Project Management and Documentation

PROJECT MANAGERS NEED TO KNOW WHO IS DOING WHAT AND WHERE

Project Managers require information that is current, relevant and reliable.   Record keeping and proper documentation during a construction project are key elements of effective project management.   But they are also a burden to anyone tasked with the job of collecting and updating the information.  The information must be collected, updated, and distributed.

INFORMATION When and Where it is Needed

Because the people who need the information are either on site or in the office, information that is cloud based and is accessible both through the internet and smartphone apps is most useful.

Best-in-class construction project management software will provide you with information via easy-to-use smartphone apps and cloud based browsers.

Solutions are cloud-based and can deliver information into the hands of the entire project team, letting all parties know what activities are going on and even alerting key personnel when there is a problem. Proper documentation increases project efficiency, eliminates a lot of rework, boosts profits and greatly reduces errors that can open contractors up to risk.

When searching for construction project management software, consider a solution that addresses a complete range of risks and assists in identifying their potential occurrences. Look for an all-in-one platform that hosts project files in one secure location. This eliminates difficulties associated with emails that can’t be located. Having a complete set of project data is also useful in the event of litigation, which requires supporting evidence including documentation, time sheets, photos, etc.

Managing risk with the help of construction management software gives contractors peace of mind knowing all parties are not only performing their jobs, but performing them properly and on time, with all the documentation to back it up.

 

change documentation on site and in the office

 

largescale projects

Why Project Management Is Risk Management

Session 1 in Project Management is Scheduling and Cost Control.   Session 2 is Risk Management.   Why?   Because any project, from the moment it is conceived to final completion, is defined by change and risk.

Risk is an unforeseen circumstance that will impact the construction project (in a good or bad way).    Changes, and risks come from and happen to the design, the building process, the schedule, equipment, suppliers, subs, architects, consultants, the site, mother nature, government regulation, etc.   The list is extensive.

Anticipating risks and changes, mitigating their impact and preparing a plan B  are essential to good project management and getting you home, occasionally, at a reasonable hour.  From experience you know that the earlier you anticipate a problem, the more options you have, meaning more control and lower costs.

The first thing to do is to have a risk assessment & mitigation plan that will provide you with more of a grasp on what types of risks you might be facing as well as the potential consequences of those risks and finally, what steps will be necessary to mitigate the risks.

Here’s the plan:

  1. Identify as many potential risks as you can think of.
  2. Determine the probability of each of those risks occurring.
  3. Determine the impact of each risk should it occur.
  4. Consider what steps you can take to mitigate each potential risk.

Sound like a lot of work, planning and prediction? It is. That’s why RiskMP software can be your saving grace. RiskMP is the latest innovation in risk management software that can save you a lot of time, money and frustration. Here’s more information on how RiskMP works. And if you need help navigating the software and a complete risk management plan, Risk Management workshops are available to walk you through the most productive means of putting your Risk action plan into effect before your next project.

3 TOOLS FOR RISK IDENTIFICATION IN CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

Why do project delays and related issues crop up over and over again?  The company has project managers with experience and knowledge, but it also has project team members whose knowledge isn’t so extensive.  And most of all, once the project is underway, no one seems to have time to plan, look ahead and strategize.  As a consequence, the project manager ends up putting out fires yet again.                                    Risk Identification                                            ‘

Risk management is essential before the project is in full swing – early on – in the planning stages.

And where are the sources of crucial information concerning risk? That’s easy – just take a look at previous projects and talk to experienced project managers!

And how exactly do you garner the information?

The first method is the formalized “Grampa Simpson” method, or the Expert Interview.  Create a series of questions like those below.  Ask PMs, site supers and foremen with experience in these projects, to talk about it – and record that info.   Then review and synthesize.  With the “Grampa Simpson” method – tongue in cheek – you end up with the biggest, noisiest problems, but not necessarily the most costly. And yes, sometimes you’ll have to sit through the whole story – including how Gerry, that knucklehead engineer or consultant, said this or that and so on.

