How to reduce admin work and endless meetings in construction

As an industry, it’s crucial to understand that less admin work equals less time wasted and by extension fewer schedule delays. Producing meeting documents, progress reports, briefings, and dashboards should not be the main to-do’s on your typical day.

admin work in construction

For many in construction, excessive administrative work and hours of endless meetings are seen as part of the job and as something that they can’t change. Stakeholders in construction may spend up to 40% of their time hunting down progress updates, writing reports, or just attending meetings.

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In their mind, this is the norm and they have a hard time picturing a different way of working and communicating with the other members of their team. And that’s a direct result of the strong culture of blame in construction and the lack of trust in contractual relationships.

Nevertheless, this administration-heavy approach doesn’t really provide any security to the sector. On the contrary, it costs construction projects both time and money.

On top of that, people working in construction often feel frustrated and tired because of this problematic reality. After all, they didn’t join construction to spend their time on creating reports and joining meetings, but to make a difference and work on interesting building projects.

And this is why it is crucial for anyone working in the industry to understand the heavy toll that the admin workload has on their projects so that they can start looking for better alternatives that can transform the way they collaborate and communicate with their teams.

Why admin work and long meetings are an enemy for your projects

First things first, it is necessary to take a closer look at how excessive admin work can hurt your project delivery leading to legal disputes and a siloed way of communication:

Time wasted on unnecessary tasks and meetings

We already mentioned above that project managers waste almost 40% of their time daily on looking for project updates, writing reports, and participating in meetings that could have been avoided.

Read more: Lookahead planning – Do you have the right tools to stay on track?

This forces project stakeholders to work overtime collecting information like pictures, plans, and comments from multiple sources and platforms in order to add them later in one PDF and share it with the rest of the team. This is an incredibly time-consuming process and in many projects there is literally a person hired to do only that. The worst part? This PDF is outdated the moment it is released and in many cases doesn’t reflect reality.

So, without any exaggeration, we are talking about a significant waste of time and resources due to the absence of a single source of truth that can be updated and accessed by project teams in real time.

Outdated information leading to miscommunication

The lack of real-time insight into the schedule is one of the main factors that can truly hurt your construction project. As a result of not using a central data ecosystem, many decisions are taken based on wrong or outdated information causing disputes, stress, and bad collaboration on the project.

The information shared between stakeholders lacks the necessary connection to the master schedule hindering effective decision making and leading to slow decisions and costly delays.

Micromanaging as a result of a strong blame culture

The administrative overload has also a direct impact on how the project teams connect and trust each other. Simply put, the absence of an objective live data source can quickly lead to unclear agreements and a lack of accountability between teams.

Multiple sources of truth in the same project can only create confusion as each team has its own version of reality making it almost impossible to detect who is responsible for what.

Find out also: How to succeed in the digital transformation of your company

Such an approach can also gradually lead to a lack of team engagement. Teams will just come to “do the work” having no understanding of the bigger picture and why it matters to deliver the project successfully.

That being said, project managers and project directors are forced to rely on micromanaging and double-checking the team by countless emails and WhatsApp notifications or by going onsite to actually see what’s happening. Eventually, this can only pave the way for a culture of mistrust where everyone is pointing fingers at each other.

5 steps to reducing admin workload in your projects

admin work in construction

Now that you have a better understanding of what a threat excessive admin workload can be for the delivery of a construction project, it is time to present the five main steps that could help you transform your progress reporting and monitoring processes and ensure successful delivery without compromising on quality.

Without further ado, here are the five main points you need to keep in mind:

1. Automate your progress reporting processes

Every construction project is a small universe where numerous stakeholders should be perfectly aligned so that tasks can proceed according to the plan.

However, many companies still rely on pen and paper or digital tools that are not sector-specific (eg. WhatsApp) to share progress on their lookahead planning, report on the latest checks, and indicate whether all tasks connected to the checks are properly addressed. This results in significant downtime and costly project interruptions.

And things can become even worse in times of crisis, like the one we experience now, where remote working is necessary to keep your teams safe and your projects going.

So being able to segment your various communication workflows while maintaining full visibility over your multiple tasks and projects can open the way to a successful project. And with the right system and processes in place creating a new and fully-updated report can take only 3 clicks.

2. Use construction-specific tools

“How are we doing according to plan?”

That’s the main topic of discussion for most site teams almost every day. And almost always it will cause a lot of confusion and endless discussions. Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons behind this problematic reality.

However, the number one factor seems to be the same every time: the absence of seamless communication and collaboration between project stakeholders due to the use of tools that are not construction-specific.

