A few days ago, I got into the office a little late after meeting a colleague for coffee. When I finally sat down to my desk, I had five voicemails, about 30 emails, some mail to go through (yes, I still get snail mail), and a few text messages. It wasn’t that late in the morning, and yet I already had plenty of correspondence and data floating around my desk. I think of myself as being pretty organized and efficient, but some days, it can be a little overwhelming trying to figure out what my top priority should be and where to actually start.
Project Management Information Overload
While on any given day, I respond to a significant number of emails and phone calls, it doesn’t even compare to what a project manager faces on a daily basis or the daunting task they have of determining where to start. Managing a construction project means managing all of the complexities, from scheduling and sub-contractors to documents and budgets. This is no simple task, particularly as the amount of data associated with projects continues to rise.
Dealing with increasing complexity isn’t a matter of working harder. Working smarter is, as we’ve all heard before, the key. But what exactly does “working smarter” mean? It used to mean setting priorities and optimizing resources. However, with so much happening around us so fast, priorities change almost as soon as we set them and resources need to be reassigned on a daily basis. These days, just deciding to be smarter about the way you work is no longer enough. Your smart decisions have to be informed. They have to have a basis in real time, constantly changing information. That’s where technology comes in.
Technology Push and Pull
With the right information management tools, you can manage by exception. For those who haven’t encountered this term, it means identifying those things which are exceptional—exceptionally important, exceptions to the norm, exceptionally time-sensitive—and so on. Knowing these things allows you to make smarter decisions about directing your efforts and resources.
The tools you use to manage the flow of information should help you identify exceptional situations in your projects and your business. They fall into two broad categories: push and pull.
Push tools use built-in rules (or rules you set) to sort through your sea of information and then push out alerts to you (or others you designate). These alerts summarize the exceptional situations and may even provide a path to related information and suggestions for action.
Pull tools let you build your own views of project and business data that keep you updated on key performance indicators. Think of building your own dashboard or creating your own briefing report. These tools maintain updated information on what you already know to be the most important aspects of your work. For example, if you are in project management, you might want to have a constant eye on change request status or work-in-progress values. If you are in construction accounting or finance, you may want to regularly monitor your over/under billing status or invoice aging. Having summary information on these and other key measures of success can help you focus on what is most important.
Choosing Construction Software
Often when I talk to people looking at construction software, they focus on the features and functionality. While these are important things to consider, a third criterion is often overlooked. Look at how the software “behaves”—how it gives you options to pull, push, and view your information. When making a significant investment in software, make sure the product does more than store and process data. Especially when considering construction project management software, make sure the tools you buy are smart enough to keep up with an environment that is only becoming more complex over time.
How do you prioritize your work? How smart is your software?