To get this to work, create a standard set of open questions, keep good records and synthesize the information. Simply examining the project plan in isolation is often insufficient.  Risk deals with uncertainty and unknowns.  Mitigation of risk encompasses every bit of information that is available.  In identifying risk, the following tools or techniques can been used:

  1. Expert interviews: Your company employs people with experience.  The company that contracted you for this project has experience.  Typical interview questions are:
  • Did anything go off schedule or not as planned in the last project?
  • What were the biggest issues faced in terms of meeting the deadlines? Costs?  Scope?
  • Were there any significant shortcomings?
  • Were there any significant areas of uncertainty?
  • What drove the project off course?

The interview questions will not give you a risk analysis.  They will point you in a direction of inquiry.

  1. Brainstorming: Everyone has been to meetings where the open ended question has been asked. The markers, white boards and flip charts are out and a lot of random thoughts are expressed.  Sometimes good ideas come out of brainstorming, but this technique has a few flaws:
    • It is very hard to keep a meeting on-topic.
    • The strongest personalities usually dominate, and definitely, the management hierarchy will influence whether a good idea is voiced or not. Everyone censors when the boss is in the room.

So to make brainstorming work, we suggest conducting surveys outside of meetings.  Ask the questions, but ask them electronically.  Gather the results and synthesize.  This methodology has been formalized and is typically referred to as the ‘Delphi Technique’.  The anonymity of the responses ensures that respondents will not be worried about what the boss will say, or what their co-workers will think.  People can get more creative at no risk.  There is expertise in the field and in the office that can be tapped into.

Questions similar to those asked in the expert interviews can be asked, but the questions should be framed in a future tense:

  • Is XYZ likely to happen?
  • What is the impact?
  • How do we mitigate this impact?
  • How do we prevent XYZ from occurring?
  1. Delphi Technique : The essence of the Delphi Technique is:
    • Coordinator formulates problem and distributes it to experts (site people, consultants, PMs, trades, anyone with an interest)
    • Experts send written response.
    • Coordinator sends out position papers and experts have a chance to reconsider and resubmit.
    • Resubmissions are reviewed and a finalized list of risks is placed on the risk listing form.

Because this is a more structured methodology, and because the questions are revisited and re-examined,   reliable results can be achieved.

“The Delphi method is a structured communication technique, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts.  The experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After each round, a facilitator provides an anonymous summary of the experts’ forecasts from the previous round as well as the reasons they provided for their judgements. Thus, experts are encouraged to revise their earlier answers in light of the replies of other members of their panel. It is believed that during this process the range of the answers will decrease and the group will converge towards the “correct” answer. Finally, the process is stopped after a pre-defined stop criterion (e.g. number of rounds, achievement of consensus, and stability of results) and the mean or median scores of the final rounds determine the results. Delphi is based on the principle that forecasts (or decisions) from a structured group of individuals are more accurate than those from unstructured groups.  Delphi has been widely used for business.”  [1]

Key characteristics of this methodology include

  • Anonymity of the participants. The identity of participants is not revealed even after final completion.  This eliminates bias (a key feature of groupthink) as well as the bandwagon effect.
  • Information is structured by the facilitator to eliminate irrelevant comments.
  • Participants can provide as much feedback as they wish and modify their own answers.
  • The facilitator sends out questionnaires, collects and analyzes responses, identifies common and conflicting views and provides these views for re-evaluation by the participants. This round continues until consensus is reached.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphi_method   Wikipedia

The Win-Win Combination of Heritage & Sustainability

The University of Toronto, as with many other areas in Toronto – and Canada, for that matter, is home to a plethora of historic, architecturally exquisite buildings that have been renovated to accommodate the demands of modern day requirements, including the perpetuation of “green” standards of sustainable building that is so critical in construction projects today.

Historic/heritage buildings are inherently sustainable, as preservation is at the very core of sustainability:  the use of original infrastructure and building material.  Structures built a hundred or more years ago were traditionally erected with sustainable attributes designed to respond to climate and location.  And that being the case, current day’s sustainable technology is able to supplement those inherent features, while at the same time maintaining a building’s historic character.   recycle

But even taking into account the renovation/restoration project as a “recycling” project, there is still a lot to be done in order to take a heritage building to the next level so that it becomes adaptable to modern day requirements –  it’s a task that is definitely not without its challenges.        

A superb example of a building/renovation project which did just that, is the Lassonde Mining Building at the University of Toronto.  The steeped-in-history structure (which originally opened in 1904) was recently “given a new lease on life for another 100 years or more.”  And not only does it look brilliant in its architectural design (an impressive mix of new and old), but it won a 2014 Canada Green Building Council Award for ingenuity in both preservation and sustainability.

