The Top Uses of Digital Technology in the Construction Industry

Construction isn’t a particularly high-tech industry, or at least it hasn’t been until recently. Historically, the sector has been slow to adopt new technologies, either from a lack of demand or prohibitive upfront costs. As digital tech like project management has skyrocketed in the past few years, that’s starting to change.
Digital tools like project management software are both affordable and versatile. They address too many issues too effectively for the industry to ignore them. Throughout every phase of the construction process, these technologies are reshaping the sector.
Here are five of the top uses of digital technology in construction.

Budgeting and Resource Management

The construction industry is notorious for going over budget and over time. According to one report, large projects typically go 80% over budget and fall 20% behind schedule. This is a multifaceted issue, but a lot of it is due to poor planning. Project management software can help.
These software tools streamline the preconstruction phase, saving time, which saves money. More notably, they offer more advanced, in-depth budgeting and resource management solutions. Project management software can analyze historical and current data to predict how much a project may cost and where companies can adjust to make savings.
After producing a more realistic budget, this software can help construction companies stay within it. Automatic reporting, time tracking and invoicing tools keep track of resources, so workers don’t have to. On top of streamlining these processes, these tools improve visibility, helping teams see when and where they may go over budget.

Modeling

Every construction project, no matter the size or significance, needs a thorough design and planning phase. Traditionally, companies have relied on physical models and 2D blueprints to conceptualize and plan buildings. Digital technologies have started to replace these older methods, making this process more in-depth and collaborative.
Building information modeling (BIM) enables architects and other stakeholders to create 3D, interactive digital models of projects. This software allows for faster, easier collaboration in the planning phase and can update in real-time during construction. Project managers can then see and respond to any unforeseen developments without having to be on-site.

Safety

Workplace safety is vital in every industry, but it’s especially crucial in construction. Safety hazards are common in the sector, and with all the heights and heavy machinery involved, accidents can be severe. Digital technologies provide construction teams with the tools they need to stay safe.
The second-most common OSHA violation in construction is hazard communication, with more than 4,000 violations a year. Project management software makes communicating with employees and stakeholders much easier. When someone recognizes a potential hazard, they can use these tools to share it with everyone else, avoiding mistakes from miscommunication.
During the planning phase, digital models can also highlight potential safety issues. Teams can then make adjustments to prevent hazards before they arise. At the worksite, sensors and wearables can help managers keep track of potential dangers and worker health.

Equipment Maintenance

Construction projects rely on heavy equipment, and these machines require a lot of maintenance. If workers don’t take proper care of them, they could malfunction or break, endangering employees, delaying completion times and raising costs. Today, construction teams can use various digital tools to ensure proper maintenance.
Hot weather can lead to overheating and other heat-related problems, but project management software can help teams schedule around the hottest times of the day. Similarly, these digital tools make it easy to establish and keep track of maintenance schedules. They can automatically highlight scheduling conflicts and alert managers when an employee failed to perform a maintenance check.
Other digital technologies, like IoT sensors, can alert workers when a machine may need maintenance soon. They can then address the issue before it leads to a costly breakdown. Since equipment downtime alone can cost $3,120 a year per machine, these digital tools can lead to considerable savings.

Documentation and Reporting

Paperwork might not be what immediately comes to mind with construction, but it’s a factor in any project. Manual documentation and reporting is typically slow and tedious, costing money and taking workers’ focus from more pressing needs. Some project management software solutions can automate this process.
As much as 88% of spreadsheet data contains errors, mostly due to human mistakes. Automating the process removes many of these issues since computers are typically better at data-heavy tasks than people. They’re also faster, so project management software can help companies save time on paperwork.

Digital Tech Is Transforming Construction

As more companies use this technology, others will realize its benefits and do the same. Before long, the entire construction industry will rely on project management software and other digital tools. A sector that was once resistant to change will become as tech-centric as anything else.
Construction has become infamous for problems with efficiency and budgets. Digital technology offers an answer. These resources will transform the industry, making it safer, faster, more collaborative and profitable.
 
