If you were asked about the most frustrating aspects of working on civil engineering construction projects, what are the couple of pain points that you would do just about anything to eliminate? Likely, you would end up railing against some aspect of the constant changes and common disorganization of data that breeds project delays and cost overruns. Additionally, you struggle with the timely and accurate reporting of your project status to all project stakeholders. The status quo has been both inefficient and costly, but there's good news on the horizon. Emerging technologies promise increased resource efficiency and on-time completion. The solution you're seeking is mobility.
Mobile devices and cloud-based software are the rising stars capable of making all the difference in a project's success and deserving of some serious attention. The shift to cloud-based software is not only a solid trend in construction management that gains momentum daily, but also the true hero for our industry when paired with the limitless potential of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Here's a look at two ways in which cloud-based software and mobile devices come together to provide what's needed to easily share project status, daily exception alerts, and daily earned value among owners, A/E firms, and contractors.
Adaptation alongside evolution
For a successful civil engineering construction project, all project team members – owners especially – must be entrenched in the process from procurement through completion of construction. With mobile technology, highly skilled owners and managers are given the tools that make it possible to be as heavily involved in the project from beginning to end as they need to be. Put simply, mobile solutions tie everyone together into the success of the project.
When design-build jobs are in the throes of the planning stage, it's entirely normal for one approach to be defined and agreed upon – only to be changed once the project is underway. If a structure is designed and the building process starts, evolving resources, labor requirements, and other needs can arise and significantly derail progress. When project teams adopt mobile technology for up-to-the-minute project status reporting, the impact of changing expectations for labor, equipment, and materials can be assessed and processed in nearly real-time to keep a project on time and within budget.
Interconnectivity and visibility
Mobile technology also unearths an entirely new vantage point from which projects can be optimized. Owners need information quickly and accurately, and traditionally have had to wait to receive the details they request in the formats they require. The traditional process is drawn out, and often can result in missed deadlines and cost overruns if crucial information is not available immediately.
Mobility bridges the gap between all project stakeholders and facilitates efficient collaboration between an integrated team of designers, contractors, and owners. Accessing cloud-based software on a mobile device in the field gives owners an immediate view of scope, schedule, and cost in real-time as changes occur. Through the use of mobile technology, project stakeholders can now handle fluctuations in plans straight from the jobsite itself with the ability to disseminate current project status to owners wherever and whenever they need it.
Mobility bridges the gap between all project stakeholders and facilitates efficient collaboration between an integrated team of designers, contractors, and owners.
Advancements in mobile project intelligence reporting also allow owners to receive daily exception alerts to provide notifications when key performance indicators are outside of predetermined thresholds. With federal earned value reporting requirements, owners and contractors alike benefit from the daily earned value calculations provided through integrated systems of record (design, estimating, schedule, progress, and ERP) and a powerful project intelligence reporting tool on their mobile devices. Mobile technology and devices for timekeeping and project intelligence reporting allow easy collection of field data, integration with the systems of record, and daily reporting of earned value. The traditional two- to four-week delay to capture actual cost for earned value calculations can be eliminated.
In addition to the foundational mainstay of project intelligence reporting tools, another incredibly important piece of mobile advancements lies in the timekeeping functions. Owners are getting insight into productivity in real-time, and can gauge daily what their construction team did that day, how many man hours have been used (and are left), and what kind of progress was (or wasn't) made. The nimble nature of mobile devices lends itself to delivery of timely knowledge about where the project stands and how spend levels are stacking up against forecasts each day. Receiving and applying this acumen routinely provides key performance indicators to let owners rearrange where investments are allocated so that nothing is underutilized or under-produced.
Mobile project intelligence tools give owners the ability to manage at a project or program level, keep the progress on time and on budget, and communicate all pertinent information clearly and directly to all project stakeholders. This speed and level of interconnectivity keeps all involved parties on the same page, making it easy to respond to project needs proactively and effectively.
We hear about technological advancements ad nauseam, and it can be overwhelming and even irritating to be told that the latest and greatest piece of tech is sure to help us do our jobs better. But one area that substantiates all the hype surrounding it and simply can't be ignored is mobility. Mobile devices and cloud-based software are only going to gain in prevalence and capabilities, and have the potential to transform how projects are controlled.
Brad Barth is vice president of Industry Solutions at Hard Dollar Corporation (www.harddollar.com). He was instrumental in transforming Hard Dollar from a start-up software developer into one of the world's leading solution providers for project-driven enterprises.