Is your construction business practicing the kind of project management that ensures smooth-moving, profitable projects and makes clients happy? Or are your project managers struggling with managing project conditions for which they have accountability but only little control? Modernizing project management with more powerful, simpler technology tools can help you generate better business results and enhance your standing with clients.
Project management is a business-critical discipline for construction companies: it provides the framework for workers in many different trades, subcontractors, equipment, materials, and financials to come together to achieve one goal—the hand-off of a completed construction project to a satisfied client. Companies can fly, swim, or sink depending on how well they plan and execute their projects. In addition to company executives, seasoned project managers are the key individuals in many construction businesses. In smaller firms, they may be part of the executive team.
Is the art of project management undervalued?
The construction industry has been relatively static in how companies scope and perform their projects. In recent years, industry experts and consultancies have frequently observed some of the same challenges and obstacles in construction project management.1 Their key findings included the fact that the goals and milestones in too many projects are poorly defined, therefore resulting in unmet client expectations, scope creep, and unrealistic deadlines.
Just as importantly, project managers often need to work around budget and time constraints that are largely out of their control, of which they may not have become aware of until a project was already committed or underway. Without that critical information, it can be extremely difficult for project managers to avoid cost and schedule overruns.
Drawbacks of immature project management
These conditions can have unwelcome consequences. Without sound project definitions and forecasts, for example, it may be difficult to ensure that needed trades professionals and materials are on hand at the right time. Unclear project milestones may delay billing and revenue generation. Overruns may incur costs that the company has to absorb, or they may lead to potentially acrimonious negotiations with clients. If a company does not remedy poor project management practices, client satisfaction and retention may decline, making repeat business less likely.
When the market presented construction companies with more opportunities than they could accommodate, they didn’t need to be overly concerned about the quality of the client experience or the efficiency of their project operations. As long as they completed projects within a close range of the anticipated budgets and schedules, they could be successful and profitable.
However, when many projects were put on hold, scaled down, or canceled as the global pandemic struck, the competition for construction projects became a lot more crowded and difficult. More and more companies saw that they needed to up-level their project management practices or face the risks of declining revenue or eroding client relationships. Doing more of the same, maybe enlisting more project managers and assistants, navigating bundles of spreadsheets to stay in control of projects, was not a viable option.
Generational and culture changes add to project management challenges
Two other developments augment current construction project management challenges. Clients’ expectations for a consistent, seamless, high-quality experience are rising. As individual consumers and recipients of digital services, many clients have become used to top-quality, efficient, dependable service delivery backed by responsive, individualized communications. When they engage with construction businesses, they are not as tolerant of slow communications or potential budget and schedule overruns as they maybe once were.
Also, millennials and members of generation Z play an increasingly prominent role in workplaces, bringing with them their high standards and expectations for efficient, anytime and anywhere use of technology to enable productive working and team collaboration. At the same time, many of the older project managers and team leads who’ve worked in construction for decades are retiring. With their departure, companies may lose experiences and best practices that may not always be transferable to somebody other than the senior project manager who acquired them during many years on the job.
Empowering the key role on every project
In working with many construction companies to modernize their technologies, we find that one of the best ways to strengthen your project management practice is to empower the project leads directly and allow them to be fully effective as key contributors to the business. With the right tools, they can make better use of their expertise to bring projects to fruition. They also can become a more accountable partner to a construction company’s clients, ready to speak for the company and proactively offer status updates and projections. Their software tools should be designed for mobile use, so project managers can communicate and retrieve information on their smartphone or tablet while they are at job sites.
You can bring these technology capabilities into your business without fragmenting and complicating the company’s software environment. You don’t even necessarily need to purchase and roll out specialized project management software. Instead, you could consolidate and simplify technology management with a single, comprehensive solution that is designed for the project and business needs of construction companies.
Proven path to modernizing project management
At Sikich, our construction teams working with clients often deploy our business management solution for the industry, HEADSTART for Construction. HEADSTART is a cloud-based system designed for the real-life roles of project and business managers in construction. It combines on a single platform the extensive capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central with ProjectPro, the well-known construction industry software for managing project-based operations. HEADSTART can integrate with software tools you may already be using, like Microsoft Office 365, including Teams. You can extend it with other software tools, such as Microsoft Power Apps or Power BI, if you want to accomplish more with data and gain insight to give your planning, forecasting, and decision-making a farther reach with greater assurance.
Your project managers can access HEADSTART on their mobile devices to review, schedule, and adjust the utilization of resources and equipment on their jobs, with full visibility of project milestones toward which they have to work. They also have access to project billing and budgets, so they can confidently discuss financials with the company’s finance team or clients. When it’s time to order supplies and materials, they can monitor available inventory and communicate seamlessly with the procurement team to order needed items and have them available at project site at the right time. Through HEADSTART, they also can find stored contracts, architectural documents and images, emails, and client records to help manage project-related concerns in the best interests of client and company.
Ensuring omnidirectional project transparency
At the same time that project managers use HEADSTART functionality to do their best work, company execs use the solution to keep the business healthy and make sure that projects are profitable. They can view key performance indicators for the company overall or specific projects in just a few clicks. When they communicate with project managers, they already have the information that matters and can have productive conversations.
If your clients and project managers are ready for you to transform project management to yield better outcomes and ensure the company’s viability, HEADSTART and Sikich industry expertise could make a big difference. To explore this opportunity:
- Contact us and get your questions answered or set up a demo.
- Visit the Sikich construction page with news on our services and industry solutions.
1See such industry articles as, for example, “Top 6 Construction Project Challenges” by Michael Page, “5 Challenging Project Management Issues in Construction” by TrueLook, or “Top 5 Challenges for Construction Project Managers” by Fieldwire.