This blog was guest authored by Rose Morrison. Rose Morrison is a construction industry writer and the managing editor of Renovated. Follow her on Twitter to see more of her work

3 Reasons Why Construction Businesses Should Switch to Remote Work

The COVID-19 situation has forced many businesses to make some changes to the way they operate. Because of strict stay-at-home orders by governments to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, some companies have opted for flexible work-at-home arrangements instead of stopping operations altogether. Using collaboration tools and remote management practices, these businesses will be able to continue their business, although in a limited capacity.
The construction industry is one of the sectors that are deemed essential by almost all countries. Structural work in support of novel coronavirus efforts is permitted to continue provided that workers observe proper hygiene and social distancing efforts. However, without the support of office-based functions in construction such as accounting, lien management, and sales, construction work will face several challenges, such as project delays, supply-chain slowdowns, and payment issues
The current situation is the perfect time for construction businesses to adopt flexible work options and remote management practices. Here are some of the reasons why remote work is perfect for the construction industry. 

1. Employees who work from home are more productive.

Remote workers value the convenience and flexibility that comes with working from home. And this easily translates to additional work efficiency and productivity. In fact, a Stanford University study found that on average, remote workers are 13% more productive at home than in the office. This is equivalent to an entire extra day of work. 
The reason? According to the study, work-from-home employees were not stressed by the commute to work and experience fewer distractions while at home. In addition, remote employees took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off than their office-based counterparts. 

2. Remote management tools are readily available.

The construction industry tends to be slow when it comes to adopting new technology. Because of the nature of the business where each project can take years to finish and construction sites are scattered across multiple locations, it can be hard to implement new technology to replace the traditional systems in place. The result is a lagging industry that is second only to agriculture in terms of digitization. A lot of business owners are reluctant to adopt new innovations because the old methods still work. 
What many business owners seem to miss, however, is the availability and accessibility of new innovations such as remote management tools on the market. For instance, planning tasks and tracking projects are now easy to do with project management tools. Instant messaging and video conferencing platforms are also readily available for download for free so you can communicate with your employees effectively even when far apart. 

3. It will future-proof your business

Even before the COVID-19 crisis affected the global economy, many industries were already adopting remote management practices. The nine-to-five workday may become obsolete in the near future. Millennials replacing baby boomers, who are aging out of their construction roles, will expect more flexible schedules as part of their criteria for choosing a workplace. Construction companies that allow their employees to work remotely a few days a week will have access to a larger talent pool and will be highly prepared to hire employees who want flexibility. 
The COVID-19 crisis may have forced construction businesses to adopt remote work in order to continue. But the benefits of remote work paired with effective remote management practices extend far beyond the current situation. Now is the perfect opportunity for you to see whether remote work can work for your construction business. 
 
About the Author:
Chris Woodard is the Co-Founder of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.

5 Key Challenges Construction Project Managers Face

Effective project management is vital to the timely delivery of a construction project. In an industry where each project has several stakeholders, budget constraints, and scheduling issues, a construction project manager needs to be prepared to face challenges and ensure the completion of a project.
The issues construction project managers are tasked to handle may come as a direct result of the construction operations or indirectly from peripheral activities and events. Sometimes, these issues are exacerbated by some key challenges that many project managers are very familiar with — here are five of them.

1. Budget Management

According to McKinsey & Company, cost overruns are the norm in the construction sector, with projects taking up to 80% over the budget. Inaccurate estimates during the start of the construction process inevitably leave project managers dealing with budget overruns in the future. Thus, due diligence during the pre-construction phase and setting realistic cost expectations from architects and contractors is vital to the success of a construction project.
Geological issues are one of the major reasons for going over the budget. If there are discrepancies between the early survey estimate and the actual ground condition, the project design will require costly changes. Project managers need to identify these issues early on and set contingencies in place in order to minimize their impact on the budget.

2. Time Constraints

Time management is the bulk of a project manager’s responsibilities. Because stakeholders view time constraints as the issue that result in lost revenue, defective design and even a higher rate of accidents, project managers need to focus on how to tackle this challenge head-on. Missed deadlines and scheduling conflicts lead to inefficient construction operations which snowball into more delays and translate to higher costs.
Because of this, it’s imperative for construction project managers to set strict time frames and monitor enforcement to ensure construction deadlines are met. Weather conditions and events that may cause delays could be mitigated through proper planning. Time management also involves keeping suppliers and subcontractors on track, especially when dealing with documentation and long lead times. To manage these issues, project scheduling and tracking methods are indispensable tools for a construction project manager.

