How to achieve healthy projects in four simple steps

 

Keeping projects healthy takes a huge amount of time and energy, especially when you’re managing more than one or managing it on top of your day job.

Here are four useful tips to ensure your projects stay in tip top condition.

Tip 1: Manage your schedule

The project schedule is one of your most important documents, so making sure you get it right and keeping it up-to-date is important. It seems like a drudge but once it’s out of control it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get it back in order.

Make task durations at least 1 day and no more than 2 weeks – so you’re not obsessing about low hanging fruit but also aren’t leaving things too long without checking in.

Update your schedule once a week. Any more and you’re getting too obsessed. Any less and you’re likely to be losing control and oversight – which is never good.

Clearly mark the critical path, or golden thread, and include the name of the individual responsible for the delivery of the task group on the chart. It keeps things really clear and quick to view.

Tip 2: Keep your stakeholders happy

Managing up and out is one of your primary roles and takes up a lot of time and energy. Remember, this isn’t just about the bosses, it includes suppliers and end users.

You’ll find that all most stakeholders want is to be kept informed and feel that their opinions have been listened to.

A monthly project newsletter is a great way to keep in touch. Include updates on progress, what is coming up on the schedule, and general bits of project news.

Tip 3: Document everything!

This might sound like an obvious thing to do, but make sure you document everything. If you have a ‘watercooler’ chat, follow it up with an email. You never know when it will come in handy. It’s not so much a case of covering your back as dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s. We’ve seen many instances where someone’s had a quick chat, taken the direction as gospel and then been questioned about why they took the action they did and have no evidence to back it up.

Tip 4: Have regular team meetings

When you’re under the pump, working 16 to 18 hour days to deliver your project, it’s really easy to consider stopping the project catch-up meeting. But it’s at this point that project meetings become more important than ever.

During this meeting you’re likely to pick up if things are going off track or if your team needs to refocus. Better to discover this here than on the day before go live when you realise a critical piece of work has been missed (We’ve have seen it happen!)

It’s a chance for the team to take a bit of a breather and relax

It’s a place for any challenges and grievances to be aired. When time pressures mount it’s really easy for little frustrations and niggles to boil over and become problematic. Use the team meeting as a time and place to discuss and diffuse potential volatile situations

Proactively capture any lessons the team wants to share, saving time and effort at the project close out.

We hope these 4 tips have been useful and help you maintain healthy projects.

Check out our case study page to find out how we’re helping our customers keep their projects healthy.

A Beginner’s Guide to Agile Construction

Take a look at your current operating procedures.  How long does it take your company to restructure and switch between design styles or projects? The construction industry as a whole isn’t generally the most agile, often remaining quite hidebound and set in their ways, content to let the rest of the world move on without them.  Agile construction and project management are beginning to emerge as a way to keep things moving forward as the world continues to advance.  What is agile construction, and why should you consider adopting it in your business?

Starting with Agile Development

Agile manufacturing and building methods emerged in the automotive and software development industries to cope with the continually changing and often turbulent environment. The creators chose the term agile as the best way to describe the need for adaptiveness within their sectors.  At its core, agile development is a series of principles and values designed to create self-organizing teams and foster collaboration.  The ultimate goal is to build a system that can adapt to anything that the ever-changing industry can throw at it.

This doesn’t eliminate the need for managers or supervisors to run the overall program, but instead of micromanaging every step of the process, in an agile development system, managers just provide the framework and step back, allowing and trusting their teams to figure out the best way to solve the problem and deliver the finished product.

Software is a very non-linear development process. You can build different pieces of a program out of order and have them easily slot together in the end into a functional program. Construction doesn’t work that way, which has led many to believe that it might be ill-suited for agile management techniques, but this is one of those rare cases where opposites attract.

Making Construction Agile

Typically, the construction industry is the antithesis of agile, but even industries steeped in tradition can benefit from the addition of a bit of agility.  These might seem like two opposed concepts, with agile development focusing on constantly checking and changing processes depending on what is needed at the moment and construction tending to stick to the same tried and true practices, but with a bit of tweaking, the two can work together.

