New Year’s Resolutions for Construction Project Managers In 2016
The holidays are over, another year has passed, and it is time to for our annual fresh start…….I for one am going to try to go easy on the Diet Cokes, maybe lay off my cigars, and I am certainly going to make some changes in my professional life as well.
I spent a lot of time “in the field” in 2015, and saw many things – good and bad – with the construction companies that we are fortunate to work with. As I reflect on the year, I cannot help but notice a continuous, positive trajectory by construction professionals seeking to learn more, improve their skills, and manage better. I have also seen a fantastic trend in the industry where my conversations with contractors have shifted from “do you use any technology products on site” to “which technology products are you using on site.” Construction professionals have put their technological guard down and begun to accept and embrace technology. I see the industry, as a whole, getting smarter – which is great! So let me share my observations, which I have so eloquently disguised as New Year resolution ideas for all construction management professionals:
- I will learn how to manage a CPM schedule – The year is now 2016 and CPM scheduling software has been around for like 100 years. Every single construction management professional should know how to manage a construction schedule by using CPM scheduling software. However, I still see most field managers using Excel and white boards to build construction schedules!!! (Sharpies do not count as scheduling tools). CPM scheduling software programs are better because they are designed specifically to make schedules – unlike Excel, Visio and other multipurpose programs. The excuses to not take the CPM plunge are readily available – they’re ridiculously expensive, they’re difficult to use, we got a guy who does our schedules for us……I’ve heard them all a million times. So we sought to remove the excuses by offering a super user-friendly, FREE, cloud-based CPM scheduling tool for the construction industry! (visit www.FreeCPM.com);
- I will make daily reporting a top priority on my projects – I do not know why some construction management professionals still don’t realize this, but daily reports are a very, VERY important construction project document; personally, I think they are the most important. Daily reports contain more information about the construction project than any other document. They allow all interested parties to understand real costs, accomplishments, resource usage, impacts, and jobsite conditions for each day of the project. As we all know, construction projects are not easy, and they rarely progress along original plan. For that reason, the information contained in the “dailies” becomes crucial. Every day that project-level information is mismanaged and misreported is a lost opportunity to learn from mistakes and prepare for all future scenarios. The dailies tell the real story – how many tradesmen are working, what they are doing, what they are not doing, what is impacting progress, what material and equipment are they using, what progress was made. This information, when properly recorded, allows contractors to compare the real story to the plan, and understand the difference. This knowledge is imperative towards successfully managing a project……and a business.
- I will read the contract on my project in its entirety – How many people did I meet last year who, when asked if they read the entire contract, answered “Yes”. Zero. If you are reading this, you are likely a General Contractor or Subcontractor, and your entre professional life revolves around executing a contract. Yet most PM’s and their staff do not know their contract. I strongly urge all construction project management professionals to pick up your projects’ contracts and read them from beginning to end. Then have your staff do it, because they will catch what you miss. The contract goes well beyond the plans and specs – it dictates when you are allowed to request money, what you need to do to request money, what notice and communication pitfalls will prevent you from being eligible for money, and when you will be paid money! It is literally the roadmap to a profitable job. Moreover, insert yourself into the contract negotiation process whenever possible. Build a relationship with your company’s in-house or outside counsel. You wouldn’t buy a house without a lawyer and a contract you understand…so why build a school or renovate a hotel that way? The good news is that construction contracts tend to be boilerplate and repetitive. After you read through the contract the first time, it gets easier every time after that because you will be versed in it. It’s not so bad to be the smartest person in the room at a change order negotiation, and this will help get you there.
- I will help build a culture around collecting and studying project data – Commercial construction projects are complex endeavors, and in all aspects of life – medicine, logistics, policymaking, economics – complex endeavors are accomplished when data is gathered and studied. Most construction project management teams realize the importance of data capture, storage, and analytics, but few execute on it because their companies have not put systems in place to accomplish this. The current status quo of data utilization is nowhere near where it could be, and should be, in our industry. Not from a lack of desire – PM’s and Superintendents are frustrated when they cannot properly explain inefficiencies to clients or pinpoint why they lost money on labor. But there is a lack of awareness of process and technology. As a result, construction companies are forced to seek outside help in forensically piecing their project history and data together. A multi-billion dollar industry – construction consulting – literally exists because of the building industry’s shortfall in understanding the importance of data. Construction consultants have been trained to understand what data is critical, where to find it and how to study it. Project management professionals are more than capable of grasping virtually all the concepts necessary to effectively manage and analyze data, but the problem is rooted in a lack of discipline, structure, accountability, and time. What is required is data leadership! It may not sound like the reason you got into construction, but as a leader on your project and in your company, this is the role you should choose. Generals, head coaches, and Fortune 500 CEO’s study data. You cannot responsibly lead your project or people without setting up systems and expectations for data management. In order to thrive in today’s construction industry, a culture of collecting and analyzing data is required. This starts with leadership. So, why don’t you take the lead on this one? If you don’t, someone else will.
- I will embrace technology and urge my company to invest in it – If you are under the belief that technology is here to help and not annoy, keep reading. The construction industry, while improving, is still a late arrival to the technology party. Like lights are on and music is off-type late. As of 2015, the construction industry ranks dead last among all major industries in IT investment, as a percentage of revenue. That’s right, we did it! We’re dead last! But times are changing and we are currently at a very interesting and exciting point in the evolutionary history of the construction industry – where technology is becoming the norm rather than the exception, particularly in smaller construction businesses. A point where a combination of product simplicity, capabilities, and value are aligning with the industry’s culture, abilities, and needs. It is time to jump on the bandwagon folks, because the profitable companies are doing it and it’s working. Ever wonder how those successful, sustainable construction companies get that way? They embraced technology ahead of the curve (not to mention that they embraced concepts like safety, sustainability and people development early). Don’t fear, it’s not too late…the products keep getting better, easier, more functional and more integrated. So, get ahead of the curve and start forming your technology strategy today!
Well, there you have it, the top five construction resolutions for 2016 for increasing profitability. So, challenge yourselves and your organizations, and I assure you that you will be a better employee, manager, director, leader, decision maker, or owner because of it! Oh yeah, and check out our site if you would like to learn more about our solutions (www.smartpmtech.com).