3. Safety Issues

Construction projects are dangerous by nature. Construction workers face risks at a constant basis including trips, falls, and chemical hazards  Because of the bodily injuries and loss of life that come from construction operations, safety should be a paramount concern for all construction project managers. The financial losses can be huge, but the social impact of injuries and deaths on the workforce, the company, and the community is more significant.
One of the best ways to improve safety is to create a project-specific construction safety plan. At a minimum, it should comply with safety regulations prescribed by the law. Project managers should also conduct regular site inspections to monitor safety performance. For a team-focused approach, project managers should consult workforce personnel about safety prior to the start of the project.

4. Poor Communication

As project managers have the central role of managing stakeholders, project owners, suppliers, and subcontractors, they are also responsible for maintaining an open line of communication between parties. Poor communication in a construction project leads to delays and even the project’s noncompletion. The team can miss important tasks and remain unaware of issues until it is too late.
Project managers need to enact clear communication guidelines and make them known to all parties. There should be a clear line of communication that enables the project manager to track the construction progress and obstacles encountered during the day. Having a regular schedule for in-person meetings helps in solving problems quickly.

5. Unrealistic Expectations

While construction project managers need to manage their subordinates, they also must be able to deal with their superiors. These could be the clients, the consultants, the board, as well as government agencies. Sometimes, superiors have unrealistic expectations and want some of their suggestions put into action immediately. Dealing with impossible deadlines and unreasonable requests can dampen workforce morale and doom the construction project.
A project manager’s soft skills and negotiation strategies are important in this kind of situation. Project managers should be able to advocate for their subordinates and communicate their feedback to lead the project back on track.
Construction managers face project management issues in all phases of the construction process. These issues have a significant impact on the success of the project. Construction project managers need to be proactive in looking for opportunities to solve these problems before it is too late.
 
About the author: Chris Woodard is the Co-Founder of Handle.com, where they build software that helps construction businesses get paid faster by automating the collection process of unpaid commercial invoices.

The Role Of Emerging Technology In Project Management

For decades, task managers and their subordinates have been using project management processes to plan and implement large-scale projects. Though legacy approaches have changed over time, the emergence of cutting-edge physical technology and cloud-based software solutions are quickly changing the game.

This post takes a look at the past, present, and future of project management techniques, and how workforces across industries will be leveraging the latest tech trends to drive their initiatives further.

The history of project management

Though the concept of project management can be traced back to ancient Egypt, more complex organizational demands in the mid-1950s led to a surge of new processes and techniques. In particular, the U.S. Navy’s Polaris Missile project led to the development of a mathematical assessment called “program evaluation review technique”, or PERT. This set the standard for mapping out a massive undertaking in broad strokes, from cost and time estimates to general probabilities of outcome.

Around the same time, the E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company began to develop a similar process that would more precisely pinpoint cost and turnaround for use in the private sector. The end result was called “project planning and scheduling” (PPS). Due to its more definitive nature, the process was more widely used and refined upon, most notably by the construction industry.

The emergence of the personal computer in the 1980s shortened the project management lifecycle dramatically. The accessibility of both on-premises processing hardware and low-cost software solutions meant that project management expanded into more verticals than ever before. By the 1990s, project management technology was becoming more prevalent, and more sophisticated.

The current project management landscape

Today, more than half of all manufacturers reportedly use a combination of project management methodologies, according to a 2017 report by LiquidPlanner. This is due in no small part to the ubiquitous nature of centralized software solutions. Additionally, most solutions, especially those in the cloud, operate on a pay-as-you-go principle, making them cost-effective for smaller businesses looking to scale projects for eventual growth.

The increased focus on automation, interconnectivity, and user experience (UX) has led to a kind of “development renaissance” amongst technologists.

Forging the future of project management

So what does this mean for the future of project management? For one, it spells good things for project managers, helping expedite the planning and execution phases of complex projects, as well as providing reporting tools for predictive planning. Some of the top trends for the upcoming year are listed below:

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI and machine learning algorithms have taken the private sector by storm in recent years. The ability to harness the computing power of machines to expedite decision making has made business strategy more nimble, and more profitable.