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Project teams share countless updates with each other on a continuous basis but in many cases, the data lacks context. In other words, it lacks a connection to the master plan. This has a direct effect on the decision-making process as people are unable to make smart decisions quickly given that they don’t have access to the bigger picture. It goes without saying that this approach can lead to serious mistakes, unnecessary costs, and painful delays.

This is where the value of construction-specific tools becomes evident. Tools like Excel and WhatsApp are great for smaller-scale tasks but not for construction where the amount of data produced every day is humongous. Site teams need tools that will offer them access to the master schedule in real time and that they can show them how every single update they receive and every decision they make affects the project’s progress and budget.

3. Invest in standardisation

There are many who claim that standardisation is an impossible task for construction. But the truth is way different. Regardless of the type or the size of a construction project, 80% of the process is always the same.

Therefore, the creation of pre-designed and standardised processes that everyone follows is a big opportunity for mitigating risk and controlling cost in a project. That can also be seen by the increasing attention of the industry towards off-site construction and prefabrication. Being able to control every step of the process and ensure that there is a unified way of working and communicating across the supply chain can be the key to less administrative work, more predictability and better project management in general.

Of course, standardisation goes hand in hand with digital adoption. For many organisations, this seems to be the biggest challenge in the whole process as project managers and directors are afraid that their teams aren’t tech-savvy enough to start using a new digital tool.

Nonetheless, this concern is no longer as valid as it might have been ten years ago. Today almost everyone is using a smartphone and mobile banking. If your workers can use these tools on a daily basis, there is absolutely no reason why they can’t use a construction-specific app that can make their life on-site much easier and help them work faster and more efficiently.

4. Use a single source of truth

At the moment, one of the main factors that fuel up this administrative nightmare in construction is the absence of a single source of truth. This lack of a centralised data ecosystem that all project managers can access to submit updates or simply get informed about the real-time status of their tasks is hurting the decision-making process and makes people feel overwhelmed and stressed out.

Instead of all project information being stored in a central location that is automatically updated, managers and directors need to search in multiple platforms to extract the latest information. The worst part? By the time, they have done that, there is a good chance that the feedback they have in their hands is already outdated.

The use of tools that have been built, putting construction first, is the first step towards solving this critical problem. Information will no longer be lying on different platforms or documents. On the contrary, all feedback will be gathered in one platform enabling fast decision making and seamless collaboration and ensuring that there is clarity on who’s accountable for what.

That can bring a meaningful change to your construction projects as it will give you back control and allow site teams to make informed decisions without you becoming the bottleneck down the road. Gradually, this approach can achieve a serious hit against the culture of blame in construction and significantly reduce the time spent on meetings and administrative tasks.

5. Make delivering on time a “keystone habit”

A typical €10M construction project is experiencing on average 600 interruptions per year. To make matters worse, 25% of those interruptions are expected to remain unsolved and for every interruption, a resolution period of 7 days is required.

This is a strong indication that the way we work in construction needs to change. And that change can come by digitalising our processes and by reevaluating the tools and systems we have in place. Instantly flagging critical problems and delivering projects of high quality on time should turn into cornerstone habits for the whole industry.

Learn more: How email communication hurts your project delivery

To achieve this, stakeholders in construction need to invest more in standardisation through the use of construction-specific digital solutions. This mindset will eventually also lead to the use of a central data repository so that there is full accountability between the different project teams. Only then, construction will stand a chance to restore trust across the supply chain, reduce disputes, and eliminate the immense administrative burden that comes with them.

It’s a long and demanding process that won’t happen overnight but with the right people, tools, and processes in place the construction industry can hope for a better future with higher productivity, better collaboration, and less waste.

Keeping your teams connected will ensure successful delivery

Crucial updates are continuously lost in endless email threads leading to increased downtime, costly misunderstandings, and missed deadlines.

But by now it is evident that this shouldn’t be the case. Regardless of their size or type, construction projects will succeed only if their teams remain connected, follow the same processes, and flag critical problems as soon as they appear.

As an industry, it’s crucial to understand that less admin work equals less time wasted and by extension fewer schedule delays. Producing meeting documents, progress reports, briefings, and dashboards should not be the main to-do’s on your typical day.

After all, you didn’t sign up for that when you chose to work in construction. You wanted to make a difference and deliver successful projects within time and budget. And you can make that happen by fighting micromanagement and by adopting a data-driven way of working.

In an effort to help you improve project communication, we have compiled a detailed guide that explains how you can create or enhance your exising communication processes.

 

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