The answer is quite obvious, because simply they are human beings. As a human being, we do not like to be transparent as the more control we have on when and what data to share with others, we become indispensable. Also, as a human being we do not like to be accountable for our actions as we need to have the ability to maneuver so we can blame others for our mistakes. Further, being a human being, we do not like others and specially our managers or superiors to know what we are doing every day and how we are spending our time. In addition, being a human being we always like others to ask us, and better beg us for information on project’s status, issues and performance as this gives us the feeling of superiority and power. Further, being a human being, we do not like to change and would prefer keep doing what we have mastered over the years even it we know deep inside that they are inefficient. Finally, being a human being, we do not like to get trained or train others on doing things in a better and faster ways compared to how they are being done today.
Therefore, could the project team members strong objection for having a Project Management Information System (PMIS) on their capital construction projects be changed to become acceptance and support? Based on my 35 years of experience which started back in 1984 when I became a Primavera Partner, this will be tough and with slim chance to succeed. Of course, my statement is based on offering digital transformation solutions (Yes, P3 was one of the early digital transformation solutions) for the construction industry in the Middle East and North Africa regions. It took us more than 10 years since Primavera Project Planner was first introduced in the region to have project owners, contractors and consultants to finally accept to digital transform their planning and scheduling processes. What made this acceptance happen was the support of senior management of those entities who eventually understood the value of having good cost-loaded and resource-loaded baseline schedules and well documented periodical schedule updates to have trust-worthy single version of the truth reporting of their project’s schedule performance.
For a Project Management Information System (PMIS), the challenges are far more than the challenges of implementing a planning and scheduling tool. A PMIS is about digital transform all project management processes that need to be performed on a capital project during the complete life cycle phases. A PMIS needs to digital transform cost, quality, risk, procurement, communication, health and safety, risk and issues, claims and other needed processes. A PMIS also needs to digital transform the management of project’s documents and associated folders. In addition, a PMIS needs to integrate with planning and scheduling software like, Primavera and MS Project, to align project activities planned or scheduled dates with the transactions of the different project management processes.
Therefore, unless the senior management of those entities sees the value of improved transparency, accountability, governance and real-time single version of the truth performance and status reporting, implementing a successful and sustainable PMIS solution will never happen. For some organizations, a PMIS is considered as an additional cost rather than an opportunity to reduce cost by decreasing the losses associated with project fraud, increasing the value of making better and faster informed decisions, savings from eliminated wasted effort in performing project management processes, increasing company value by transforming lessons learned into organizational assets, increase the return of improved project team performance, eliminate to cost of conflicts by improving executive stakeholders trust and confidence when it comes to reporting project’s performance among many others.
Our experience in implementing PMIS solutions in our part of the world, started in late 1989 when we have started offering Expedition, renamed later on as Primavera Contract Management (PCM). Although PCM was a great solution at that time, nevertheless, it has lacked many of the functionalities needed for a robust PMIS. PCS life was ended when Oracle decided to stop supporting PCM. Therefore, in 2012, we have decided to offer PMWeb as the Project Management Information System (PMIS) that is best suited for our clients and new prospects in the region. PMWeb was not only a comprehensive PMIS solution, but also 100% web-enabled with the option of being self-hosted by our clients as well as SaaS or Cloud. In addition, it had multi-language interface including non-Latin languages like the Arabic language.
During those 8-years of offering PMWeb, today we have more than 50 organizations in the MENA region who have selected PMWeb as their enterprise PMIS solution. The majority of which are public and private sector capital project owners who each have considerable volume of programs and projects portfolio to deliver. This number could have been doubled if not tripled if capital project owners did not cut their budget spending due to the drop in oil prices and political issues in some countries that reduced their appetite for investing in capital projects. Nevertheless, what made senior management at those organizations to make their decision to invest to digital transform their existing manual and semi-manual project management processes and select PMWeb as their Project Management Information System, can be summarized in three key points. The first, is that they wanted a proven commercial of the shelf (COTS) solution specifically adapted for delivering capital construction projects. The second was to have a solution that enables formal as well as ad-hoc documented collaboration while the third was ensuring protection of their projects data.
The Days for Re-Inventing the Wheel Are Over
Each industry, and the construction industry is no different, has their own common processes and forms that are used regardless of the construction project type, value or even location. Those include for example Request for Information (RFI), Meeting Minutes, Transmittals, Submittals, Safety Incidents, Daily Reports, Punch List, Cost Estimates, Budget, Budget Adjustments, Commitments, Potential Change Orders, Change Orders, Progress Invoices, Revenue Contracts, Timesheets, Stage Gates, Risk Registers among others. PMWeb comes ready with all those forms and with the option to have additional user fields if needed.