AI has been utilized in a variety of different function areas already, most notably in resource management. Because its core function is to analyze and report on complex data sets, AI-powered software can efficiently parse real-time data to optimize the deployment of resources to a project, no matter how complex. It’s also being used more and more to automate day-to-day administrative tasks. It can simplify and accelerate the initial stages of project management. This allows project leaders to focus on higher-level strategy, freeing up valuable time and resources.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

In 2015, Google reported that mobile searches had officially surpassed desktop searches. In the years since, the advent of smart devices, next-generation wireless networks, and the increase in remote workforces around the world has led to a connectivity boom. The IoT, a collection of physical devices on a shared wireless network, has played a huge role in the ongoing development of project management software to date.

Much of this shift can be seen in the focus on UX. The need for simple interfaces that are responsive on a variety of different devices, as well as a comprehensive yet centrally organized suite of apps and tools for collaborative projects, has shaped the way developers approach creating and selling a platform to businesses. Simply put: as the nature of work changes, so must project management processes.

Kanban and Business Agile

Some specific methodologies getting a lot of press these days are Kanban Boards and the concept of “Business Agile”. The former is a legacy process that is being updated for the new generation of project planning. Comprised of a grid with itemized tasks, lists, and files,its aim is to minimize bottlenecks and support multitasking on projects with variables that are subject to frequent change. Most often seen in the form of a whiteboard with colored Post-It notes, some software companies like Psoda are helping to expedite the process of translating a board into an actionable project sprint via their AI-powered PsodaVision app.

Business Agile has seen rapid growth due to its adoption by smaller companies which allows them to utilize their personal styles of communication and task management. Being styled as “not just a trend, but a new way of doing business”, it integrates agile philosophies into function areas like marketing and creative departments.It leverages automated tools to increase the flow of communication and delineate clear accountability.

Modern project management continues to expand on what is possible in terms of project scope and repeatable results. It has far-reaching implications across all aspects of a business and will shape business strategy and leadership styles going forward


Sara Carter is the Co-Founder and Editor for Enlightened-Digital, an online magazine dedicated to covering the latest technology and business trends. An avid programmer, she’s passionate about the potential for technology to disrupt the status quo and improve our lives. 

Why Facebook Groups are great for Project Managers – guest post by Elise Stevens

I am very passionate about nurturing the sense of community in the project management industry. I believe that every single person has their perfect tribe out there, their ideal network of individuals who come together to support each other and to share their knowledge in a relevant, useful way for other project managers.

For over two decades, I have worked closely with project managers to positively impact and innovate effective management processes. I have collaborated with a range of large organisations including Queensland Urban Utilities, Ipswich City Council, Coca-Cola Amatil, Hutchinson Telecoms and Ansett Australia.

I now focus on my work with women in project management roles to reinforce within themselves their true value to their team, company and industry. I provide a channel for women’s voices to be heard, supported and embraced in project management with my podcast series, blog articles, personal training, digital courses and workshops. You can learn more on my website https://elisestevens.co.

Years ago, when I first started being active on social media, I thought that the LinkedIn project management groups I’d found were fantastic: large communities of project managers communicating, sharing ideas and engaging with one another – a true global community.

About 18 months into my social media journey, I began to question the quality of the engagement. These big groups that held so much promise, no longer offered much of anything. Rather these groups seemed to be an odd collection of semi-related project management articles with little meaningful engagement. So, I tuned out and dropped out of the groups.

For a while there was a lack of good quality online communities. During this time, Facebook evolved from being simply a personal social hub to that of a credible business platform. The idea that LinkedIn was a platform for business and that Facebook was for personal use was no longer valid. The key reason for this was that Facebook had introduced powerful new features to the world, and they continue to do so.

Groups on Facebook offer a great user interface which is very easy to navigate and view on any device. The layout is visually appealing with comments kept in line with content, allowing you to easily scan shared ideas quickly and follow the conversation. A variety of content can be shared within groups on Facebook, so whether you’re looking for or wanting to share videos, text, images, infographics, articles, quotes, audio, or links with other members, you can easily do so.

The good news is that LinkedIn is slowly releasing more functionality to improve the usability and engagement for users. Currently, I think that the Facebook group functionality is superior to LinkedIn.