Some rules in construction will never be agile, such as the order of construction.  You can’t start building the roof before you pour the foundation, for example. You also will not be able to put off major decisions until late in the construction process, which is a tenant of agile development that works with software development but is harder to apply in the real world where things like gravity exist. You can change how you approach each of these steps as you move through the construction process.

instead of sticking to the same inventory management plan you’ve always used, consider applying agility principles. Continually check and re-check your inventory management procedures to ensure they’re optimized. This will likely include but isn’t limited to keeping detailed records of your inventory and investing in new technology, such as project management software, to help fill in the gaps and keep things moving forward.

Agility in Project Management

Project management software is another tool beginning to emerge to streamline the construction industry as a whole, and construction management in particular,  and make it more agile. While delays and cost overruns aren’t always avoidable, planning and project management software can make it easier to prevent more of these problems and keep projects moving forward.

While the construction process is sequential out of necessity, since we currently can’t violate laws like physics and gravity to build houses and larger structures out of order, the planning and design process can significantly benefit from agility in management. Design problems are quick and inexpensive to fix, but once you start pouring concrete or building wood frames, fixing these same problems becomes infinitely more expensive.  Case studies have shown that companies that adopted agile construction and project management techniques and tenets were more successful in multiple examples, completing technical milestones and meeting performance indicators on the schedule.

The Future of Agile Construction

Agile development techniques might be well known in software development and automotive engineering circles, but it’s just beginning to make an appearance in other industries.  Construction, usually thought to be linear and inflexible, can benefit greatly from the tenants of agile development.

You can’t take the construction process and turn it on its head, but you can make the most of the information that you have available and use it to create an efficient and effective team for any project that might cross your desk. Take a closer look at your current operating procedures and see where you might be able to make the necessary changes or what aspects of your operation could benefit from being a little more flexible.

Author Bio

Rose Morrison is a construction industry writer and the managing editor of Renovated. Follow her on Twitter to see more of her work

Writing documents your stakeholders will read

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” – George Berkeley

If you write a project document and no one reads it, what was the point of writing it?

You’ve spent hours crafting what you’re sure is the perfect project briefing document and you’re excited to send it to your stakeholders. But when you ask some questions at the kick-off meeting, it’s obvious no-one has read it – at least not beyond the first page. What went wrong?

Project documentation is as necessary, even if it can seem tedious. It can make the difference between success and failure. According to the PMI, poor communication is among the top five reasons that projects fail. But you are communicating – so why doesn’t anyone read it?

How can you create documentation which brings clarity and transparency to your project process, fast-tracks decisions and creates ownership within your team? Follow these tips, and you’ll hopefully never again be interrupted with the words, “Can you give me an update on the project?”

Before you begin

Gather input

How do you know which information is useful to your stakeholders? Ask them. Also find out which parts of project documents they usually skip and which they always read.

Have a plan

Your communications plan is a vital part of the overall project plan. Regular messaging will cut down on the ad-hoc requests for status updates.

Consider your medium

Avoid scattering your project communication across email, meeting agendas, chats and shared drives. Instead, bring all the pieces together into one cloud-based location. Ensure the appropriate people receive notifications when documents are added or updated.

Structure is key

Create templates

For each type of project document, ensure you always follow the same format. This makes your documents both quicker to write and easier to digest by readers. Over time it becomes easier for stakeholders to track progress when they know where to find the data that’s relevant to them.

Ideally your project management software will have a range of reporting templates ready for you to customise and use in your documentation.

Keep your documents as attractive and ‘glanceable’ as you can. Consider your fonts and line spacing, and avoid cramming in too much text at once (these tend to be the parts people skip!).

Have a strong executive summary or opening paragraph

The beginning of your document will tell the reader whether it is worth continuing to read. Include the two or three key milestones or topics you want to focus on and allude to the data you will present within in the document.

Keep it brief

 “A one-size-fits-all report does not work for all stakeholders. Too much information can overwhelm.” – Kathi Soniat, PMP, Randstad Technologies, Greer, South Carolina, USA

Avoid the temptation to include all the current information about a project in every document. Time is scarce, and your stakeholders only want to know what is essential to progress. Project status reports for example should be one page or less.

