The key factor in getting any construction job done is good communication. Everyone working on a project has to know exactly how they fit in, precisely what their role is and what is expected of them – that includes the project manager.
Countless projects come off track, sometimes due to completely unforeseen circumstances. But often things go awry as a result of bad communication, particularly between those on the ground and those in the office. When things go badly wrong it can lead to finger-pointing and in the worst cases in the hands of lawyers as a project becomes famous for all the wrong reasons.
Anyone reading this who thinks they already have top-of-the-class communication and this doesn’t apply to them is on a slippery slope. There are always new ways to connect your teams and boost collaboration across the supply chain.
But construction is an industry of strong habits. Excessive admin work, absence of standardisation and a litigious culture are considered by many as part of the job. Needless to say that this shouldn’t be the case.
After all, you didn’t join the construction industry because of the endless reports, the long meetings, and the unnecessary phone calls. You decided to work in construction because you wanted to be an active part of interesting building projects and make a difference.
Why a strong digital culture matters
Parts of the industry remain resistant to technology and still rely on pen and paper legacy systems. Planning and organising projects through paper-based methods mean tracking everything can prove very difficult. It can lead to errors and confusion, especially if vital documents go missing for whatever reasons. And if you haven’t agreed on a standardised approach with your subcontractors this can also cause a number of problems.
This is where digitalisation comes into the picture. Establishing a strong digital culture might require some investment but the benefits can be hugely rewarding – boosting productivity, less admin work, and less stress and frustration for the people involved. You never know, you might even deliver the scheme ahead of schedule!
Read more: Getting rid of the old habits! How to succeed in the digital transformation of your company
But it requires having everybody on board. The digital transformation of an organisation is a collective effort that can’t be CEO-mandated. It should start from the site and reach back to the office.
In addition, you should always keep in mind that standardisation is a vital component of a healthy digital culture. And the reason is simple. If you have subbies who are using different software, apps, or technology that is not up-to-date this can create its own problems such as loss of information, miscommunication, and project interruptions that could have been avoided.
80% of the construction process is always the same
Sometimes, people in construction think that getting your teams to follow a certain standardised way of working is impossible. They perceive pre-designed and standardised processes as useless or too difficult to be implemented because everyone has their own way of doing things.
So having all teams taking the time to use a tool for filling in checklists, sharing progress updates, or building an issue list will never happen. But that is far from the truth.
No matter what your construction project looks like, in the vast majority of cases, 80% of all construction processes remain the same. You might build a bridge or you might build a school or a hospital but you will always need to keep your teams connected if you want to deliver successful projects on time and on budget.
At the end of the day, it’s more about finding the right workflow and the right construction-specific tools that can support this paradigm shift.
Only then you will be able to bridge the gap between the site and the office and more importantly add context to all of your data. In other words, to ensure that your short-term planning is inextricably linked to your master schedule and that project teams can make smart decisions based on this dependency in real time.
Eliminate excessive admin work and open the path to trust
Many project managers spend up to 40% of their day on admin tasks. And the main reason behind that is, of course, the general culture of blame and lawsuits in construction. By dedicating all this time in looking for updates, writing reports or just being in meetings, project managers try to protect their problems from costly mistakes or misunderstandings that could push their project back.
Needless to say that such an approach shouldn’t be the norm for the industry. Yet it is due to the lack of clear communication and seamless collaboration between the different teams.
As a result, project managers have to rely on micromanaging and double-checking with their teams by going on site to actually see what’s happening. Or in the best scenario, they have to request an excessive amount of updates from their teams via WhatsApp, calls, or email.
And this approach still doesn’t work in many cases because the data that is shared around is static. In other words, it lacks the necessary context that would allow project managers to keep track of each update’s impact on both the lookaheads and the master plan.
Again, it becomes evident why tools like Excel and WhatsApp aren’t a good fit for construction. They aren’t built for this industry and therefore they are unable to support the complex processes and interdependencies that come with every project. This is where all project managers need to focus their efforts in order to reduce the admin workload and re-establish trust in contractual relationships.
Do you have the right tools to connect your site to the office?
By now it is clear why choosing a digital tool that is built for the construction industry is so essential. But before that, it is crucial for project managers to understand that the tools they are using are simply not good enough.
In many cases, people in construction think that emails, WhatsApp notifications, and Excel spreadsheets are the best allies in their effort to keep their project communication going. But truth is that these very same tools are their biggest enemies in succeeding in their projects.
At this point, it is important to say that all the tools mentioned above are perfect for small day-to-day interactions or tasks in our personal lives. But that’s a whole different context and it can’t be compared to the complexity of a construction project.
That being said, as a project manager you need a digital tool that is designed for on-site people, it enables real-time communication and paves the way for seamless collaboration. By investing in a single source of truth that is updated in real time you can make sure that all project teams are on the same page and that the different teams can make informed decisions without always waiting for you to take action.