There are over 40 project management specific Facebook groups, each with their own purpose and niche. My favourite groups are:

  • Project Management Café – Elizabeth Harrin’s group is a great environment for sharing and collaboration. The group is a vibrant, members share relevant information regularly and more importantly, they help each to other with project management knowledge and questions. You can join Project Management Café here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/projectmanagementcafe/
  • Women of Project Management – I love this group. Asya Watkins has created this group for women to share information and support each other. You can join Women of Project Management here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/womenofpm/
  • Project Managers: Build Your Career – Host, Mike Clayton shares his expertise and passion on how to build your project management career. This group is worth joining. You can join Project Managers: Build Your Career here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/theprojectmanagers/

I have also just started my own Facebook support group which is all about celebrating women in project management. It is a place to share ideas, support each other and recognise our accomplishments (which I’ve found many women do not do anywhere near enough of!). It’s a brand-new group, so jump online and introduce yourself to other wonderful women in project management. Let’s get the conversation started! www.facebook.com/groups/celebratingwomeninpm/ . This group will be getting lots of love in the new year when we begin the Celebrating Women in Project Management 50-Day 2019 Series after the success of the 2018 event (learn more here: https://elisestevens.co/series-celebrating-women-project-management/).

If you are looking for a online community of project managers that you can engage with, consider Facebook – there is a group perfect for you.

What are your favourite project management groups on Facebook? Tell us below in your comment. I’d love to know how Facebook groups have been useful to you, and I’m sure other readers would be interested to check them out.

See you online!

Elise Stevens

Elise signature 

https://elisestevens.co
Join my communities online for support, inspiration and industry insight.
@elisestevens.co on Facebook and Instagram.
Celebrating Women in Project Management Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/celebratingwomeninpm/

Stress and project management: How to navigate when under a time crunch

Even with the best of intentions and best efforts at planning, all of us face a time crunch at some point during the year. For most, the question isn’t if you will experience it, it’s how you will navigate the stress when those time constraints come calling.

“It’s only when it comes to crunch time that people’s true character comes out.”

~ Virginia Wade

The good news is we are better equipped than ever before to take project management to the next level. With the right tools, you can set yourself up to keep the stress at bay – and handle it when facing a time crunch.

Project management software to the rescue

Most of the stress during a time crunch typically comes from feeling scattered, without a clear idea of what to prioritise and how to tackle a seemingly enormous project with the clock ticking down.
This is where project management software can come to your rescue. This subset of business tools is designed to help managers and teams alike plan, complete and evaluate projects on a continuous cycle. Most project management software includes task management, document management, resource management and collaboration features. The combination brings a new level of organisation and productivity to the project, since normally cumbersome processes are streamlined.
When implemented successfully, the tool can bring a clear focus to the project, with objectives and timelines laid out ahead of time. It allows delegation, scheduling, reminders, oversight, and team communication. Maybe most importantly for a time crunch, it can give you a snapshot of the entire project so you know your status.
The long and short of it is this: when it comes to feeling stressed under a time crunch, project management software can help you figure out what to prioritise, what to ask for help on, and what to put on the back burner.

Tips for navigating projects and PM software under a time crunch

What happens when you get close to a deadline and you start to feel stressed? Take a deep breath, and consider these tips as your survival guide.
#1: Learn to plan better.
I promise I’m not being passive aggressive here. Feeling the stress of a tight timeline can prove to be a valuable lesson for future projects. Take it as an opportunity to learn how to incorporate PM software into planning! In the meantime, don’t be afraid to delegate. Adjust your planning by delegating some tasks to the rest of your team.
#2: Break it up into small, manageable tasks.
 Nothing is quite as overwhelming as facing a few weeks’ worth of work in a few days. Instead of spending your energy on stressing out about it, take an hour or two to break the project into more manageable tasks. Think a few hours, tops. A kanban system would be immensely helpful here. Then, set up focus sprints where you can work uninterrupted on a single task – incorporating ‘flow activities’ if you can.
 #3: Dive into digital tools.
Project management software isn’t the only useful business tool. You can use time management tools, collaboration tools, productivity tools and more. These tools are typically easy to set up and use, which means you will find immediate value from them in that last week before the deadline.
Brooklin Nash writes about the latest tools and small business trends for TrustRadius and Writersquad. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (with guilty pleasure) and cooking.