You should, of course, include any relevant context in your document, but don’t rehash the project background or keep sharing the same data. Link off to other documents as required to provide more information for those who need it.

Tips for readability

Use active voice as much as possible

Active voice emphasises the subject and makes it clear who is performing an action. If you write using active voice you will appear confident and trustworthy. Your words have more authority and are more persuasive. Hint: if your sentence includes the word ‘was’, it is probably written in passive voice. 

Here is an example of passive voice: An investigation into the overspend will be conducted. When re-written in active voice, the subject of the sentence must be included: The CFO will investigate the overspend.

Colour coding guides the eye

It may sound childish but colours really work! Whether it’s as simple as using green for actions that are on-track and red for risks, design a consistent colour code palette and use it in each status report. If you have multiple work streams in a project, you might always use the same colours when representing them in charts or graphs. Don’t overdo it though – only use colours to illustrate the most important points in your document.

Graph data wherever possible

Humans are visual creatures, and we find it much easier to interpret data when presented graphically. Again, you can link off to the full data table for those who need the detailed information. Your graphs should show your reader the conclusions they should draw, not merely present the numbers so that they gloss over them.

Annotate charts, graphs and data

To this end, annotate your visuals to illustrate what the data is showing the reader. Your title should point out the key learning of your graph, not merely describe the data. Avoid using a data legend which sits off to the side of the graph. Instead, directly label your data points (only the most relevant ones). Add any other brief pertinent annotations directly to the chart which will help the reader grasp its meaning without having to read lengthy explanatory sentences underneath. You want to avoid making the reader switch repeatedly between the graph and an explanation.

Amanda Cox, an editor at the The New York Times, says “The annotation layer is the most important thing we do…otherwise it’s a case of here it is, you go figure it out.” [source]

Psoda Plug

Do you have a project management tool which allows you to generate custom reports on the fly, allowing you to create project documents with ease? Can you manage your workflows and timelines collaboratively, keeping all of your communication in one central location? If not, Psoda can help! Sign up for a free 14 day trial today.

 

 

How to Effectively Manage a Project Remotely

Working remotely is the new normal for many of us. I authored this blog at home, for example! According to an Airtasker survey, remote workers are more productive and less distracted than their office-located counterparts. However, as a project manager, how do you manage your team effectively from a distance and ensure your projects stay on track?

Here’s some tips to help keep productivity levels high and stay in control of your work streams when you or your team are working remotely. We’ll also cover some of the key pitfalls to avoid as you navigate long-distance management.

Thorough planning is crucial

Your team needs a great roadmap to work from. Spent extra time planning your project to ensure everyone has clarity of your scope, the deliverables, responsibilities and deadlines.

Set clear expectations around objectives and benchmarks, and ensure your documentation is kept up to date as you move through the project. This task is made much simpler with cloud PPM software which we’ll discuss now.

Implement a centralised project management tool

Tracking your goals and progress, and enabling your team to do the same, is even more essential when working on a project remotely. Using a cloud-based collaboration tool make sense. Ensure all the team have the appropriate access levels and update their tasks in a timely fashion. This will enable you to report more accurately.

Circulate automated dashboards each morning or every week, depending on the flow of your project. A visual representation of how you’re tracking is motivating for your team. The ability to add comments and attachments to a task keeps all your activity centralised – no more time wasted searching through your emails!

Communicate clearly and regularly

Choose what technologies you will be using for video conferencing, instant messaging and collaboration and ensure everyone has access and knows how to use them. Then, consider the appropriate medium for your message. Not every issue needs a meeting! Remote workers say meetings reduce productivity 1.8 times more than on-site workers [source].

Keep in regular contact with your team members to avoid any isolation they may be feeling, as well as checking in on how they’re doing with the project. Again, choose the appropriate method of communication based on the employee’s individual preferences. Some people will want a phone call, others might only need an instant message.

