How to flag interruptions quickly avoiding delays and cost overruns

Written by LetsBuild

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“How are we doing according to plan?” 

That’s a question that site teams have to answer almost every day. And almost every time this question will trigger never-ending discussions and a lot of confusion. Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons behind this problematic reality.

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

However, the core of these problems appears to be always the same. Interruptions that are not communicated to the right people in a direct and timely manner. As a result, subcontractors end up wandering on site without being able to start working on their tasks leading to costly delays and unthinkable budget overruns.

After all, the construction process is a fragile chain of activities and events and the slightest problem with one of these links can be the catalyst for a series of setbacks along the way.

It is worth mentioning that 44% of delays in construction stem from interruptions in the way a construction project develops. With that in mind, it becomes evident that cutting down delays during execution should be the main focus of any project team if they want to avoid budget overruns.

On top of that, if we look a bit closer we will notice the four main factors behind this 44% could be summed up to the following:

  • Delays due to errors (44%)
  • Delays due to late reply to RFIs (20%)
  • Change to specifications (18%)
  • Poor weather conditions and other factors (18%)

In other words, reworks and feedback requests for the correct completion of a task take up so much space as a construction project unravels. And that’s important to know because finding the root of the problem can bring site teams one step closer to success.

Common problems for every Project Manager

In a nutshell, here are the most common problems that nearly every director managing multiple projects has to face currently:

  • Project complexity: Construction projects are becoming more and more complex as a plethora of parameters need to come in place to ensure that a project is progressing without any interruptions. To make matters worse, bids are more competitive than ever while the buffer time from task to task is vastly reduced.
  • Constant stream of escalations: Client and management challenges are part of your everyday life as a result of the continuous effort you have to invest in sorting out last-minute problems and finding the reason behind project delays and budget overruns.
  • Lack of standardisation: There is no coordinated approach across all your projects which signifies that you are lacking a clear view of each of your individual projects. Each project is different and the bigger the project, the more complex it is to control and manage.
  • A strong culture of blame: It is always someone else’s fault. Battling the culture of blame and having an accurate picture of project progress, allows you and your team to make the right decisions. In many cases, project teams try to pass the blame further down the value chain so that they can avoid the consequences. This lets you, as a Project Manager, fighting against a continuous wave of interruptions trying to figure out what went wrong and what could be done differently.
  • Limited adoption: As you are moving from project to project, it is sure that you have experimented with different digital tools and planning approaches (eg. lean methodology). For these initiatives to succeed, adoption from the people on the field and the office is required. Otherwise, sooner or later your teams will go back to their old habits costing you both time and resources.

The good news is that you are not alone in all this. There are many directors who share your frustrations and want to change the way they manage their projects. And they also know that solving critical problems quickly is what helps teams deliver faster.

How to report interruptions without any delays or budget overruns

By now, it is evident that no matter how hard you try and how good your team is, your project is still in danger unless you build the right framework that will allow you to flag issues as soon as they emerge avoiding getting lost in a spiral of ineffective communication.

On the bright side, it is clear that with the right strategy you have the opportunity to drastically improve the way your team operates and works together.

At the end of the day, everything comes down to three elements: people, processes, and tools. If these three come in place then you will be able both to detect and solve critical problems faster and before they become a threat to your programme and by extension your organisation.

Below you can find a quick introduction to the four main steps that could allow you to lock interruptions out of your projects and deliver according to the plan. All the steps presented are part of our framework at LetsBuild and based on our experience working with some of the biggest stakeholders in construction:

1. Turn real-time communication into a keystone habit

An average €10M project in construction is expected to experience approximately 600 interruptions on a yearly basis. To make matters worse, 25% of these interruptions will most probably remain unsolved and for every interruption, it is estimated that a resolution period of 7 days is required.

Read more: Do you have the right tools to stay on top of your lookahead planning?

These numbers are disappointing and reveal one of the core issues construction is battling against. Problems in construction aren’t solved quickly enough. One of the reasons that this happens lies in the fact that the industry is still relying on static data captured by tools that aren’t built for construction.

Reducing downtime should turn to the keystone habit of the entire sector if we want to see a difference. Like that, you will be able to receive multiple field updates in real time and react to them instantly instead of getting trapped in outdated schedules and endless email threads.

2. Help people make decisions faster

In many cases, Project Directors and Project Managers have to run multiple projects at the same time. It goes without saying that each of these projects comes with numerous updates and requests for information that go from one stakeholder to the other.

That being said, you need to be able to give both your site and office teams the tools that will allow them to run the tasks they are responsible for without stumbling on you. If your feedback is required in every single task it easily becomes clear that you can turn into a bottleneck for the entire project.

This is where a reliable digital solution, that is cut for construction, could be extremely helpful. Project managers would be able to instantly submit the right information to the right people. Simply put, easier reporting will lead to faster decisions.

avoid common construction delays

3. Standardise your reporting process

Now you might think that every project is different and that what works in one project won’t be successful for another. However, this is not true. Projects might vary but what really matters is how we communicate problems.

And it’s no secret that the traditional way of sharing problems today doesn’t work. Project Directors are wasting most of their time putting together progress reports instead of focusing on where they could make a true difference.

The worst part is that in many cases these reports don’t bring any actual value to the project as they are outdated the moment they are issued. That’s why a data-driven reporting process, where all project managers can contribute their feedback to the live programme at the push of a button, is needed.

“Our programme is updated at site level. That means that the operative supervisor provides us the information from the site. So we get photos; we get updates. This allows the team to take more ownership and provides us with visibility across the whole site team,” says Matt Ghinn, Project Director at VolkerFitzpatrick, after digitalising the reporting process on his organisation through the implementation of LetsBuild.

4. Eliminate admin workload through digital implementation

You as a manager are in control of multiple projects and teams. You understand well that delivering successful projects faster equals delivering within budget. Especially if we take into account that there is a 77% correlation between time delays on a project and cost overrun (European projects).

At the same time, you might have heard that people in construction dedicate up to 40% of their day on administrative tasks (eg. writing reports, chasing updates, attending endless meetings, etc). This unpleasant reality prevents project managers from doing what they love and, more importantly, what they are really good at.

So a new approach to the way project teams report progress is more than necessary. It is time to start working on implementing a digital process that will allow everyone in your organisation to communicate the latest updates on their tasks through their tablet or smartphone device.

Of course, the digital transformation of your business is a long and tough journey. In that sense, even if you think that you can do it yourself, it is better that you listen to the experts and ask for help from someone who has done it again in the past. Only then, you will be certain that you can avoid common mistakes and feel confident that you have kickstarted the implementation process on the right foot.

Get our full guide and learn where you stand

By now you already have a first idea of how digital tools can help you flag critical problems quickly and reduce delays on your multiple construction projects. But it’s time for action!

We have just put together a detailed guide that can show you how to gain full site visibility and control over your projects without relying on tools that aren’t tailored for construction. In the guide, we analyse in detail the steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal of delivering successful projects sooner and cheaper with as few interruptions as possible.

Like that, you will be able to get a better understanding of where you stand on your progress reporting journey and the strategy you should follow so that your teams avoid interruptions and deliver sooner.

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