Article #252 Did the Covid-19 Result in Breaking Project Communications or Simply Exposed Already Broken Communications?

It has been said that project management team members spend approximately 70% to 90% of their time communicating. Communications can include formal and informal communications, some of those are oral communications while others are written. The volume of those communications depends on the project size, complexity and the number of individuals involved in delivering the project. In engineering and construction projects, this becomes even more complicated as those individuals will be representative of the different entities who will be designing, supervising, constructing, supplying, financing and using the project. Those are entities that project communications will be governed by the terms and conditions of the contract agreements signed with the project owner.

The formula “(N2-N)/2” where N represents the number of individuals, detail the number of communication channels that could exist on a project. For example, for a project with 3 individuals, we have 3 possible communication channels where a project with 20 individuals, it will increase to 190 possible communication channels. In engineering and construction projects, the number of individuals that need to be part of project’s communication plan usually far exceed the given example of 20 individuals.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed many of the engineering and construction projects that has lacked having proven communication system that a project management information systems (PMIS) like PMWeb would provide. Those engineering and construction projects usually use manual practices when it comes to submitting, reviewing, capturing, reporting, monitoring and evaluating the many communication types that could exist. Those projects depend on their project team members to log the details of correspondence, RFI, submittals, transmittals, change orders, progress invoices, work inspection requires, permits to work, meeting minutes, safety incidents, permits among others using MS Excel or MS Word. Those projects also depend on document controllers to upload, store and distribute those records and documents to their intended recipients. The Covid-19 requirements for lockdown, work from home and social distancing has disrupted communications on many of those projects.

Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb, organizations will automate the many processes needed to manage the engineering and construction project and the communications associated with those processes. The project responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) will detail the formal communication requirements for each project management process. For each project management process, the RAM will detail the individuals from the different entities that have a role to communicate the Submit, Review, Approve or Kept Informed actions.

Each project management process included in the RAM will be automated using PMWeb. This will require having an input form which could be one of the many ready to use PMWeb forms or custom-built forms that will be created using PMWeb visual form builder. Each form will have its own workflow to formalize and details the communication channels for submitting, reviewing and approving each process as outlined in the responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). In addition, the workflow will also include the approval authority levels that are usually associated with processes that have financial implications. Of course, each form in PMWeb allows attaching all supportive documents needed to have a complete review and approval of the process. Those documents will be usually uploaded and stored in PMWeb document management repository.

The information captured in those automated processes will become the basis for generating and maintaining real-time reports on the status of every single type of project communication. Those could include logs for request for information, material and shop drawing submittal, change orders, cost worksheet, material procurement, safety incidents, safety violation, claims, permits and NOC, insurance and bond certificates, risk register, issues, interim progress invoices, extension of time requests, confirmation of verbal instructions among many others.

The information associated with each communication type, can be summarized to provide executives with an overall summary of the real-time single version of the truth status of those communications and the impact that they might have on the overall project’s performance.

About the Authorfounder

Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM is a Senior Project Management Consultant with more than 35-year service record providing project management and controls services to over 100 projects with a total value in excess of US $5 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment and Shopping Malls, Oil and Gas Plants and Refineries, Telecommunication and Information Technology projects. He is thoroughly experienced in complete project management including project management control systems, computerized project control software, claims analysis/prevention, risk analysis/management (contingency planning), design, supervision, training and business development.

Bassam is a frequent speaker in topics relating to Project Management, Strategic Project Management and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 35 years he has lectured at more than 350 events and courses at different locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and South America. He has written more than 250 articles on project management and project management information systems that were featured in international and regional magazines and newspapers. He is a co-founder of the Project Management Institute- Arabian Gulf Chapter (PMI-AGC) and has served on its board of directors for more than 6 years. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), a certified Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP) and Earned Value Professional (EVP) from the American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE) and Green Project Management (GPM).

Bassam holds a Masters in Engineering Administration (Construction Management) with Faculty Commendation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA, Bachelor in Civil Engineering – Kuwait University, Kuwait and has attended many executive management programs at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA and London Business School, London, UK.


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