In addition, and knowing that many organizations have developed additional project management processes that could be specific to the way they manage their projects and for which a solution like PMWeb might not have, PMWeb custom form builder provides a quick and robust solution to create all those additional processes. Those could Work Inspection Requests customized for each technical specification section, Non-Compliance Reports, Gate Passes, Permits to Work, Confirmation of Verbal Instructions, Environmental Impact Assessment, Covid-19 Hygiene Compliance Checklist, Mobilization and De-Mobilization Checklists, Project Charter, Project Closeout Report among many others.
Although those input forms, whether available by default or created using form builder, could be common to many organizations and projects that they have, nevertheless the output form for those processes could differ. PMWeb reporting tool allows the organization to create their own output forms with the color branding, form and format needed by the organization. Those forms can be designed to include hyperlinks to attached documents as well as configured to be digitally signed using DocuSign.
In addition to the output forms, output tabular and visual reports can be also created using PMWeb reporting tool. PMWeb reporting tool allows the organization to create their own output reports with the color branding, form and format needed by the organization. Those reports can be designed to enable drilling down to each transaction displayed in the report. Of course, those transactions can be grouped, sorted, filtered as well as summarized in those output reports.
The growing use of business intelligence and data visualization tools like MS Power BI also allows the organization to access the data captured in PMWeb and consume this data to create interactive reports and dashboards. Those reports can be associated with third-party data applications like ESRI shapefiles and maps as well as Revit BIM Models to create executive dashboards when needed.
Those default and custom-built input forms and output forms and output reports and dashboards enforce the best practices of transparency, real-time single version of the truth reporting, maintaining data audit trail and having insight for projects data for faster and informed decisions. In addition, they eliminate the bad practices of data silos, weak access rights for captured data among others.
Everyone Should Be Held Accountable for Taken and To Be Taken Actions
The practice of communicating project information using the concept of a “Sender” to a group of “Recipients” who needs to figure out between themselves what to be done and in what sequence is one of the key reasons for lack of accountability. Even with the absence of digital transformation, each project management process has a pre-defined sequence of steps to be done by the different project entities. This is usually summarized in the Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) and detailed in the workflow diagram for each process. Conditions that are associated with the approval authority levels either as established by the organization or as stated in the contract agreements need also to be considered.
PMWeb allows creating a visual workflow for each project management process. Those workflows can be applicable across the completed projects portfolio that the organization or can be specific to a project or group of projects. The workflow allows defining the review and approval steps in the desired sequence and planned duration for each task. Available review and approval actions for each step can be also defined. In addition, conditions for approval authority levels can be added and alerts for delayed actions can be also set. Further, PMWeb allows delegating the workflow tasks for an individual for other team members. This delegation can be a specific time period or permanent.
One of the ready to use PMWeb reports is the workflow status report. This report details the status of all current workflow steps for each project management process. The report can be modified to include Red, Cyan and Green color indicators to alert the reader for delayed workflow steps, due workflow steps and not-due workflow steps. A report that is a must requirement to enforce the best practice of accountability.
In addition to the formal workflow, there are few project management processes that are not managed through a formal workflow but rather in an ad-hoc workflow. In other words, different project team members could be invited to participate to provide the needed input. This workflow, although labelled as ad-hoc, nevertheless it needs to be documented. PMWeb allows assigning ad-hoc workflow for project management processes that are assigned a formal workflow.
Eliminate the Risk of a Data Leak
Many project owners, and in particular those in the public sector, have strict requirements on their data security and protection. Those organization cannot permit having their projects data stored on MS Excel data silos with weak control. Those organizations want their projects data be stored within their own secured data centers. Those organizations want to avoid the risk of data leak as well as enforce their own data access requirements whether it was through the web or through a secured VPN. Therefore, it is no wonder that more than 75% of PMWeb clients in the Middle East and North Africa region have elected to self-host PMWeb on their own data centers where they have the ultimate control on who should get access for this data. In addition, PMWeb comes ready with its own audit trail to capture the details of all access attempts to PMWeb.
About the Author
Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM is a Senior Project Management Consultant with 40-year service record providing project management, project controls services and project management information system to over than 200 projects with a total value in excess of US $100 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment, Hospitality 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 40 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 300 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.