Bringing your programme to the site: How to know everything and build better

Written by LetsBuild

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If you are a project manager or a foreman, you know by now the headaches that tools like WhatsApp, Excel, and MS Project are causing when you try to manage projects with a lot of repetition such as hospitals, apartment blocks, and roadwork projects.

In one of our recent webinars, Olivier Luxen, Senior Project Manager on a residential project, compared the way we do planning in construction today with the way we did on a road trip 40 years ago.

Free ebook: Why WhatsApp and Excel aren’t enough for running complex construction projects

You plan your project in MS Project and distribute it, but as soon as there is an obstacle, your planning becomes obsolete causing stress and confusion because the information is coming to you late.

Like that, you can quickly find yourself buried under:

  • countless text messages and emails
  • unnecessary phone calls
  • siloed MS Project schedules
  • WhatsApp notifications and Excel spreadsheets

Many project and site managers tell us that they have to spend up to 50% of their time each week on planning. That can be collecting information from multiple sources and platforms, attending endless meetings, and making phone calls that could have been avoided in the first place.

Read more: How to track progress and communicate problems from the field

In a series of interviews that we conducted with project managers like yourself, who work on many repetitive projects, we identified some of their biggest challenges being the following:

  • keeping their schedule up to date (47%).
  • having real-data insights and KPIs (30%).
  • constantly wondering “What’s missing?” (50+%).

But it’s really not your fault. You have been asked to fight this battle using weapons that aren’t tailored to your needs. Good as they might be, WhatsApp, Excel, and MS Project aren’t suitable for construction teams and project communication.

You have your full programme on a big paper chart, document approvals on different email threads, detailed plans on MS Project, and random notifications popping up in WhatsApp. Let alone all the information shared via phone calls which can easily be forgotten and never delivered.

Working on these several applications is what makes it impossible for you to keep track of your project and communicate with your team in an effective and timely manner. In other words, this is what prevents you from delivering faster and therefore cheaper.

How to successfully connect your construction teams around the live programme

By now, it is clear that construction is an ever-moving project with constant change that needs to be reported on a daily basis. Like a freight train that takes a diversion. You might think you are heading one way, but you are in fact heading another.

So it all boils down to this idea: if you know what is happening on site you build better and faster. And the faster you build, the better your chances to finish on budget. This is why you have to bring the live programme to the hands of your construction teams.

To achieve that, you need to do the following:

1. Move your schedule to the cloud and say goodbye to silos.

All the things mentioned above that your teams similarly suffer through can be avoided if you move your programme to the cloud as you might have already done with your drawings. In that way, you will be able to give field teams access to the same live schedule and avoid having to send tedious emails and WhatsApp messages back and forth to validate the latest changes.

Everyone will work on the same information and react to requests in a centralised place. However, for that to happen, you can no longer rely on tools that are not made for construction.

2. Replace MS Project and Excel with a construction-specific tool.

What if each team could easily share their own schedule in real time to avoid the mess of sending outdated and disconnected updates by email?

And what if you could now connect these schedules to the Cloud to benefit from a centralised view of progress on cascaded tasks, on-site blockers, or material delivery issues – and immediately see their impact on your master programme and its completion?

Learn more: 5 tips that every site foreman should know about

Well, it is actually possible. But you need to let WhatsApp and Excel go and extend your MS Project to the cloud.

Exactly like what Matt Ghinn, Project Director at VolkerFitzpatrick, did. Matt was finding it difficult to maintain an overview of the project. There was pressure on him to deliver and he needed to execute on an hour-by-hour project plan without full insight into what was happening on site. Formal reports were made every 4-12 hours only and that meant that impacted schedule problems were not always known until the end of the 12-hour shift, resulting in project delays. These delays would inevitably disrupt site activities and in most cases cause project delays.

But Matt knew that planning is king. If he delivers on time, he will stay on budget. In other words, he had to complete as many tasks as possible within a certain time frame. By replacing WhatsApp with LetsBuild, he increased on-site completion from 60% to 85%. All this, thanks to faster decision making, fewer disputes with subcontractors, less confusion with material deliveries, and other common construction delay issues.

“We’re not phoning out, we are not using WhatsApp groups, we’re not sending emails. The programme is just live, it’s there and all data from the site is captured,” says Matt Ghinn.

3. Prioritise adoption on site.

Once you have found the right digital tool, it’s time to start focusing on site adoption. Many project managers and site foremen are reluctant to implement a new tool because they are afraid that their teams aren’t tech savvy enough to pick it up.

But this shouldn’t really be a problem. Most of the people on the field are already using their smartphone devices to follow the latest news of their favourite sports team, check their bank account, or just go on Facebook. That being said, there is absolutely no reason why they won’t be able to figure out how to use a construction-related app which at the end of the day will make their daily life much easier and certainly less stressful.

At this point, though, it is also essential to mention that training is key. In collaboration with your software provider, you should organise detailed onboarding and training sessions and offer all team members the opportunity to ask questions and become familiar with the new app.

Start reaping the same benefits as Matt!

If you also want to connect your teams under a live schedule in a single source of truth, it’s time to say goodbye to tools that are holding you behind like WhatsApp, MS Project, and Excel. Download our free ebook and start witnessing the same benefits as Matt from VolkerFitzpatrick!

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