becoming increasingly mainstream.
Scheduling work effectively
Project management software brings with it the ability to see, alter and update timelines. It can bring huge benefits to the scheduling of work and usually has built-in alerts and notifications that provide timely reminders on the progress of a project, as well as detailing the remaining tasks that still need to be completed.
The construction industry has in the past had a reputation for resisting new technologies; however, the current trend towards the greater use of integrated IT systems looks set to continue – although the pace is likely to quicken.