Keep meetings at regular times to help workers keep routines at home. Circulate your agenda in advance and stick to it during the meeting. Encourage the team to show up on time and be respectful of each other’s time even when we are not physically together. At the same time, if someone must leave the meeting for a personal emergency, we can help them by keeping thorough minutes and distributing them promptly. Practise good meeting etiquette: turn off alerts and pop-ups, and mute when you’re not speaking. Ensure everyone has had the opportunity to speak during a video conference. It’s easy to be drowned out when multiple people try to speak at once. Team members can be allowed to leave a call if the remaining agenda items aren’t relevant to them.

Celebrate milestones and successes as you progress and give your team members regular feedback on their performance.

Plan around flexible hours and count on interruptions

Some workers may have family commitments such as school drop offs, while others may work best in the evening. Get to know your team’s habits and routines, and plan accordingly. Ensure meetings are at times which suit most people.

Trust your team members to manage their time effectively. Whether they start the work a little late or take frequent breaks, it shouldn’t be a problem as long as they are able to get the work done.

If you have established clear expectations, processes and deadlines as discussed above, they should be motivated to get the job done in their own time.

We’ve all seen that video of the kids walking in on the BBC reporter. It’s hilarious because it’s relatable. Any parent working from home has been there! It could be you or one of your team members suffering under the weight of the embarrassment, but we can just laugh at it and move back to the task at hand without further disruption. 

As well as thinking about things you should do, here are some pitfalls to avoid:

Micromanagement

36% of remote managers state that knowing what their team is working on (and when) is a challenge. It can be tempting to be in almost constant contact with your team members, perhaps to check that they have everything they need or to find out how they’re tracking towards that day’s goals. It can very quickly become overwhelming for your staff, and they may get less work done as a result. Trust your project team members to contact you when they need extra assistance. 

Isolation and lack of community

“Without the usual amount of face time that many teams are accustomed to, some team members may feel isolated – be it socially or professionally. Managers should be sure to schedule a time to… foster a more personal connection, using video tools where possible to recreate the face to face experience.”

Michael DePrisco, VP, Global Experience & Solutions, Project Management Institute [source]

Whether it’s chats around the watercooler, catching up over lunch, or having a laugh over a drink – one of the main things workers miss when working remotely is the company of their fellow workmates. We can make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction, to a certain extent, by scheduling some time for the team to bond and have social time. Perhaps everyone bring their favourite snack and drink to a wrap-up session on a Friday, or you can have virtual lunch breaks. Not every email or message has to be work related!

Burnout

Remote workers say their biggest struggle is ‘unplugging after work. When you have the freedom to work at any hour of the day, some people find themselves casually checking their emails after dinner and then putting in another hour or two of work. If your team can’t disconnect fully and have proper downtime, they may go on to experience burnout. Encourage your team members to have regular breaks and log off completely at he end of the day.  Make sure you regularly plan annual leave. A well-rested employee is a productive one.

And in conclusion…

Here’s how a cloud-based programme and portfolio management solution can help you manage your projects remotely: 

  • enables you to plan your project to ensure everyone has clarity of your scope, the deliverables, responsibilities and deadlines – and it’s real-time
  • ensures your documentation is kept up to date and changes are real-time, so no more confusion over which version is the latest
  • tracks your goals and progress, and enable your team to do the same
  • delivers centralised information on automated dashboards

If you’re looking for a PPM tool to help you manage your remote projects sign up for a 14 day free trial of Psoda.

Essentials of a Construction Training Program

Construction is an industry that’s usually associated with on-the-job training. But a more comprehensive training program is quickly becoming essential throughout the sector. What are some of the essentials of this sort of training program?

1. Apprenticeships

High school students who look beyond the “college is the only choice” axion are often on the lookout for an easy way to get their foot in the door. Instead of waiting for them to find you — which may or may not happen, depending on the state of the job market — why not offer apprenticeships as part of your training program?

Keeping everything in-house makes it easier to secure the kind of talent you need without worrying that another company might poach your potentials right out from under you while they’re training.

Construction management software can become an invaluable tool for managing your apprenticeship programs, helping you keep all your ducks in a row, so to speak. With a keystroke or a single click, you can keep track of each apprentice’s progress, hours, certifications earned, and all other applicable information in one place.