An article by Ian Harvey on the Daily Commercial News website cites the details of the magnificent project, including photos.

Way to do it right!

And for more great tips on sustainability as well as crucial project management & risk management information and training, join one of our Gold Seal accredited workshops.  https://escomputertraining.com/courses/list/industry/9

World Plumbing Day – Who Knew??

Were you aware that March 11th is World Plumbing Day?  I sure as hell wasn’t until this morning, while on my way to work, I tuned into two radio personalities discussing it and, yep, turns out that March 11th of every year is World Plumbing Day. And it’s (as the name suggests) global. I have to admit, I snickered a bit and thought to myself, “Seriously??”.  But yes, turns out it has its own website – http://www.worldplumbingday.org/ – and even has a Facebook page dedicated to it: https://www.facebook.com/WorldPlumbingDay

So, what exactly is World Plumbing Day you ask? (So did I.)  world-plumbing-day

Here’s a brief explanation I found on Days of the Year.com:

World Plumbing Day is an international event, initiated by the World Plumbing Council, held on 11 March each year to recognise the important role plumbing plays in societal health and amenity.

The WPC, through its member countries and its partnerships with bodies like the World Health Organisation, works all year round to promote the benefits of safe plumbing, but in 2010 it decided to launch the concept of embedding a single day on the world’s calendar dedicated to plumbing. The idea was that on March 11 each year people all over the world would pause to reflect on the vital role plumbing plays in preserving their health and way of life – in the case of countries like ours – or in building sustainable disease free futures for millions in the developing world.”

Who knew?? But, if you think about it, plumbing certainly is a trade well deserving of it’s own special day, isn’t it? I mean, what in the world would we do without plumbing?  Ever gone camping? And I don’t mean camping at a designated campsite, complete with toilets, showers and a nearby restaurant – I mean really “roughing it” in unassumed territory deep in the woods!  I have. And I’m not afraid to admit I hated it. Why? Two reasons: 1. No electricity; and 2. (You guessed it!) No plumbing.  And yes, I realize that we’re “spoiled” here in the developed western world where things like running water (aka hot showers!) are the expected norm, but that doesn’t make plumbing any less a ” bare necessity” –  and for that very reason – because we are used to living with it on a daily basis. Lucky, aren’t we?

So, here’s to World Plumbing Day! Keep the water flowing and our environment healthy! (And tonight when I’m taking a nice, warm shower, I will vow to not snicker ever again at the relevance of such an important day!)

Happy World Plumbing Day!!

HOW TO IDENTIFY RISK

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” – Donald Rumsfeld

During the development of the project plan, during the estimating process and during scheduling, experienced personnel can predict risk based on previous projects.  Risk is inherent in the development of estimates in terms of time and cost, in scheduling in terms of cost and in the plan overall in the determination of scope and resource requirements.  Risk stems from current and known circumstances.  What is required then, in conjunction with an estimating and project planning tool such as MS Project, is a tool to collect and record this risk information as it occurs to estimators and planners. knownknowns

Known Knowns:   The things that we know about are, for the most part, mitigated for in the project plan.  We know from experience or circumstance that these issues will come up and we plan for them in our estimates of time, costs, resources and materials.  It is relatively easy to plan these things as we know that we will be addressing them in the future.  A good project plan will already incorporate these risks into it.  Sometimes, the variability is significant, and we incorporate these into an initial risk management plan.

Unknown Knowns: There are risks that we mitigate and plan for unconsciously.  They can be built into our company processes, ‘the way things have always been done’;  things that we know about and have mitigated for in the project plan but are unrecognized as risks.

Known Unknowns: There are areas in a project estimate, plan and/or schedule, that have uncertainty associated with them.  These areas of uncertainty are the known unknowns and are the most significant part of the risk management process.  We know we do not know what will happen, but we want to plan for the eventualities, to minimize bad consequences and maximize benefits.  Risk management allows us to do this.

Unknown Unknowns :  What you truly do not know about as so cannot mitigate against generally  comes back to bite.  These are outside our realm of experience and therefore ability to predict and mitigate.

For more information on how to identify risk and creating a risk management plan, go to riskmp.com   or join us in a workshop … across Canada ….  Risk Management Workshop.