By Steve Jones, Vice President of Business Development,
Primavera Systems, Inc., Bala Cynwyd, PA
The pre-construction period is the most valuable time in a project, a time to put systems in place which will drive effective information management through the entire project lifecycle. The traditional information management model is generally linear and requires face-to-face meetings to achieve parallel processing. However, technology applications have recently emerged that provide project teams with new, innovative and customizable solutions for their project needs beginning in the pre-construction phase.
A major chemical company studied their design and construction process and discovered that most problems on projects were caused by poor information exchange early in the planning process. For even their smallest projects, approximately 100 people, both internal and external company sources, perform a role during the project's lifecycle. Over 60% of the time exhausted on their projects was spent waiting for decisions or determining the proper workflow process. Fortunately, with the implementation of recently developed, technologically advanced solutions, projects can be better organized at the onset, which will lead to greater efficiency in management and maintenance throughout the entire lifecycle.
Today, there are a variety of new tools designed to streamline the pre-construction process:
ASP Application Service Provider: With an ASP service, a company only needs a web connection and browser to access powerful software on a monthly and/or project-based charge rather than paying a large upfront license cost and having to maintain multiple copies of software on all their computers.
Collaboration Platforms: These platforms facilitate a managed exchange process of important information among multiple project participants. This type of solution has gradually evolved from simple post and host FTP sites with inflexible workflows, into highly customizable flexible applications, such as Primavera's PrimeContract, which has full document management functionality, user-configurable workflow tools and high flexibility to accommodate individual projects and company needs.
Integrated Viewer: Many of the new technology applications feature a multiformat integrated viewer, which allows the manager of the document to maintain control of the original off-line, made changes when appropriate and provide a new version on the ASP for other project team members to view and revise through their Web browser.
Integrated Workflo: Document-specific workflows can be created by users on the ASP and integrated into the collaboration platform. This saves time by automatically moving the process to the next pre-defined step in the workflow, and also allows a manager to view the status of any document at any stage of the project.
Web Meting Technology: this solution is less expensive than video-conferencing and allows real time application or document sharing and annotation among multiple parties.
It will become increasingly important that Project Managers implement new technological tools in the pre-construction phase of a project to increase the efficiency of information management and transfer which, in turn, creates improved communication and faster project delivery.
- More exciting technology advances are on the horizon. Examples include:
- An estimating capability integrated into ASP collaboration platforms
- Access to real time cost and availability information from suppliers
- Object-oriented design tools which attach key lifecycle data to every specified component in a facility, and form the basis for the owner's Virtual Asset.
- Construction simulation tools that allow alternative scenarios to be tested on a computer screen to determine optimum means and methods for constructing a project.
A Project Manager can use a computer as a simple word processing tool, or as a dynamic power tool. Technology may not be the solution to every business dilemma, but is does provide new ways of conducting business and helps create greater return on investment, the goal of every company. Integrating technology at the pre-construction phase of a project can increase efficiency, accelerate response time and reduce costs, all of which drive project success.