This becomes incredibly useful if you’re not used to running in-house apprenticeship programs.

2. Diversity

Off the top of your head, do you know the demographic makeup of your team? If you work with a large number of people or lots of different subcontractors, the answer is probably no.

Experts predict that Caucasian individuals will make up less than half of the U.S. population and workforce by 2030. Discrimination should never have any place in the workplace, and modern companies absolutely can’t afford to exclude people because of their race, gender, or sexuality anymore.

Diversity in the workplace is something every industry should be striving for. In addition to taking all the necessary steps to promote diversity on your crew, frequent diversity training can help keep everyone on the same page.

Incorporate these changes into your construction management programs and let the software do at least some of the work for you. Creating a diversity training program is essential, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

3. Variety

They say that variety is the spice of life, and that goes double for training programs. Sticking to the same training regimen every time you add a new member to your crew is going to leave everyone bored to tears — and if they’re bored, they’re not retaining vital information.

Not all people learn the same way, it turns out. Some learn best visually, while others learn best when they listen. Others only thoroughly grasp concepts during hands-on instruction. Don’t stick to old or outdated training methods just because that’s how you’ve always done it. Spice things up and provide variety in your training.

Keep track of everything you use and everything you do in your training programs. That way, you don’t cycle back to things too often, and it’s easier to keep track of what works and what doesn’t.

4. Safety

Safety on a construction site is always of the utmost importance. It becomes even more challenging when you bring new employees onto the team. You need to instruct them on-site while still ensuring their safety and the safety of everyone else on your crew.

Before they ever pick up a hammer or get behind the controls of a forklift, instill in your trainees the essential importance of safety in the workplace. Don’t skip this step. Don’t delay it until they have other basics down. Start with safety and then work your way into everything else.

Embracing modern technology — especially things like construction management software — can make it easier to keep track of safety issues, keep your team safe, and with enough data, even predict when and where safety problems might occur.

5. Best Practices

Everything in your workplace should come with a series of best practices, and your training program is no exception. Keep a comprehensive list of your best practices, and allow them to evolve and change as you learn more.

Techniques and technologies are constantly changing — so you need to evolve to match or be left behind. You can use construction management software to keep track of your best practices, so you don’t end up returning to something that doesn’t work because you’ve forgotten about it or a new member of the crew suggests it.

6. Personalization

No two applicants or trainees are alike — and your training program will need to adapt accordingly. Personalized training programs are a great way to attract the younger generations.

While Gen Z won’t outnumber the Millennials that came before them, they’re bringing an entirely new perspective to the field — and they are expecting a fast-paced, tech-centric workplace. Personalizing your training programs is a great way to bring this new generation into a rewarding career in construction.

7. Desirability

One of the most challenging things when building a construction training program is combatting the general population’s perception of the industry. When the average person pictures a construction site, they see dirty men in hard hats, miserable in dead-end jobs.

This isn’t close to reality. We have to combat that perception and turn the industry into a place where people can see themselves building a lucrative, interesting, and rewarding career.

8. Continuous Education

Finally, make sure that training doesn’t stop with onboarding. One of the fastest ways to lose Millennial and Gen Z employees is to allow them to stagnate in their position. Everyone can benefit from continued education in the workplace. Think of it as investing in the future of your company. Instead of continually training new employees because your existing ones leave, you can turn your training program into a tool for employee retention.

Looking Forward

The exact contents of your training program will vary depending on the type of work you do and the markets where you operate. But all of the things we’ve listed above can help you build a comprehensive training program.

The goal isn’t just to train your new hires. It’s to turn your company into one that can help your employees build a career in the industry instead of using it as a layover along their way.

A comprehensive training program isn’t optional anymore for any company hoping to survive and thrive in the modern market. Start by looking at your existing training programs and seeing where you can make changes that will help you move into the future.

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

Mentoring for Women in Project Management

Written by Rhona Aylward


Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.

I was very pleased to be invited to present at the monthly PMI Women in Project Management Forum in February.  I chose a topic close to my heart – how mentoring can kick-start your career.

