How to handle uncertainty in construction

Written by LetsBuild

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For many people, construction projects are synonymous with uncertainty. And who can blame them when short and long-term schedules change overnight, material orders are getting canceled without any notice and valuable information from the site never reaches the right people. Add to the mix unforeseen situations, like the COVID-19 outbreak, or extreme weather phenomena and you get the idea.

Despite the complexity of construction projects, though, things shouldn’t be that way. Uncertainty can be reduced, and critical issues can be solved significantly faster if project teams combine correctly three vital elements: people, processes, tools.

Getting the right people to help you with your project is as important as finding the right tools to support your processes and eventually to add predictability into the way you build without getting lost in a sea of disconnected data.

This is also why the use of construction-specific tools is of paramount importance for your success. Unfortunately, a considerable number of Project Managers are still choosing tools like WhatsApp and Excel to track progress and communicate the latest updates with their teams.

The problem is that these tools, good as they are, are not made for the construction industry and are unable to provide an accurate link between what’s taking place on the field and its impact on the 3-6 week planning or the master schedule.

The result? People receive fragmented information that they are not able to use since they don’t know what it could mean for the development of the project.

As a result, Project Managers might have to spend up to 40% of their day chasing reports, attending endless meetings, or being trapped in pointless calls.

That’s certainly not what they had in mind when they decided to work in construction. And the worst part? That surely is not the way to handle uncertainty in their projects. On the contrary, they end up bringing even more confusion across the value chain paving the way for costly claims and endless disputes.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like that. Without further ado, here are the three main steps for handling uncertainty in your construction projects:

1. Invest in tools that are built for construction

We have already referred to it above but we can’t stress enough how important it is for the successful completion of your construction project. Investing in the right tools will allow you, as a Project Manager, to stay on top of both your 3-6 week planning and your main programme without going up and down the field looking for updates.

Tools that have been built with the construction industry as their focal point have a unique advantage compared to solutions such as WhatsApp and Excel because they understand better how time-sensitive and delicate construction processes are.

In other words, they enable all team members to flag critical issues on time and help Project Managers to maintain full visibility over the progress of each task. Like that, all problems can be addressed on time and serious legal conflicts can be resolved or even avoided in a simpler and more effective manner.

So next time you hear someone in your project talking about Excel spreadsheets, emails and WhatsApp groups just reply “no, thanks!”

2. Fight admin workload

This is another area that shows how important it is for Project Managers to choose industry-specific digital tools. Many construction projects are constantly battling against excessive admin workload as all stakeholders have no smart way to report progress and connect their updates to the master plan.

That being said, Project Managers have to spend endless hours calling people, getting stuck in pointless meetings, or visiting the site to verify that they have the right information.

And things can get even more complicated when it comes to fighting a claim. You will have to go through 3000 photos and never-ending email threads to find that one photo or that one precious email that will allow you to prove it wasn’t your fault that a task got delayed.

It doesn’t sound that fun, does it? Now think if you could use a platform built for construction (eg. LetsBuild) that would enable you to keep track of every single detail without having to get drowned in a sea of information. All project stakeholders could easily submit their updates from the site and the right people would immediately receive a notification. In addition, the presence of a real-time updated audit trail would ensure that every step of the process is well-documented so that you can easily safeguard your project without diving into immense photo folders or your email account.

3. Modernise your systems and processes

Many in construction think that standardisation can’t work for construction as every project has different goals and requirements. So getting people to follow a new way of working might feel pointless.

However, that’s not true at all. Regardless of a project’s scope or size, 80% of the processes are always the same. It’s only 20% that requires special adjustments. With that in mind, it quickly becomes evident that by standardising your systems and processes you have a unique opportunity to increase predictability and mitigate risk much more effectively.

Read more: Collaborative planning in construction: Get your teams to work seamlessly together

Of course, standardisation can’t come overnight. It’s an intuitive process that goes through digital adoption. And this is how the holy trinity (people, systems, processes), that we mentioned at the beginning of the article, comes together eventually.

Enabling your teams to consistently repeat the same pre-designed processes supported by construction-specific tools can take collaborative planning in your projects to a whole new level and open the path for successful delivery.

And more importantly, it will offer you that valuable peace of mind that you need, as a Project Manager, in order to focus on the tasks and issues that matter the most. After all, you joined construction to participate in exciting projects that bring value back to society not to waste most of your day going back and forth the construction site lost in admin tasks.

Lock uncertainty out of your projects and start delivering faster and better

Reducing risk in your construction projects might not be a walk in the park, but it’s not something unattainable. With the right strategy, tools, and talent in place, you can quickly see a great improvement in the way your teams collaborate and exchange critical information.

By connecting them in a seamless and transparent way, you have the opportunity to always stay ahead of risk in your projects and ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page. In the long run, this approach will save you from painful disputes and will keep your projects well-protected against claims.