I have worked in the Construction Industry for over 37 years and began my Project Management career in the days of pen and paper (although some of my peers say it was the quill and parchment.) So I have seen the evolution of technology over the last 20 years and its impact on the Construction industry and Project Management in particular. In the last few years particularly the speed of innovation in software and hardware has increased exponentially and is revolutionizing Project Management as a profession. The pressure on today’s project managers is to get projects completed faster and technology innovation allows project teams to achieve more in less time.
Project Management in my opinion is primarily a People Management business. Project Management is not a new concept and has been around a long time. Every major construction project from Stonehenge and the Pyramids to the modern day billion dollar Hyperscale Data Centers and NASA’s International Space Station rely on a Project Manger’s leadership and his management of people. As you can imagine it is difficult to measure performance on something as tenuous as leadership and management styles. If you take any two projects for comparison you will find that they differ in culture depending on the leadership and management styles of the project team. Trying to use technology to measure the human element is impossible to do.
However although people are at the heart of any project, the processes and tools used to complete a project are essential and this is where technology comes into its own. Today’s marketplace is becoming more competitive and Project Management organizations are being compelled to develop services that are faster and cheaper to remain competitive and technological innovation is the only way to achieve this goal.
There are now numerous technology tools that are routinely used for communication, collaboration, processes, scheduling, and budget tracking. An obvious example where Technology can meet the project team’s needs is in the storage of information and documents. Using a simple secured server or cloud based repository can replace traditionally used paper based storage boxes and large storage rooms. This reduces the retrieval of information to the click of a button in a matter of seconds instead of the hours that would have been spent trawling through box files for a particular report or set of minutes that was the norm two decades ago.
Apart from just the physical evolutionary help mentioned above technology can also be applied to streamlining and standardizing project management processes. Many Project Management organizations are using technology to improve their processes to remain competitive in the areas of communication, collaboration, and employee training to help them improve their decision making and productivity. Communication and collaboration are not only about emails or sharing platforms anymore. There are numerous technology tools now available in;
• Data Storage and Retrieval such as Cloud based applications and secure hard drives.
• Applications such as Drop Box, Google Drive, One Drive have speeded up information transfer especially for large design drawing files.
• Communication tools such as messaging, email, telephone and video conferencing applications such as Skype for Business, Google Hangouts and Webex.
• In Budget tracking and estimate creation there are numerous software packages in the market that can be tailored to individual organizational needs like Bluebeam, CostX and Assemble.
• Project Management Planning software packages are now available for tracking tasks, emails, to do lists, Quality Assurance, Capturing Field realtime information, Safety and document management and pulling them altogether in one place to help productivity. Asana, Trello, Producteev, Liquid Planner., Procore, Plangrid and Wrike are some of the software packages available to mention just a few.
• Schedule Production and tracking. Again there are numerous software packages such as Primavera and Microsoft Project which are the two main project Scheduling tools out there.
• One of the most recent innovations is the 4D Project Management software applications that are hitting the market. These packages provide a single visual interface that pulls together the BIM model, Schedule critical path, Reporting, resource/earned value management, safety hazard identification and risks evaluation. This really is the future in terms of Project Management and being able to make critical decisions in realtime to greatly improve your project timelines.
• Risk Management software such as @risk allows a Project Management Organization to make informed decisions based on the most likely project outcomes.
All of these this innovative Technology is making Project Management much more efficient and with careful consideration as to what tools you use, processes and project planning productivity can improve immensely. Identifying the right tools from the myriad of Software applications and technology available is a task in itself. But there is no doubt that the Technological revolution taking place right now in Project Management is invaluable for the future development of Project Management.
The one immutable fact is that even with all this new innovation in the tools available to a project manager most projects will still succeed or fail with its people. This may seem like an old Dinosaurs point of view but until they can build an AI software package that can manage the human element in construction, no matter how intrinsic technology becomes in Project Management the importance of Leadership and people management will still be paramount to the success or failure of a project.