My mentorship journey

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had two great mentors in my life – both older men.  The first was a through a university career programme set up to help final year and new graduates into a career. They part funded work in a food industry start-up and gave me my second mentor.
My second mentor met with me every month and helped me set up and understand quality management systems. It was through him that I got my quality management and system audit qualifications.
My next mentoring experience was a reversal – I was the mentor!  My mentee was a woman in the US, she was an architect with building software product management experience and was looking to transition to general software – and needed help to do that.  By the time we finished, she had secured a position as a programme manager with a multi-national. 
We were introduced through a great New Zealand company called OneUpOneDown. They match women at similar stages of their careers for 12 weeks of mentoring (hence the name. One above and below on the career ladder).
At our first meeting we set out the ground rules. What she was looking for help with, how often we would meet and how we would communicate outside of our meetings. We also worked out a plan around what we wanted to achieve in our 12 weeks together. We met for an hour every week for 12 weeks and we mapped out a plan of how to transition from one industry to another. Every week we discussed what worked, what didn’t work and the plan for the week ahead. We also had general chit chat about what was happening in our respective lives and around the world.

So what makes a good mentor?

If you are looking for a mentor, my advice is to find someone who feels right when you chat to them – they need to be a good fit in terms of understanding what you are trying to achieve and being able to help you in the right ways.  Have a plan and goals so that you have a path to follow and can measure along the way.  A good mentor will be willing to share their skills, knowledge and expertise.  They will teach you what they know and be a positive role model.
A mentor will help you, guide you and challenge you – perhaps take you out of your comfort zone while supporting you. They will listen, provide constructive feedback and are always respectful of your relationship and goals. 

Finding a mentor

You can find a mentor anywhere – ask your friends/colleagues for a recommendation or simply ask someone that you know who you think can help you.  It’s a good idea to know what you want and are trying to achieve so that the person you are asking will know if they can help you.
I’ll share with you 3 questions that you should ask a potential mentor and three that they should ask you…

Three questions to ask your mentor

  1. How did you get to where you are now?
  2. What made you decide to become a mentor?
  3. Have you mentored before?

Three questions to expect from a mentor

  1. What are you looking for help with?
  2. What have you tried to resolve the situation?
  3. Do you have a particular goal in mind, or is it more general support?

Thank you to the PMI Women in Project Management Forum for inviting me to talk, it was a great trip down memory lane. It reminded me how much fun mentoring can be.

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.

Pandemics and Project Managers

Written by Rhona Aylward


Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.

I never thought that my first blog after my holiday would be about a pandemic, but here we are.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that COVID-19 is currently rampaging its way around the world. It’s disrupting everything in people’s lives – from travel to work to social gatherings and in most instances we’re woefully under prepared. You just need to look at the headlines about panic buying of toilet paper.
So as a project manager what should you be doing?

Risk register

Your risk register should have pandemic on there – most likely with a very low probability. Mine does because I came through the swine flu saga a few years ago and learned a whole bunch of lessons from that as a result. It’s not comprehensive and is out of date but the bones are there.

Pandemic plan

It’s worth checking if your organisation has a pandemic plan or even a business continuity plan that includes a pandemic scenario. Even if it’s completely out of date, and it’s likely to be, it will have some useful nuggets of information.
If a plan doesn’t exist it is well worth creating one, as when things do start to happen it will move quickly and you might not have a lot of time.
Things to consider:

Restricting travel

We’ve made the decision to ban all overseas travel until the COVID-19 situation has resolved itself. We’re lucky that everyone who was overseas is safely back in the country and were not in countries with outbreaks.
We are using video conferencing tools to mitigate the lack of travel.

Face to face meetings

We will stop face to face meetings where there are 5 cases in our local area. As of writing there is 1 local case. In the meantime, we have said no physical contact, no handing out business cards and no close proximity to other attendees. We have also said there will be no physical note taking or pen sharing.

Quarantining staff

My plan says that any staff that have travelled through countries or areas with active cases will be quarantined at home for 14 days. We also say that if anyone in an employee’s circle of friends and family becomes unwell the employee should self isolate.

Working from home

One of the key things in my plan is the working from home option. I’ve made sure that it includes provision of the necessary equipment and security, including remote access.

Health and Safety

Before you let people work from home you need to consider your health and safety obligations. Just because staff work from home, this doesn’t absolve the employer of their responsibilities. Before staff work from home you need to make sure you’ve done a risk assessment and have helped the employee mitigate those risks.

Information security

This is an often overlooked part of a major disruption event. Both when planning to work from home but also around disseminating information. Nefarious types are very aware of the panic and thirst for information and have no hesitation in using pandemic related headlines in emails and other phishing attempts. It’s worth making sure that your IT/Information Security team are included in the plan and that they are able to set up laptops and other devices with the required security before they are needed. All too often this is overlooked and is required NOW, forgetting that the IT team are also going to be wanting to, or have to, work remotely.

Internal and external communication

Keeping people informed about what is happening is critical during an emergency, especially one that changes almost hourly like the COVID-19 situation. As a project manager, it’s your job to make sure that everyone gets factual, accurate and timely information. I use a number of government and medical websites as well as reputable news sites.
I’ve also added COVID-19 as a standing agenda item on our regular catch up meetings. It’s gone a long way towards reducing people’s anxiety.
I’ve also shared our plan with key suppliers and customers so that they are aware of what we’ll be doing. We’ve been lucky that they have also shared their plans so that ours can be more robust.

Tools

Most modern organisations are well set up to manage remote working, so some tools to consider if you don’t have these things in place already are:

  • Centralised project management software (Psoda’s good)
  • Online communication tool (something like Microsoft teams, Slack, Skype etc.)
  • Video conferencing tool (we use Zoom meetings)
  • A cloud document sharing tool (Dropbox, Box etc.)

Hygiene

One of the most effective ways to stop COVID-19 is simple hand washing. We’ve provided all employees with their own bottle of hand soap and paper towels for their desks and have emphasised the need to regularly wash their hands.
Make sure you don’t overlook cleanliness of devices, e.g. laptops and mobile phones. Particularly when staff return to work after working from home. Make sure you provide a way to disinfect the devices before they come back to the office. We are also looking at ways to decontaminate our office if the situation arises.

Psoda plug

If you’re looking for an amazing remote working tool to help you during this crisis, look no further than Psoda. We offer an online demo and a 30 day free trial.

What does a project dream team look like?

Written by Rhona Aylward


Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.

No one is self sufficient. This is why teams are crucial in project management. Teamwork is essential for the smooth running of projects. It allows for more successful project outcomes by helping to drive the team to its goal faster and more efficiently. However, for teamwork to be effective, there has to be strong leadership, typically in form of a project manager. In this article, we will look at the importance of teams in project management and how project managers can build great teams to maximise efficiency.

How does teamwork help in project management?

The success of a project depends on the efficiency of project teams in executing the objectives and goals of a project. That said, here are some ways in which effective teamwork can help the project manager during the project management lifecycle.

  • Promotes collaboration

Teamwork promotes collaboration amongst team members which can help to keep them more involved and engaged.  Increased engagement is bound to increase productivity and achieve better results and which is the goal of every project manager.

  • Encourages creativity

Different people working together usually means more unique ideas and diverse perspectives. This sharing of ideas promotes brainstorming which can help the project team acquire more effective strategies for completing the project.

  • Builds trust

Working in a team builds trust. Trust enables the members to share their ideas freely and rely on each other. This trust lays the foundation for a healthy relationship between team members which can improve performance and increase productivity.

  • Increases accountability

Teamwork gives the participants a sense of purpose which helps to make them feel accountable. Knowing that they are important to the project outcome can be empowering to the members, motivating them to do their best to see to the success of the project.

  • Improves workflow speed

It’s no surprise that teamwork speeds up the progress of a project. As a project manager, even if you have all the necessary skills which is highly unlikely, it would be almost impossible to get through the amount of work that is required to complete the project before its deadline. With a team, not only is this achievable, your time is also freed up to enable you attend to more important project activities.

How to select great team members and build a successful team as a project manager

As a project manager, building a great project team should be your primary responsibility. However, developing a collaborative, productive and highly efficient team is not without challenges. Read on to learn how you can scale the challenges to build a team with great members and working in positions that will put their skills to most effective use.

  • Have a plan in place

First things first, you need to put together a plan that will guide your selection process. What project are you going to be working on? What is the goal of the project and how will the team achieve this goal? Are there specific skills required for the project? What roles would need to be filled? When is the deadline for the project? The answers to these questions will help you define the project requirements and the people that can handle those requirements.

  • Select team members

With an understanding of the framework of the project, you can then begin to recruit your team. Your team members are responsible for operations that will progress the project so you have to ensure you recruit the best people available to you. When picking members, analyse the skills and personality of the prospective members. Ensure that the skills of the members complement one another as well.
Look out for people that show integrity, trustworthiness and have great interpersonal skills. Project management is a highly collaborative field so you will need to look at each person individually and as a part of a team. Also, depending on the nature of the project, especially where you need expertise that is not available in your organization, you can recruit fresh talents outside the company to ensure you have an expert team for the project.

Skills you need as a project manager to build a great team

Building a great project team that will follow and support you is not easy. There are certain leadership skills and personal characteristics every project manager must develop to lead a committed team for successful project management. Below are some of those skills.

  • Task delegation

It is important for project managers to know how to delegate tasks correctly. The best team is one where each member works in a position that matches their individual competencies. Proper task delegation promotes efficiency and allows for more effective collaboration between the team members.

  • Communication

An ability to communicate effectively with your team is an essential skill every project manager must have. Effective communication ensures that members are kept up-to-date with vital information so that everyone feels like a part of the team. It also encourages collaboration and builds trust within the project management team.

  • Mentorship

Your team members are likely to make inadvertent mistakes. When this happens, as the manager, you must present yourself as a mentor, someone who has their back at all times. The assurance that comes with having a mentor in you will encourage them to be fully committed to the project and give it their best shot.

  • Decision making

It is the responsibility of the project manager to set goals and instructions for the team. These instructions guide the operations of the team members and ensure that the entire team is on the same page in working towards achieving the project’s goal.

How to transform a struggling team to a successful one

It is almost impossible to put different individuals in a team and hope they work in complete harmony until the end of the project. The team may struggle at some point and as a project manager, here’s how you can identify and resolve issues.

  • No clear purpose

Goals motivate people. If your team doesn’t have a clear understanding of the purpose of the job, they are likely to be less committed to it which might result in poor performance. So if you notice a reduction in the quality of performance, you might want to reinforce the importance of the project to re-energize the team.

  • No project leadership

Project managers are accountable for their team’s performance and in the absence of effective leadership, your team might struggle. To drive performance and collaboration, as a project manager, you’ll need to establish responsibility and accountability, manage any conflict that arises, delegate tasks to suitable members and communicate efficiently among other things.

  • Poorly defined roles

Teamwork is about utilizing individual skills in various roles to get stuff done. However, in the absence of clearly defined roles and responsibilities, nothing might get done. To help the team out, project managers should ensure that every team member knows their role as well as the responsibilities that come with such role. Remember teamwork is focused on how the members function as a team and less about who they are.

  • Unclear communication

According to studies, ‘equal conversational taking’ is a vital habit of successful teams. Creating a communication strategy to support regular interaction can help resolve poor communication in the team. This can be through emails, meetings, reports, and presentations. Also, try to give everyone on your team a voice to avoid having one sided conversations dominated by the bolder personalities.

How project managers can empower their teams

Great project managers do not just build teams, they also engage and motivate the members to help empower them. Project managers can empower their teams through giving them opportunities to grow and develop their skills and capabilities. Organize project meetings, encourage your people to speak up and interact to ensure that everyone’s clear on project status and expectations. Also, when your team’s performance is poor, when giving criticism, instead of presenting it as a problem to be fixed, present it as an opportunity to improve. With a project team empowered to succeed, the project is likely to be a success as well.

Psoda Plug

For project managers looking for a project management software solution to organize their team’s project management process, look no further than Psoda.  Sign up and use it free for the first 30 days!